Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air


A chemistry professor in Florida has just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time.

The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

“This work is a breakthrough,” said UCF Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo. “Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.”

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Source:  University of Central Florida, April 25, 2017

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Plastic Bags, Researchers Say

Researchers in Europe have found that the larvae of a common insect have an unusual ability to digest plastic, a discovery that could lead to biotechnical advances that help deplete the continual buildup of one of the world’s most stubborn pollutants.

Scientists discovered that the wax worm, a caterpillar used for fishing bait that takes its name from its habit of feeding on beeswax, is able to break down the chemical bonds in polyethylene, a synthetic polymer and widely produced plastic used in packaging, bags and other everyday materials.

Federica Bertocchini, a scientist with the Spanish National Research Council, stumbled upon the insects’ unusual ability several years ago. An amateur beekeeper, Ms. Bertocchini had plucked several worms out of her beehives and was keeping them in a plastic bag.

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Source:  Jonah Engel Bromwich, The New York Times, April 27, 2017

Device pulls water from dry air, powered only by the sun

Imagine a future in which every home has an appliance that pulls all the water the household needs out of the air, even in dry or desert climates, using only the power of the sun.

That future may be around the corner, with the demonstration this week of a harvester that uses only ambient sunlight to pull liters of water out of the air each day in conditions as low as 20 percent humidity, a level common in arid areas.

The solar-powered harvester, reported in the journal Science, was constructed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using a special material – a metal-organic framework, or MOF – produced at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Source:  Phys.Org, April 13, 2017


Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill


Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane emissions. Reducing food losses by just 15 percent would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers. The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction; businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money; and consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers.

Read the report here.

Source:  Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper IP: 12-06-B, August 2012

U.K. startup uses recycled plastic to build stronger roads

We’ve seen the birth of futuristic solar roads and even a return to retro gravel roads, but now there’s a new player on the street: recycled plastic. British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process to replace much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with tiny pellets of plastic created from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60 percent stronger than traditional roadways, 10 times longer-lasting, and a heck of a lot better for the environment, claims McCartney’s company MacRebur.

McCartney first conceived of the idea after getting fed up with the potholes in the roads near his house and remembering how he’d seen people fill potholes in India by filling them with plastic trash and melting it into place. Typical roads are made of about 90 percent rock and sand with 10 percent bitumen. MacRebur’s product essentially bulks up the bitumen with recycled waste plastic, so the roads are stronger and less of the oil product is required to bind together rocks.

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Source:  Barbara Eldredge, Curbed, April 26, 2017

The Chore of Understanding Water Rights Just Got a Little Easier

It is notoriously difficult to access and interpret information on water rights. Water Sage, a new web-based service now offered in California, aims to take the sting out of this task for individuals and institutions alike.

DBC winter 2014

Who owns the water? And how much do they use? These are simple questions. But answering them has never been easy, thanks to complicated laws, cumbersome public records and byzantine bureaucracies.

Unlike property records, in many states those covering water have never been very accessible. And reporting requirements imposed on water users are often weak and poorly enforced, meaning records are often patchy and vague.

Searching for answers usually means a time-consuming slog through public records – sometimes on paper – that yields unsatisfying results. In the case of groundwater, the search is even more difficult.

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Source:  Matt Weiser, Water Deeply, April 11, 2017

Occidental County Sanitation District Update: Spring 2017

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For more than 20 years, the Occidental County Sanitation District has been looking for a solution to its wastewater problem. Over the years, the District has studied alternatives that range from working with Camp Meeker on a small regional system to upgrading its plant and piping the water to farmers for irrigation. None of the approximately 15 options considered have been feasible – due to either costs, environmental concerns or community opposition.

Time is now running short:  The District is under orders by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to stop the current practice of discharging recycled water into a pond at the headwaters of Dutch Bill Creek by January 2018. Last year, the District determined that trucking Occidental’s wastewater to another sanitation district is the most cost effective solution.

A recent environmental document analyzed trucking the wastewater to the Russian River County Sanitation District’s main lift station on Riverside Drive, with a back-up option of trucking to the Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup plant. At a public hearing held in Monte Rio in February, the Riverside Drive neighbors made clear their opposition to the project, with more than 20 people speaking out. In response to community concerns, Water Agency staff (working on behalf of the District), is pursuing other options and will be releasing a new environmental document in the next few months.

More info here.

Source:  Sonoma County Water Agency e-News / April 2017