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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Forest

Diverse forests are stronger against drought

Diversity reigns when water gets scarce. New research suggests the most resilient forests are made up of trees that have a wider variety of rates for water moving up from the soil.

Coachella Valley

Who owns the aquifer?

A Stanford study reveals the changing scope of Native American groundwater rights – and opportunities for better freshwater management.

Drinking water

Natural chromium sources threaten California groundwater

A study shows natural sources of hexavalent chromium are affecting more people and wells in California than industrial sources. But groundwater pumping may accelerate release of this carcinogen.

Strawberries

Strawberry fields forever? Baja turning to seawater to grow lucrative crop

In an arid region south of Tijuana, strawberries grown for export have become so valuable, farmers keep trying to grow more, and are allowed to use more groundwater than nature replenishes.

Dunes

Purifier creates disinfectant from water and sunlight

The system could one day be adapted into solar-powered water purification stations for use in developing regions where fresh water is a precious commodity.

Groundwater

Arsenic unlocked: Overpumping may up contamination risk

Pumping an aquifer to the last drop squeezes out more than water. A new study suggests it can also unlock dangerous arsenic from buried clays. Sinking land may provide an early warning and measure of contamination.

fresh water stream

Wastewater project harnesses anaerobic bacteria to save energy

A wastewater treatment plant under construction in Redwood Shores will be the largest to test a technology that significantly reduces the cost of cleaning water. The key: bacteria that eschew oxygen while producing burnable methane.

Rusty Water cap

Inadequate regulations threaten groundwater

Inconsistent or vague definitions in oil and gas regs leave water supply vulnerable

Great Salt Lake, Utah

Extinct Lakes of the American West

Extinct lake landforms provide clues of climate change over millions of years and inform our understanding of rainfall patterns and water management in the arid American West.

Photo credit: Florence Low/DWR

Share the Wealth: A Cap-And-Trade System of Water Conservation and Resiliency?

In order to meet the California’s future water needs, researchers propose a cap and trade approach to water conservation based on local supply and demand realities.

Greg Beroza showing off earthquake data.

21st-century Earth science is computer intensive and data driven

If asked to imagine a geologist, you might envision a tanned and dusty figure, hardy and weathered like the ancient rocks that he or she spends days studying out “in the field."

Water faucet.

Media attention to drought linked to household water savings

With a new web-scraping and search algorithm and real water utility data, Stanford researchers have shown a relationship between media coverage of the recent historic California drought and household water savings.

California waterway

Visualizing California’s drought

A new web portal puts four years of California drought data into an interactive format, showing where regions met or missed water conservation goals. The idea is to motivate awareness and conservation.

 Wadi Rum desert

Jordan faces more frequent long and severe droughts

A new analysis of regional drought and land-use changes in Syria suggests water conditions in downstream Jordan could get significantly worse.

aquaifer recharge

Replenishing aquifers in parched regions

Stanford environmental engineers have developed a planning tool called AquaCharge that helps urban water utilities develop efficient, cost-effective systems to replenish aquifers.

Lake Okeechobee

Projected precipitation increases are bad news for water quality

Excess nutrient pollution to U.S. waterways increases the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality. 

Researcher standing near an helicopter

Mapping Groundwater from the Air

Stanford Earth’s Rosemary Knight recently spearheaded a project to map underground freshwater resources and forecast the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers beneath the California coastal town of Marina.

floodwaters beneath a bridge

When bridges collapse

Studying how and why bridges have collapsed in the past identifies the limitation of current risk assessment approach and demonstrates the value of new perspectives on climate change impact.

Newly planted almond trees on a San Joaquin Valley farm.

Over-pumping is reducing San Joaquin Valley’s ability to store water

Over-pumping groundwater has drastically and permanently reduced the water storage capabilities of land in one of California’s most important farming areas.

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