Some links: 93

Some links: 79

And two pieces about what’s happening with water in the West:

Going beyond

Ed Yong has put together an excellent background piece about the outbreak of Proliferative Kidney Disease that has killed whitefish and threatens trout species. The fish kills led Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to shut down of 183 miles of the Yellowstone River. The coverage elsewhere that I saw simply repeated the FWP statement that a “microscopic parasite” was responsible and left it at that. But Yong did the reading, and used it to describe the peculiar morphology and life cycle of the infectious parasite Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae, a jellyfish relative and one of the myxozoans.

Myxozoans have performed a crazy evolutionary double-back:

In this free-swimming form, they look very jellyfish-like, with identifiable tentacles, mouths, and guts. Perhaps the ancestors of myxozoans went through a similar phase in their evolutionary history, when they were already devoted parasites, but still kept some obvious traces of their cnidarian heritage.

As they evolved further down the parasitic path, they lost these ancestral physical features. They did away with many genes too. “They have the smallest known animal genomes,” says [Paulyn] Cartwright [at the University of Kansas], “and they lack some of the genes that we consider hallmarks of animal development.” For example, the all-important Hox genes, which direct the construction of animal bodies… are simply missing in myxozoans.

Baltimore adventure

An afternoon in Baltimore, visiting an old friend, a new friend, and friends through Leta’s G&S qwert.

here comes the GreenwtfTravel by water taxi, light rail, Metro, and MARC. Hey, Metro, lose the cheesy music piped into the underground stations. And why are American ticket vending machines such a U/X train wreck?

fore viewaft viewMy newly-met friend is the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, views fore and aft. The wheel is positioned at the channelized mouth of Jones Falls, where it empties into the harbor. Floating trash and debris, man-caused and otherwise, is steered into the maw of the machine by the booms; trash is lifted and deposited into a dumpster. River currents, augmented by solar panels, power the gizmo. The googly eyes? Because Baltimore.

Bocce balls

Brian Hayes meets Stanley Crawford and gets to know the New Mexico acequia system.

The water in an irrigation ditch is a shared resource, like the unfenced common pastures that so famously became so tragic in early-modern England. In fact, the irrigation ditch is even more vulnerable to selfish exploitation than a pasture that’s equally available to all: Those on the upper reaches of the ditch have it within their power to divert all the flow into their own fields, depriving those below. Yet they choose not to do so. What explains their forbearance?


drive right upThe streetscape in south Texas is dotted with coin-operated water vending machines, like this example from Watermill Express in a convenience store parking lot on U.S. 281 in Pharr. What a great idea! A simple way to cut down on the amount plastic that goes into water bottles!

features and benefitsNow, it’s probably a litle naive for me to be so enthusiastic about a business model that perhaps depends on the unreliable quality and quantity of municipal water supplies in this part of the world. (I found the tap water potable, but some profess to dislike it, seeing as how the lower valley is downstream of several large states.) And providing drinking water for farm laborers working in the hot sun isn’t the same sort of problem as hydrating your kid’s soccer team.

Nevertheless, I wish companies like this well, and I hope that they can expand northward.

only takes a quarterI dropped a quarter in the slot, placed my festival-issue water bottle under the spout, and pressed the button. The bottle holds much less than a gallon, so some of my purchase was wasted. The water isn’t chilled, but it’s wet and tasty.

I also saw drive-up ice dispensers around town. And the drive-through espresso huts that you see in the Atlantic Ocean tourist communities are replaced here by Hawaiian ice kiosks.

Drop by drop

Good special report from The Economist on the state of the world’s fresh water demand and supply. Not surprisingly, the report stresses the point that water is woefully underpriced:

[Chris] Perry, the irrigation economist, says water is typically priced at 10-50% of the costs of operating and maintaining the system, and that in turn is only 10-50% of what water is worth in terms of agricultural productivity. So to bring supply and demand into equilibrium the price would have to rise by 4-100 times.

Unfortunately, water access and pricing is a hot, hot political issue; the report concludes that a mixture of regulation, property rights, pricing, and small-community management (a farmers’ co-op in India’s Andhra Pradesh state is visited) may be the only way to go. One thinks of the acequias of the American Southwest as described by Stanley Crawford in The River in Winter and Mayordomo.