Testing the Water

Mark Williams

Mark Williams, co-founder and director of the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center

Testing the Water (Start time 3:30) What exactly is in our water—the stuff we drink, shower in and use to wash our vegetables? This is a question lots of Coloradans have started to ask in the last few years as oil and gas operations have ramped up in the state. Several communities have become very concerned how nearby drilling operations might be adversely affecting the quality of their water supply. We’ve seen the videos of people living near to fracking wells lighting their tap water, and we’ve heard the stories about the possible health impacts but how much of this is anti-fracking dramatization and how much is there really to be concerned about?  How much is energy development in Colorado affecting the water supply and how can we, that is Jane and Joe public, find out the vital statistics of our water quality?

Co-host Jane Palmer discusses these questions with hydrologist Mark Williams from the University of Colorado. Williams is the co-founder of the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center (CWERC) and he has conducted projects around the state looking at the impacts of energy operations on both water and air quality.  He has also developed a guide to help residents who live near oil and gas development test their water. The “how to” guide shows well owners how energy-related or other activities might affect their groundwater.

Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Producer: Jane Palmer
Co-hosts: Jane Palmer, Ted Burnham
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Additional Contributions: Shelley Schlender

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IPCC Assessment Report 5

Tad Pfeffer was a lead author on the IPCC AR5 chapter about sea level rise. Photo: James Balog

On Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, better known as the IPCC, released the first bit of its Fifth Assessment Report, a volume with a plain name that may have a large influence on global policy. This first part of the report, part one of three, is the “sciency” part, documenting the current state of knowledge of climate change and its effects. The report sticks to the physical science of climate change—by how much the climate is changing, what’s causing it, and what the world might look like by the end of the century. The next two volumes of the report will address the societal impacts of climate change and, lastly, mitigation strategies.

HOE co-host Beth Bartel speaks with Tad Pfeffer, a professor at CU-Boulder jointly appointed between the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, (INSTAAR), and the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering. Pfeffer is one of the lead authors on Chapter 13 of the IPCC report, the chapter on sea level rise.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Ted Burnham
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Leaky Natural Gas Wells // Measuring Glaciers and Ice Caps

Leaky Natural Gas Wells (start time 6:22).   We speak with Greg Frost, a scientist from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a new study, which is being published by the Journal of Geophysical Research.  The study indicates that natural gas drilling creates higher amounts of methane leakage into the atmosphere than previous estimates had indicated.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and unless this problem of leakage is solved, there is concern that drilling for natural gas might cause higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than burning coal.  We also offer an extended version of this interview.

Recent Contributions of Glaciers and Ice Caps to Sea Level Rise (start time 14:25).  Scientists at CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research now have used eight years worth of satellite data to a clearer picture of how climate change is impacting the cryosphere, or ice-covered parts of the planet. (See animations here.)  Knowing how much ice has been lost during this time can help scientists understand how melting ice might contribute to sea level rise, both now and in the future. But there have been conflicting stories in the press about how the results should be interpreted.  We talk with Tad Pfeffer, one of the study’s coauthors, to discuss what’s really happening to the Earth’s ice.

Hosts: Joel Parker & Breanna Draxler
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineers: Jim Pullen & Shelley Schlender
Additional contributions: Beth Bartel
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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