Water Reuse for the Arid West

Photo credit: WateReuse Colorado

Water Recycling for Climate Resilience (start time: 7:54) When you poured tap water into your coffee maker this morning, or flushed the toilet, you may not have been thinking about where that water came from, or where it flowed to next. Pegged to World Water Week, on this week’s How On Earth host Susan Moran interviews Austa Parker, PhD, an environmental engineer who is a consultant for the firm Brown and Caldwell on national water-reuse issues. She formerly worked for Denver Water and as an adjunct professor at CU Boulder. Our discussion focuses on direct potable reuse (DPR), the process of transforming treated wastewater, including human effluence, into drinking water. Climate change, intensifying droughts and population growth in the already parched U.S. West are pressuring states and cities to pursue DPR as a means of becoming more climate-resilient.
Resource links:
WateReuse Colorado
WateReuse Association (national)
Colorado’s regulations (passed in late 2022) on direct potable reuse

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Show Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
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Colorado River Basin Crisis: Pt. II

Colorado River Basin Crisis Pt. II (start time: 6:19): This week’s How On Earth show focuses on the implications and future prospects after the federal government in June ordered the seven Western states that rely on the river to come up with a plan to save trillions of gallons of water from the shrinking river) — and after the August 15 deadline came and passed without a deal. (Here’s the Bureau of Reclamation’s news release.) How On Earth host Susan Moran interviews Aaron Citron, senior policy advisor with The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado chapter; and journalist Jerd Smith, editor of Fresh Water News. (For background, check out our July 26th show, Pt. I on the Basin’s Basin’s climate, drought, and overuse crisis. Also, see how you can make a difference by taking advantage of this recently signed legislation that helps Colorado residents convert their grass lawns into water-saving landscapes.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Headline contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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The Fourth Phase of Water

4th-phase-coverHow On Earth reporter Kendra Krueger caught up with Gerald Pollack, Bioengineering professor from the University of Washington to talk about the physical chemistry of water.  The science of water has a sordid past of controversy and dispute which continues today in our current scientific and layman communities.  Why is that? What is so strange about the properties of water?  Find out more in this weeks episode of How on Earth

Pollack Laboratory Website


Hosts: Susan Moran, Kendra Krueger
Producer: Kendra Krueger
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline contributions: Beth Bennett

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Want to Save the Amazon? Think Like an Ant.

Local guides take visitors deep into the Yasuni National Park where they share knowledge about wildlife and traditional uses of native plants.
Local guides take visitors deep into the Yasuni National Park where they share knowledge about wildlife and traditional uses of native plants.

The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, but it is currently at risk from oil development. Some of the park’s inhabitants, however, are trying to forge a more sustainable, and less destructive path out of poverty.  These indigenous Kichwa people, who have already been caretakers of the rainforest for hundreds of years, have developed ecotourism in the region, providing all the jobs, schools and healthcare that they need. How did the community find the commitment and tenacity required for such a project? By thinking like Leafcutter ants.

To find out about the award winning model of conservation and sustainability H20 Radio’s Frani Halperin and Jamie Sudler visited the region earlier this year and produced the podcast   Want to save the Amazon? Think like an Ant. We play this feature [4:15] on this week’s show and afterward [18:30] talk with Frani and Jamie about the project and what Coloradoan’s can learn from the Kichwa community’s efforts.

Hosts: Jane Palmer, Beth Bennett
Producer: Jane Palmer
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producers: Kendra Krueger, Jane Palmer

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Do Fathers Matter Pt. 2 // Mercury in Water

fathers1Do Fathers Matter? (start time: 3:07) If you’re a father or a son or daughter – which pretty much covers everyone – this interview should hit home.  Science journalist Paul Raeburn’s latest book — “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” – explores  what seems like a no-brainer question. But the answers he discovers surprised even him. After last week’s pledge drive teaser, we now offer the extended version of host Susan Moran’s interview with Raeburn.

Ryan 2011-06 With Jack Webster Four Mile Canyon Burn Continuing Ed Catalog
Joe Ryan (left) with Jack Webster.
Credit: CU Boulder

Mercury in Waterways (start time: 15:20) Next time you take a sip of mountain spring water or catch a wild trout, you might be getting a bit more than you bargained for. Scientists have found mercury in Colorado waterways and in the fish that swim in them. And recent research shows that wildfires in recent years may have added to the problem.  How on Earth’s Jane Palmer talked with Joe Ryan, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Colorado. Dr. Ryan also directs AirWaterGas, a project studying the impacts of oil and gas drilling on the environment.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producers: Jane Palmer and Kendra Krueger

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State Climatologist // Water Contamination

Nolan Doesken

Feature #1: (start time 5:09)  Did you know that Colorado, and for that matter most states, have their own “state climatologist” – an expert who keeps tabs on the changing climate and its impacts in the state. In Colorado’s case it’s Nolan Doesken. He’s based out of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. Mr. Doesken also heads a nationwide citizen-science project called the  Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews Mr. Doesken about the network, as well as a recently released Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study, which suggests we’ll be thirstier and thirstier in the future.

Mark Williams sampling a groundwater well near Buena Vista.

Feature #2: (start time 16:00) Water is such an essential — perhaps the essential — resource for life that it is considered as a key ingredient for life anywhere in the universe. No surprise, then, that it has become a battleground, especially in the Western states like Colorado that are dealing with drought conditions and higher demand for clean water to support a ever-increasing population. Dr. Mark Williams, professor of geography at CU Boulder talks with co-host Joel Parker about his research into the environmental and human health impacts of energy development and mining on the quality of water in our aquifers.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran|
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Jim Pullen

 (Click below to play audio.)

This show was featured January 7th 2013 by Science 360 Radio


Colorado Drought // A More Perfect Heaven

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized The Cosmos, by Dava Sobel

Colorado Drought Conference (start time 4:35): Experts are meeting at a conference in Denver this week to discuss the implications of prolonged drought conditions here in Colorado. How On Earth’ Susan Moran speaks with biologist Dr. Chad McNutt of the NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information Center about wthe drought means for the ecosystem, and for Western cities — and how we can start to address the problem.

A More Perfect Heaven (start time 11:50): Joel Parker speaks with Dava Sobel, a science journalist and author who tells the stories of the science and the scientists from the past and how they connect to the present. Those stories reveal that the course of scientific progress is far from orderly — it often takes unplanned twists, has failures that require going back and starting over, and can be driven by the quirks of the personalities of individual scientists.

Today we hear about Sobel’s most recent book, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.  This book also contains the play And The Sun Stood Still, which will be presented in a free staged reading by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company this Thursday, September 20th at 6:30 at the Dairy Center for the Arts.

Hosts: Ted Burnham, Joel Parker
Ted Burnham
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer:
Susan Moran


Colorado & Oceans // Nitrogen & Snails

Feature #1 (time mark 5:30)  When people think of Colorado, they usually don’t think about “oceans”.  After all, Colorado doesn’t have much of a coastline these days, though it was definitely had oceanfront property a few hundred million years ago.   However, being in a landlocked state doesn’t mean that there isn’t any thing we can do to impact the health and ecology of the ocean and marine biology.  Co-host Joel Parker talks with  Vicki Goldstein, founder and president of the Colorado Ocean Coalition about the “Making Waves in Colorado” symposium and what all of us around the world (leaving near or far from oceans) do that impact and can help oceans.

Feature #2 (time mark 14:10)  Nitrogen – we can’t live without it, but you can have too much of a good thing. In its gaseous form nitrogen is harmless and makes up nearly 80 percent of the atmosphere. The worldwide population never would have reached 7 billion people without nitrogen, in the form of chemical fertilizer. But excess nitrogen –from fertilizer runoff, manure, human sewage and other sources is wreaking havoc on the environment.  Co-host Susan Moran talks with John Mischler, a PhD student at CU Boulder, who is researching worms and snails in Colorado and Africa. He talks about how excess nutrients in ponds, lakes and elsewhere can lead to the spread of parasitic disease from trematodes to snails to us.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Headlines: Breanna Draxler, Tom Yulsman, Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon


Science Education, Evolution & Creationism

the book “Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)" by Matt Young and Paul Strode

At its most basic level, science can be considered as non-political or at least politically neutral: science is dedicated to the collection of facts and interpreting them to help us understand the universe and how it works. For that reason, many people – one may even say our culture in general – places a high value in being scientifically literate. Or at least we pay lip service to that idea. But when the results of science end up contradicting and conflicting with other ideals such as religious beliefs, personal behaviors, or vested interests, then science can become very political. Perhaps the two most visible examples of this politicization of science are in the areas of climate change and evolution, where the discussion ranges from the White House and Congress to local school boards and textbooks. Our guest today has front line experience in several aspects of science and education. Dr. Paul Strode is a biology teacher in the Boulder Valley School District, and has been an instructor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado. Dr. Strode is co-author of the book: “Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)” – also available and reviews here and here.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Producer & Engineer: Joel Parker

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Colorado river crisis // “The Believing Brain”

Lake Mead's dipping water line. Image courtesy of futuretimeline.net.

This week co-host Susan Moran speaks with Dr. Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado,  Boulder’s law school. Kenney sheds light on the Colorado River Compact and how population growth, climate change, and water politics, are expected to further threaten our future water supply.

And Ted Burnham interviews skeptic and science writer Michael Shermer. His new book, “The Believing Brain,” presents a counter-intuitive explanation for how we form and reinforce our beliefs. Shermer draws on evidence from neuroscience, psychology and sociology to show that we often form beliefs first, and only then look for reasons to believe.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker

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