Tag Archives: drought

Worcester, watered-down

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Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has been front and center vis-a-vis environmental issues, energy conservation and green building in Worcester.      photo submitted

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Rose’s bathroom sink runneth over.     pic: R.T.

By Gordon Davis

Worcester has experienced a shortfall of rain for four of five years, ending in 2016. It looks like the shortfall will continue. Although this could be an anomaly, it could also be a pattern. It might be the beginning of a new normal where 38 inches of rain per year is all we get.

As Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has shown us by standing in the dry ground exposed by low water, Worcester reservoirs are less than half-filled after the five-year shortfall. The intakes for the reservoirs are now above the water level and cannot draw in water.

The City of Worcester has taken some emergency measures, such as buying water from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) that runs the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs. It pays the MWRA $1.7 million per month for the water. The money comes from the City’s general funds. This expenditure will be made for the foreseeable future.

This money is needed elsewhere, such as the public schools.

The City of Worcester has also instituted water use restrictions that have helped to mitigate the shortfall. However, even with the restrictions, the level of water in the reservoirs have not risen above 50 percent.

First of all, let me say that water is a human right. We deserve clean drinking water for no other reason than we are people. The people in Flint, Michigan, are the victims of human rights violations. Throughout the world denial of water could be used as a weapon or a means of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Secondarily, water is an asset for a region. Like affordable energy, water is vital for a prosperous community. There have been examples of civilizations that cease to exist due to the drought conditions brought on by climate change. The Akkadian Empire, Khmer Empire and the Puebloan Culture are historical examples.

Of course, I am not saying that New England or even Worcester is facing imminent demise. I am suggesting some thought should go into the possibility that 38 inches of rain a year is the new average for the region.

The Worcester City Council has wasted its time and resources on nice but less vital issues such as dog parks and mounted patrols. There should a report from the City Manager on the short-term and long-term effects of the drought on Worcester and how the City plans to respond to it.

As we have seen, the reservoirs of the City will have to be redesigned. This is because 38 inches of rain will not keep them filled. Water use will have to be increasingly recycled. Roof water and runoff should be increasingly harvested …

This issue is actually a state or regional and federal issue.

The redesign and improvements to reservoirs is beyond the budgets of all cities and towns in Massachusetts.

As the federal government has become involved in the improvement of infrastructure like roads and bridges, it will likely have to become involved in the infrastructure of dams and reservoirs of water-short areas.

With the Trump presidency, water infrastructure improvement is unlikely to occur. This is especially true, as both the state voters and our Republican governor voted against the president-elect.

Don’t let the drought dry up your wallet

By Heather Moore

Dry enough for you? No one needs to be reminded that the nation is experiencing the worst drought in half a century, with nearly two-thirds of the continental U.S. suffering from drought conditions. The dry, hot weather is fueling wildfires, scorching lawns and sending food prices soaring—especially for people who eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

If you’re concerned about your grocery bills—or your health—now would be a good time to start buying vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.

Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the U.S. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make just 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce a pound of pork. Now that many corn, wheat and soybean crops have been damaged or destroyed because of the drought, feed prices are soaring. It’s so bad that some meat companies, including Smithfield Foods, have even started importing corn from Brazil. Guess who’s going to foot the bill?

Meat-eaters can expect to see a spike in prices in the coming months. Consumers who eat cheese will probably also have to pick up the tab for all the calves who died from heat stress on Midwestern dairy farms in July.

Shoppers will likely see higher prices at the chicken counter first, though. The birds are fed mostly corn, and since chicken farmers engineer them to grow unnaturally fast, chicken flesh tends to reach the market quicker than beef or pork.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that chicken and turkey prices will rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent and that egg prices will likely climb by as much as 4 percent. Beef prices are also expected to rise between 3.5 and 4.5 percent this year and then by 4 or 5 percent in 2013. Pork will cost more in the coming year as well.

It’s cheaper, not to mention healthier and kinder, to eat grains and soybeans—and all the foods that can be made from them—directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals to produce animal products. The amount of feed needed to produce one 8-ounce steak would fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains. And while shoppers will see a spike in milk and meat prices, they probably won’t see a significant increase in the cost of corn on the cob, cornflakes or other plant-based foods sold in supermarkets. The corn that consumers buy at the grocery store is grown differently from the corn that’s used to feed animals and isn’t as severely affected by drought conditions.

Whole grains, beans, vegetables and other wholesome plant-based foods are even more of a bargain when you factor in the medical bills that you might rack up if you eat lots of fatty, cholesterol-laden meats, eggs and dairy products.

Of course, choosing vegan foods isn’t just a good way to save animals or money at the supermarket. It’s also an easy way to help conserve water—you can save more water by not eating 1 pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months. Even a collaborative rain dance likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference!

Whether you’re watching your budget, your waistline or just the weather channel, it’ll pay to go vegan. But if you need some extra exercise, feel free to do a rain dance anyway.