The Reality of Water
Our own Fred Vocasek attended a symposium in Boston recently, titled ‘Blue Waves, Green Dreams, and Shades of Gray: The Reality of Water.’ Here’s what he had to say about the experience.
From Fred Vocasek:
“On Feb. 17 seven speakers of different backgrounds from across the U.S. came together in Boston for a 180-minute symposium presentation on a common interest, ‘Blue Waves, Green Dreams, and Shades of Gray: The Reality of Water.’ John Sadler and I spent the last year getting this symposium organized and accepted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting. We were competing with the likes of Columbia Univ., Harvard, UCal Poly, Stanford, MIT, etc., not your typical ag colleges. Getting a symposium accepted by the AAAS is apparently pretty prestigious, so I felt pretty lucky.
“Here is a sampling of the most highly featured topics that were presented at this meeting:
- The Beauty of the Accelerating Universe
- The Evolution and Meanings of Human Skin Color
- Optogenetics: Development and Application
- Ice Sheets, Sea Level, and Other Surprises: Benefits of Understanding Some Beautiful Places
- ‘Artificial Atoms’ Formed from Nucleic Acid Nanoparticle Conjugates: The Dawn of a New Periodic Table
“AAAS holds ‘Family Science Day’ on Saturday which covered about four basketball courts. There were booths and interactive displays for elementary aged kids that demonstrated everything from deep-sea exploration to laser applications. The only booth I saw that was even remotely related to production agriculture was the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). They had a whole series of leaflets for elementary school. I picked up two. One was “How many plants does it take to make a fast-food burger? List the plants you might find in a fast-food hamburger” The back listed burger ingredients, then listed the plants and their scientific names. Like ‘Wheat – Triticum aestivum,’, ‘Cucumber – Cucumis sativus,’, etc. The other was ‘Plants in your pants: Cotton.’ There were a series of ten fill-in-the-blank questions using an alphabet code. The questions could have fit into the CCA exam, like ‘The cotton plant is a tropical shrub.’ and ‘It needs at least 19 degrees Celsius (65°F) to thrive.’
“We walked through the exhibit hall for a few minutes. A huge diversity of organizations were unfamiliar. They were all recruiting or trying to promote products/services to scientists. One booth was from the University of Singapore. There was a Japanese Pavilion, with three Japanese universities. The U.S. Department of Energy. The Harvard School of Anthropology. One that I remember was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CNTBTO), looking for recruits I think. They will monitor for signs of nuclear explosions by seismic sensors (earthquakes), hydrophones (tsunamis), satellites, and atmospheric analysis (radionuclides).
“This was quite an experience. A writer from the Agronomy Society office took lots of notes, so expect to see a spin-off or two in Crops & Soils magazine. We hope to replicate this symposium at the ASA Annual Meeting next November and have been able to a talk by Dr. Daniel Hillel, the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate and the man who originally developed the concept of drip irrigation.”
Here’s an article from the ASA: ASA members talk water security
Dr. Henry Lin: World Water Security Begins with an Adequate Blue Water Supply
Dr. Bob Steward: Green Water Supply – the Key Element in Food Security
Steel Maloney: Converting Gray Water to Green Water
Bill Cox: Practical Solutions to Agriculture’s Water Issues
John Peck: Law, Land, and Water: Removing Barriers to Water Security
Chris Goemans: Economics: Its Impact on Water Security
Our planet is expected to house another two billion residents in the next two generations. Water demand is increasing; water supplies are not. The demands for human use and agricultural production increase daily. The unforeseen consequences of climate change create additional uncertainties, both locally and globally. Our ability to feed this growing world population is directly correlated with our ability to “green” the water in our agroecosystems by reducing our “blue” and “grey” water footprint.
Blue represents the available fresh water (surface and ground water) and stored soil moisture minus losses and environmental maintenance requirements. Green represents “working” water, including: water needed during the crop life cycle; water transpired by plants; and water utilized for food, fuel, and fiber production. Gray represents “worked” water, water that may be polluted to different degrees after production of goods and services, with potential return as blue or green water.
The speakers will address our world’s water supply from three general perspectives as represented by the colors blue, green, and gray. The panelists will address potential constraints to water use – the practical, the legal, and the economic – that may impact scientific efforts and their relevance to public policy and perception.
The challenge of “greening” the world’s water supply requires a coordinated effort by scientists and practitioners from many disciplines, including agronomy, plant physiology, soil science, geohydrology, ecology, sociology, economics, and others. Each discipline has a different perspective. Understanding and appreciating those perspectives is essential to a coordinated effort that improves our water use to maintain agronomic productivity and economic security.