Solar pumps are boon to agriculture but contribute to looming water crisis

Farmers across hot, arid landscapes are increasingly harnessing solar energy to power irrigation, a move that slashes reliance on costly fossil fuels and ramps up food production. Yet, this innovation also has a dark side: It accelerates the depletion of vital groundwater reserves worldwide.

Fred Pearce reports for Yale E360.

In short:

  • Solar-powered irrigation is transforming agriculture in regions like India, offering farmers a cost-effective way to increase crop yields.
  • Despite its benefits, this technology is causing groundwater levels to plummet, posing a significant threat to environmental sustainability and water security.
  • The rapid adoption of solar pumps, while reducing fossil fuel use, inadvertently contributes to a looming global water crisis.

Key quote:

The success of solar pumps is "threatening the viability of many aquifers already at risk of running dry."

— Soumya Balasubramanya, economist at the World Bank

Why this matters:

While solar pumps promise to revolutionize agriculture and bolster food security, their impact on groundwater reserves highlights the increasing need for sustainable water management practices.

Swapping out coal energy for solar would prevent 52,000 premature deaths in the United States every year.

plastic composting

Bioplastics create a composting conundrum

Biodegradable food packaging is a step in the right direction, experts say, but when composted carries risks of microplastic and chemical contamination.

GROTON, Mass. — Steam billows inside Black Earth Compost’s processing facility as Syed Dong, regional operations manager, opens the building’s delivery door and lets in the chilly March air.

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Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
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public land oil & gas
Credit: WildEarth Guardians/Flickr

New Interior Department policy to increase costs for oil drilling on public land

A long-awaited Interior Department policy will raise financial assurance and royalty rates, aiming to ensure cleaner operations and better returns for the public.

Nick Bowlin reports for High Country News.

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Justice Department supports Wisconsin tribe in pipeline dispute

In a recent legal development, the Justice Department has sided with a Wisconsin tribe's claim against a Canadian energy company over land rights, sparking controversy.

Izzy Ross reports for Grist.

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Changes anticipated in EPA's power plant emissions regulations as deadline approaches

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nears finalization of its emissions standards for power plants, potential modifications aim to tighten controls on gas-fired facilities.

Jean Chemnick reports for E&E News.

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Climate change challenges Brazil's beef industry

Brazil's beef industry faces a potential 25% reduction in production by 2050 if it fails to adapt to stringent climate policies and forest conservation efforts.

Maxwell Radwin reports for Mongabay.

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Opinion: Reevaluating our methods in pursuit of environmental sustainability

We need to rethink the effectiveness of focusing solely on decarbonization to achieve true sustainability.

Peter Sutoris writes for Undark.

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