The Stream, November 28: Studying Water in the Urban Ecosystem

Scientists are beginning to study the ecological function of cities, tracking and measuring the flow of atmospheric gases, water, carbon, and pollutants through the urban ecosystem, Nature reported. The research could be essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and creating sustainable cities.

Water Levels
Global sea level rise is outpacing United Nations projections by 60 percent, putting low-lying population centers increasingly at risk from flooding, according to a report released at the climate talks in Doha, Qatar, Reuters reported. The study authors, who looked at data from the early 1990s up to 2011, suggest that future projections may also be low.

Meanwhile, dropping water levels on the Great Lakes are worrying some U.S. towns, the Associated Press reported. Lake levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are near record lows, spelling economic troubles for the region’s small tourist towns that lack the infrastructure to keep their harbors open.

Low water levels are also plaguing the Mississippi River after this summer’s extreme drought. In order to keep barge traffic moving down the vital waterway, some U.S. Senators are asking President Obama to release more water from a Missouri River dam operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Associated Press reported.

Australian water prices are on the rise, while water consumption is declining, reported the Herald Sun, citing the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Household water prices in the country rose an average of 16.2 percent between 2009-10 and 2010-11, with average consumption dropping 7.9 percent over the same period.

South Africa
South Africa’s mining industry is running up against increasingly scarce water supplies. Coupled with labor strikes and other production problems, total mining output this year is expected to drop 14.5 percent from 2011 levels, Mining Weekly reported.

The Stream is a daily digest spotting global water trends. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.