November 2006, Vol. 18, No.11

Waterline

Waterline Wastewater Gone to the Dogs

The Regional Animal Campus for the Las Vegas Valley Animal Foundation Dog Adoption Park was recently recognized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment as a Top 10 Green Project for 2006. In addition to providing ample daylighting and wind-powered ventilation, water for both drinking and washing dogs was an important factor in the park’s design.

The greatest use of water in caring for canines at the dog park is for kennel washing, so a Living Machine® system was incorporated to recycle site wastewater for kennel washing and other nonpotable uses. The kennel drains and certain building sewers empty to the reclamation system, which has a permitted capacity of 95 m3/d (25,000 gal/d). Four potable and six nonpotable hose bibs serve each kennel building. The potable bibs provide drinking water for the animals, and the nonpotable bibs provide all of the kennel’s washdown water.

The Living Machine system harnesses natural processes to produce high-quality effluent that meets discharge requirements. The system was chosen for its low energy usage and low O&M requirements. 
 The dog adoption park hosts more than 2500 visitors per week, and includes “dog bungalows,” each containing 12 kennels, outdoor runs, and a visitation room. 

The bungalows are arranged in a parklike setting shaded by freestanding canopies supporting photovoltaic panels. A goal for the design team was to provide a healthy, pleasant, and comfortable experience for visitors along with a healthy environment for the animals. Another priority was minimizing facility operations costs by reducing the cooling load, electricity use, and water use without diminishing the quality of the adoption experience.

For more information on Living Machine systems, see www.livingdesignsgroup.com. To read about the AIA Top 10 Green Project 2006 Awards, visit www.aia.org.  

Bacteria: Barometers of Ocean Change

 Bacteria are unique, according to a new study that may lead to more accurate models of ocean change.

While scientists have long endorsed the concept of a unique biological niche for most animals and plants, bacteria have been relegated to an also-ran world of “functional redundancy” in which few species are considered unique, said Jed Fuhrman, holder of the McCulloch-Crosby Chair in Marine Biology at the University of Southern California (USC; Los Angeles) College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

In The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Early Edition, Fuhrman and colleagues from USC and Columbia University (New York) show that most kinds of bacteria are not interchangeable and that each thrives under predictable conditions and at predictable times. Conversely, the kinds and numbers of bacteria in a sample can show where and when it was taken.

“I could tell you what month it is if you just got me a sample of water from out there,” Fuhrman said.

 The researchers took monthly bacteria samples for more than 4 years in the Pacific Ocean near the USC Wrigley Institute’s marine laboratory on Catalina Island.

They used statistical methods to correlate the bacteria counts with the Wrigley Institute’s monthly measurements of water temperature, salinity, nutrient content, plant matter, and other variables.

The researchers found they could predict the makeup of the bacterial population by the conditions in the water more than four times in five.

A majority of bacterial species came and went predictably, Fuhrman said. A smaller “wild card” group in each sample was not predictable and could represent the bacterial equivalent of weeds and other redundant plants.

“Wherever we looked, we found predictable kinds, but within the groups, there were always less-predictable and more-predictable members,” Fuhrman said. “They’re just like animals and plants in the way they function in the system. Each one has its own place.”

The findings have immediate relevance for scientists attempting to understand how the oceans are changing, Fuhrman said. If bacteria behave predictably, they can be used to improve models for ocean change.

By including bacteria, which make up the vast majority of species on land and sea, “we have some hope of predicting how changes are going to happen,” Fuhrman said.
Funding for the group’s research came from the National Science Foundation.

Contact Fuhrman at fuhrman@usc.edu.

Research Afloat

 A floating scientific laboratory that helps the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitor public health and environmental threats to oceans, bays, and coastal waterways docked in Philadelphia in August.

The 224-foot ocean survey vessel Bold, stationed at Penn’s Landing, carries onboard laboratories, sonar, underwater cameras, and diving, dredging, and sampling capabilities. The 19-member crew supports the ship, a converted Navy vessel, and the work of up to 20 scientists, notes an EPA news release.

Data collected on the Bold helps scientists assess how human activities such as shoreline development, land-based pollution sources, and discharges from ocean vessels affect marine environments, states EPA. The ship collects research data in the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental activities, such as degradation from excessive nitrification, the effects of wastewater discharges and disposal of dredged materials, the health of coral reefs, and the impact of ecological disturbances such as harmful algae blooms, can be monitored from the ship.

In addition to laboratory research, the vessel is open to the public for demonstration surveys and tours. Scuba divers are also trained and certified onboard the Bold as part of EPA’s dive program. The divers then support EPA’s monitoring, survey, and enforcement efforts.

The Bold is EPA’s only ocean and coastal monitoring vessel.

For more information on the ship, go to www.epa.gov/bold.

New Technology Provides Faster Tsunami Warnings

 Scientists have demonstrated that the Global Positioning System (GPS), using newly developed data processing software, can determine within minutes whether an earthquake is powerful enough to generate an oceanwide tsunami. The technology, developed by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, can be used to provide faster tsunami warnings, according to a news release issued by the American Geophysical Union (AGU; Washington, D.C.).

According to the news release, a team led by Geoffrey Blewitt of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and the University of Nevada–Reno, demonstrated that by using GPS data, a large quake’s true size and potential to cause a tsunami can be determined within 15 minutes — much faster than possible using current methods. Their findings were reported in the June edition of the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Tsunamis travel at jet speed, so warning centers must accurately decide, within minutes, whether to issue alerts,” said Seth Stein a researcher at Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) and a co-author of the paper. “This has to be done fast enough for the warning to be distributed to authorities in impacted areas so they can implement response plans. Together with seismometer and ocean buoy data, GPS adds another tool that can improve future tsunami danger assessments.”

The new method, called GPS displacement, is based on measuring precisely when radio signals from GPS satellites arrive at ground stations located within a few thousand kilometers of a quake. From these data, scientists can calculate how far the stations moved because of the quake, then derive the quake’s true size, called its “moment magnitude,” according to the news release. This magnitude is directly related to a quake’s tsunami-generation potential.

According to AGU, GPS has great potential to contribute to tsunami warnings, which became apparent after the Sumatra earthquake when GPS measurements showed that the quake moved the ground permanently more than 10 mm (0.4 in.) as far away as India, more than 1900 km (1200 mi) from the quake’s epicenter.

“With signals like that, an earthquake this huge can’t hide,” Blewitt said.