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Study shows 'a growing plastic smog' in the ocean of 171 trillion particles

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Thursday, March 9, 2023

A new study reports there is as "growing plastic smog" of more than 170 trillion particles floating in the world's oceans. The research article, published in the journal Plos One on Wednesday, found there has been a "rapid increase" of plastic particles in the world's oceans since 2005. Researchers used surface water data from 11,777 stations from 1979 to 2019 to estimate the number of plastic particles in the water over time to determine whether current anti-pollution polices are effective. The researchers estimated that there were about 1.1 to 4.9 million tons of plastic particles floating in the ocean in 2019. The study suggested that increased production of plastic and waste, couple with low rates of recycling, may have contributed to the "dramatic increase." "As global awareness, science, and policy interventions for plastic escalate, institutions around the world are seeking preventative strategies," the study reads. "Central to this is the need for precise global time series of plastic pollution with which we can assess whether implemented policies are effective, but at present we lack these data." Researchers included a historical overview of global policy measure that were aimed to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean. Based on their analysis, the researchers are calling for "urgent and effective solutions" to combat ocean pollution. Without intervention, the researchers warned that the amount of plastic particles could increase by around 2.6 times by 2040. "Environmental recovery of plastic has limited merit, so solution strategies must address those systems that restrict emissions of plastic pollution in the first place," the study states. "Therefore, establishing standardized monitoring frameworks to track global trends and creating binding and enforceable international agreements to prevent the emissions of plastic pollution are the best long-term global solutions."

A new study reports there is as "growing plastic smog" of more than 170 trillion particles floating in the world's oceans. The research article, published in the journal Plos One on Wednesday, found there has been a "rapid increase" of plastic particles in the world's oceans since 2005. Researchers used surface water data from 11,777 stations...

A new study reports there is as "growing plastic smog" of more than 170 trillion particles floating in the world's oceans.

The research article, published in the journal Plos One on Wednesday, found there has been a "rapid increase" of plastic particles in the world's oceans since 2005. Researchers used surface water data from 11,777 stations from 1979 to 2019 to estimate the number of plastic particles in the water over time to determine whether current anti-pollution polices are effective.

The researchers estimated that there were about 1.1 to 4.9 million tons of plastic particles floating in the ocean in 2019. The study suggested that increased production of plastic and waste, couple with low rates of recycling, may have contributed to the "dramatic increase."

"As global awareness, science, and policy interventions for plastic escalate, institutions around the world are seeking preventative strategies," the study reads. "Central to this is the need for precise global time series of plastic pollution with which we can assess whether implemented policies are effective, but at present we lack these data."

Researchers included a historical overview of global policy measure that were aimed to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean. Based on their analysis, the researchers are calling for "urgent and effective solutions" to combat ocean pollution.

Without intervention, the researchers warned that the amount of plastic particles could increase by around 2.6 times by 2040.

"Environmental recovery of plastic has limited merit, so solution strategies must address those systems that restrict emissions of plastic pollution in the first place," the study states. "Therefore, establishing standardized monitoring frameworks to track global trends and creating binding and enforceable international agreements to prevent the emissions of plastic pollution are the best long-term global solutions."

Read the full story here.
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Palm oil plantations increase flood risks and water contamination in Papua

The expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Papua has led to increased flooding and water contamination, affecting Indigenous communities downstream.Hans Nicholas Jong reports for Mongabay.In short:Oil palm plantations have replaced forests, causing a 21% increase in surface water runoff and nearly fivefold increase in flooding probability.Agrochemicals used in plantations have raised nitrogen and phosphorous levels in water, exceeding safe standards for human consumption.Indigenous communities face higher environmental and health risks due to lack of transparency and effective mitigation measures by plantation operators.Key quote: “The downstream Indigenous people who rely on the rivers and the streams in the watershed are highly vulnerable."— Timothy Randhir, professor at the University of Massachusetts AmherstWhy this matters: The health of downstream communities is jeopardized by contaminated water and increased flooding, indicating a pressing need for stricter regulations and better management practices to protect both the environment and public health. Read more: Balancing palm oil and protected forests to conserve orangutans.

The expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Papua has led to increased flooding and water contamination, affecting Indigenous communities downstream.Hans Nicholas Jong reports for Mongabay.In short:Oil palm plantations have replaced forests, causing a 21% increase in surface water runoff and nearly fivefold increase in flooding probability.Agrochemicals used in plantations have raised nitrogen and phosphorous levels in water, exceeding safe standards for human consumption.Indigenous communities face higher environmental and health risks due to lack of transparency and effective mitigation measures by plantation operators.Key quote: “The downstream Indigenous people who rely on the rivers and the streams in the watershed are highly vulnerable."— Timothy Randhir, professor at the University of Massachusetts AmherstWhy this matters: The health of downstream communities is jeopardized by contaminated water and increased flooding, indicating a pressing need for stricter regulations and better management practices to protect both the environment and public health. Read more: Balancing palm oil and protected forests to conserve orangutans.

Tackling water shortages with 'Star Wars' tech

I thought why don’t we give it a try?' said student Swapnil Shrivastav, after inspiration struck.

Tackling water shortages with 'Star Wars' techJust nowSusie Bearne,Technology ReporterUravuThe founders of Uravu (left to right) Govinda Balaji, Swapnil Shrivastav, Venkatesh RajaWhen a severe drought hit the Indian city of Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, in 2016, residents including student Swapnil Shrivastav had access to a limited amount of water each day. “We were rationed to two buckets of water a day, which we collected from water tanks,” he says.While he says it’s not uncommon for water supply issues to impact parts of India, it was a tough month for Mr Shrivastav and others in the region. “It was a very humid area; it was unmanageable.”Mr Shrivastav was already interested in water scarcity having won a student competition in 2012 on imagining the future of water in cities, but the experience pushed him to explore solutions.“One element of inspiration was from Star Wars where there’s an air to water device. I thought why don’t we give it a try? It was more of a curiosity project.”Several years later, in 2019, that idea led him, Govinda Balaji and Venkatesh Raja to set up Uravu Labs, a Bangalore-based startup.Their system converts air to water using atmospheric water generators that contain a liquid desiccant, which absorbs moisture from the air.Using sunlight or renewable electricity they heat the desiccant to 65C which releases the moisture, which can then be condensed into drinking water.Mr Shrivastav says the whole process takes about 12 hours. Today each unit produces about 2,000 litres of drinking water.However, while his vision was to supply drinking water to communities facing water shortages, he says it wasn’t financially viable.“We realised the tech still needs more time to scale up and come down in cost,” says Mr Shrivastav. “Or someone should fund it, but we haven’t found the support in India.”Instead, they currently sell the water to 40 clients in the hospitality industry, who in turn use it to provide drinking water for customers.“We tried non-profit and CSR departments [corporate social responsibility]... but many companies shy away from tech. They thought it wouldn’t work. We had to shift to commercial consumption applications as they were ready to pay us and it’s a sustainability driver for them.”Getty ImagesProducing water locally can avoid the hassle of transportationWater shortages are not new, but many countries, especially in the global south, are experiencing climate change-related intense drought and flooding that contaminates water sources.More than 50% of the global population – four billion people - experience water shortfalls at least once a month, while by 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with “absolute” water scarcity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Could atmospheric water generation technology be the answer? Energy efficient – it can be powered by renewable sources – it’s one way of providing a fresh source of water without the need for traditional water infrastructure, making it an attractive option in remote locations.There appears to be a market for the technology. Valued at $3.4bn (£2.7bn) in 2022, the atmospheric water generation market is expected to be worth $13.5bn in 2032, according to a report by Global Market Insights.There are two main methods for atmospheric water generation. Firstly, there’s the cooling and condensation process which cools humid air to its dew point, causing water vapour to condense into liquid water.The second is a desiccant-based system which uses hygroscopic materials to absorb moisture from the air, then release it through a heating process, he says.Majik WaterBeth Koigi manages 40 water generators across the dry areas of KenyaThrough her social enterprise Majik Water, co-founder and chief executive Beth Koigi manages about 40 atmospheric water generator units across arid and semi-arid regions across Kenya, using a cooling and condensation-based techniques to capture moisture from the air.Founded in 2017, Ms Koigi was inspired to start Majik Water after experiencing water scarcity for the first time during a drought when she was studying in Nairobi in 2016.While many visited a nearby river to fetch water for cooking, drinking and washing, Koigi says she couldn’t bring herself to drink the contaminated water.“It made me realise that you take for granted water as it’s always there.” She started looking for other water source ideas and set up a water filter company before developing an air-to-water system.Majik Water works with NGOs and humanitarian organisations, as well as being sold in stores.Majik's biggest unit produces 500 litres of water in 24 hours and is installed in schools and small communities.While there is demand for her company's system, Ms Koigi does not see it as a permanent solution.“Honestly, I feel like this is not the solution to water scarcity,” says Ms Koigi. “It’s a temporary solution… mostly because it’s not cheap."Manufacturers are focused on making air-to-water generation systems more energy efficient, says Avinash Singh, associate director of research and consulting at Global Market Insights.“For instance, innovations in compressors, heat exchangers, and desiccants have improved the energy efficiency of such systems."He adds that government support, subsidies, or environmental regulations could drive further adoption of the technology.More Technology of BusinessOne development which has helped the adoption of such water systems is the move to digital payments. Headquartered in Italy, Veragon has water production units across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America.“When we originally started with off-grid communities, it was a cash-based society which wasn’t really viable… nowadays it’s being digitalised,” says Veragon global business director Stephen White.“For example, the majority of Cambodia is covered by 4G and Covid saw an explosion of e-wallets. There’s much better private infrastructure and partnership - the government doesn’t have to be involved, and we sell water at much lower price.”He says all units will be moved to digital in the next few months.However, the prices of the units is not cheap. Veragon says its units, which use the cooling and condensing system, cost between $60,000 and $70,000.Meanwhile, Ms Koigi says a large unit of theirs costs $18,000.But Mr Shrivastav points that making water in situ has a cost advantage as water is quite heavy and not easy to transport around. Looking ahead, Uravu Labs is exploring how advancements in material science can improve the efficiency of desiccants, or how utilising a different material for absorbing more moisture from the air could make the process more effective. Mr Shrivastav says these advancements will also result in reducing the heat required from 60C to 40C. They are also hoping to run pilot projects involving installing its units in data centres in India and Singapore.Data centres generate a lot of heat which is usually lost, but Uravu plans to instead to use it create fresh water. “This process will result in up to 95% reduction in fresh water consumption [by the datacentre] as Uravu's system captures most of the waste heat and gives back cold water, thus very little freshwater is needed as a top-up,” says Mr Shrivastav.

Rising Waters Transform the Tibetan Plateau Into an Unpredictable Future

Increased rainfall and glacier meltwater are set to dramatically reverse the shrinking trend and expand land-locked lakes on the Tibetan Plateau by 50%. This expansion...

A study predicts significant expansion of Tibetan Plateau lakes by 2100 due to climate change, leading to major land loss and necessitating urgent environmental and economic adaptation strategies.Increased rainfall and glacier meltwater are set to dramatically reverse the shrinking trend and expand land-locked lakes on the Tibetan Plateau by 50%.This expansion will result in significant land loss, affecting agriculture, habitats, and infrastructure, and necessitating urgent adaptive strategies to mitigate economic, environmental, and ecological impacts.Recent reports have stated that more than half the world’s largest lakes, including lakes in the Tibetan plateau, are drying up. However, a paper published today (May 27) in Nature Geoscience suggests that, by the end of this century, land-locked lakes on the Tibetan Plateau are set to increase exponentially, resulting in major land loss and related economic, environmental, and climatic impacts. Climatic Influence on Lake ExpansionClimate and weather predictions suggest that increased rainfall due to climate change will enlarge these lakes, and see water levels rise by up to 10 meters.The volume of water caught in these land-locked lakes is estimated to increase fourfold by 2100 according to the research by Dr. Iestyn Woolway of Bangor University (UK) and colleagues in China, Saudi Arabia, USA, and France.Economic and Environmental ImpactThe increased lake surface area will also mean the loss of critical land area, for agriculture, human habitation, critical road and rail networks, and economic disruption.Dr. Woolway commented, “Climate change is making the Tibetan Plateau greener and more habitable, attracting more people to higher altitudes due to better access to water. However, rising lake levels require urgent planning and policies to mitigate impacts on the region’s ecology and population.”Ecological and Climatic RamificationsThe resultant land loss could also lead to a change in the landscape, as lakes merge and the course of the rivers which feed and interconnect the lakes are altered.This could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and a positive feedback loop, amplifying climate change. An increase in freshwater, and in flow between lakes could also cause a change in ecology and affect wildlife. As an example, when the Zonang Lake in Hoh Xil Nature Reserve burst its banks in 2011, the Tibetan Antelope found their migration route blocked.Reference: “Widespread societal and ecological impacts from projected Tibetan Plateau lake expansion” 27 May 2024, Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-024-01446-w

An Intriguing Source for the Metals We Depend on: Ocean Water

This story was originally published by Yale e360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Can metals that naturally occur in seawater be mined, and can they be mined sustainably? A company in Oakland, California, says yes. And not only is it extracting magnesium from ocean water—and from waste brine generated by industry—it is doing […]

This story was originally published by Yale e360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Can metals that naturally occur in seawater be mined, and can they be mined sustainably? A company in Oakland, California, says yes. And not only is it extracting magnesium from ocean water—and from waste brine generated by industry—it is doing it in a carbon-neutral way. Magrathea Metals has produced small amounts of magnesium in pilot projects, and with financial support from the Defense Department, it is building a larger-scale facility to produce hundreds of tons of the metal over two to four years. By 2028, it says it plans to be operating a facility that will annually produce more than 10,000 tons. Magnesium is far lighter and stronger than steel, and it’s critical to the aircraft, automobile, steel, and defense industries, which is why the government has bankrolled the venture. Right now, China produces about 85 percent of the world’s magnesium in a dirty, carbon-intensive process. Finding a way to produce magnesium domestically using renewable energy, then, is not only an economic and environmental issue, it’s a strategic one. “With a flick of a finger, China could shut down steelmaking in the US by ending the export of magnesium,” said Alex Grant, Magrathea’s CEO and an expert in the field of decarbonizing the production of metals. “China uses a lot of coal and a lot of labor,” Grant continued. “We don’t use any coal and [use] a much lower quantity of labor.” The method is low cost in part because the company can use wind and solar energy during off-peak hours, when it is cheapest. As a result, Grant estimates their metal will cost about half that of traditional producers working with ore. There are roughly 18,000 desalination plants, globally, taking in 23 trillion gallons of ocean water a year. Magrathea—named after a planet in the hit novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—buys waste brines, often from desalination plants, and allows the water to evaporate, leaving behind magnesium chloride salts. Next, it passes an electrical current through the salts to separate them from the molten magnesium, which is then cast into ingots or machine components. While humans have long coaxed minerals and chemicals from seawater—sea salt has been extracted from ocean water for millennia—researchers around the world are now broadening their scope as the demand for lithium, cobalt, and other metals used in battery technology has ramped up. Companies are scrambling to find new deposits in unlikely places, both to avoid orebody mining and to reduce pollution. The next frontier for critical minerals and chemicals appears to be salty water, or brine. Brines come from a number of sources: Much new research focuses on the potential for extracting metals from briny wastes generated by industry, including coal-fired power plants that discharge waste into tailings ponds; wastewater pumped out of oil and gas wells—called produced water; wastewater from hard-rock mining; and desalination plants. A technician pours a magnesium ingot at the Magrathea Metals facility in Oakland, California. Alex Grant Large-scale brine mining could have negative environmental impacts—some waste will need to be disposed of, for example. But because no large-scale operations currently exist, potential impacts are unknown. Still, the process is expected to have numerous positive effects, chief among them that it will produce valuable metals without the massive land disturbance and creation of acid-mine drainage and other pollution associated with hard-rock mining. According to the Brine Miners, a research center at Oregon State University, there are roughly 18,000 desalination plants, globally, taking in 23 trillion gallons of ocean water a year and either forcing it through semipermeable membranes—in a process called reverse osmosis—or using other methods to separate water molecules from impurities. Every day, the plants produce more than 37 billion gallons of brine—enough to fill 50,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. That solution contains large amounts of copper, zinc, magnesium, and other valuable metals. According to OSU estimates, brine from desalination plants contains $2.2 trillion worth of materials. Disposing of brine from desalination plants has always been a challenge. In coastal areas, desal plants shunt that waste back into the ocean, where it settles to the sea floor and can damage marine ecosystems. Because the brine is so highly concentrated, it is toxic to plants and animals; inland desalination plants either bury their waste or inject it into wells. These processes further raise the cost of an already expensive process, and the problem is only growing as desal plants proliferate globally. Finding a lucrative and safe use for brine will help solve plants’ waste problems and, by using their brine to feed another process, nudge them toward a circular economy, in which residue from one industrial activity becomes source material for a new activity. According to OSU estimates, brine from desalination plants contains $2.2 trillion worth of materials, including more than 17,400 tons of lithium, which is crucial for making batteries for electric vehicles, appliances, and electrical energy storage systems. In some cases, mining brine for lithium and other metals and minerals could make the remaining waste stream less toxic. For many decades manufacturers have extracted magnesium and lithium from naturally occurring brines. In California’s Salton Sea, which contains enough lithium to meet the nation’s needs for decades, according to a 2023 federal analysis, companies have drilled geothermal wells to generate the energy required for separating the metal from brines. And in rural Arkansas, ExxonMobil recently announced that it is building one of the largest lithium processing facilities in the world — a state-of-the-art facility that will siphon lithium from brine deep within the Smackover geological formation. By 2030, the company says it will produce 15 percent of the world’s lithium. Miners have largely ignored the minerals found in desalination brine because concentrating them has not been economical. But new technologies and other innovations have created more effective separation methods and enabled companies to focus on this vast resource. “Three vectors are converging,” said Peter Fiske, director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley. “The value of some of these critical materials is going up. The cost of conventional [open pit] mining and extraction is going up. And the security of international suppliers, especially Russia and China, is going down.“ There is also an emphasis on—and grant money from the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and elsewhere for—projects and businesses that release extremely low, zero, or negative greenhouse gas emissions and that can be part of a circular economy. Researchers who study brine mining believe the holy grail of desalination—finding more than enough value in its waste brine to pay for the expensive process of creating fresh water—is attainable. Improved filtering technologies can now remove far more, and far smaller, materials suspended in briny water. “We have membranes now that are selective to an individual ion,” said Fiske. “The technology [allows us] to pick through the garbage piles of wastewater and pick out the high-value items.” One of the fundamental concepts driving this research, he says, “is that there is no such thing as wastewater.” NEOM, the controversial and hugely expensive futuristic city under construction in the Saudi Arabian desert, has assembled a highly regarded international team to build a desalination plant and a facility to both mine its waste for minerals and chemicals and minimize the amount of material it must dispose of. ENOWA, the water and energy division of NEOM, claims that its selective membranes—which include reverse and forward osmosis—will target specific minerals and extract 99.5 percent of the waste brine’s potassium chloride, an important fertilizer with high market value. The system uses half the energy and requires half the capital costs of traditional methods of potassium chloride production. ENOWA says it is developing other selective membranes to process other minerals, such as lithium and rubidium salts, from waste brine. The Brine Miner project in Oregon has created an experimental system to desalinate saltwater and extract lithium, rare earth, and other metals. The whole process will be powered by green hydrogen, which researchers will create by splitting apart water’s hydrogen and oxygen molecules using renewable energy. “We are trying for a circular process,” said Zhenxing Feng, who leads the project at OSU. “We are not wasting any parts.” The Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant in El Paso, Texas produces waste brine containing gypsum and hydrochloric acid.Jeffrey Phillips/Flickr The concept of mining desalination brine and other wastewater is being explored and implemented all over the world. At Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, researchers have extracted a bio-based material they call Kaumera from sludge granules formed during the treatment of municipal wastewater. Combined with other raw materials, Kaumera—which is both a binder and an adhesive, and both repels and retains water—can be used in agriculture and the textile and construction industries. “Companies that produce wastewater are going to be required to do more and more to ensure the wastewater they dispose of is clean of pollutants.” Another large-scale European project called Sea4Value, which has partners in eight countries, will use a combination of technologies to concentrate, extract, purify, and crystallize 10 target elements from brines. Publicly funded labs in the US, including the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, at Iowa State University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, are also researching new methods for extracting lithium and other materials important for the energy transition from natural and industrial brines. At the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant in El Paso, Texas, which provides more than 27 million gallons of fresh water a day from brackish aquifers, waste brine is trucked to and pumped into an injection well 22 miles away. But first, a company called Upwell Water, which has a facility near the desalination plant, wrings more potable water from the brine and uses the remaining waste to produce gypsum and hydrochloric acid for industrial customers. There are hurdles to successful brine mining projects. Christos Charisiadis, the brine innovation manager for the NEOM portfolio, identified several potential bottlenecks: high initial investment for processing facilities; a lack of transparency in innovation by the water industry, which might obscure problems with their technologies; poor understanding of possible environmental problems due to a lack of comprehensive lifecycle assessments; complex and inconsistent regulatory frameworks; and fluctuations in commodity prices. Still, Nathanial Cooper, an assistant professor at Cambridge University who has studied metal recovery from a variety of industrial and natural brines, considers its prospects promising as environmental regulations for a wide range of industries become ever more stringent. “Companies that produce wastewater are going to be required to do more and more to ensure the wastewater they dispose of is clean of pollutants and hazardous material,” he said. “Many companies will be forced to find ways to recover these materials. There is strong potential to recover many valuable materials from wastewater and contribute to a circular economy.”

Environmentalists urge California wildlife officials to investigate bottled water operation

Activists urge California wildlife officials to crack down on Arrowhead bottled water operations in the San Bernardino Mountains, citing harm to wildlife.

Environmental activists have opened a new front in their long-running fight against a company that pipes water from the San Bernardino Mountains and bottles it for sale as Arrowhead brand bottled water.In a petition to the state, several environmental groups and local activists called for an investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, arguing that the company BlueTriton Brands is harming wildlife habitat and species by extracting water that would otherwise flow in Strawberry Creek.Those who oppose the taking of water from San Bernardino National Forest want the state agency to assess the environmental effects and uphold protections under state law, said Rachel Doughty, a lawyer for the environmental nonprofit Story of Stuff Project.“They’ve dewatered the creek,” Doughty said.If the company weren’t siphoning water in its network of pipes, she said, Strawberry Creek “would be habitat for endangered species, it would be providing a downstream water supply, it would support fish, and it can’t do any of those things without water.”The coalition of environmental groups and activists said in their May 13 petition that the state agency should demand the company apply for an authorization — called a streambed alteration agreement — for its pipes and other infrastructure, and should examine whether the ongoing diversion of water violates state environmental laws.The groups said the company’s taking of water has “caused the extirpation of native species and the destruction of riparian habitat — clearcut harm to the public trust.” They urged the state to “take all appropriate enforcement action.” Aggressive and impactful reporting on climate change, the environment, health and science. Activists who have been trying to shut down the company’s bottled water pipeline made their appeal to the wildlife agency eight months after the State Water Resources Control Board voted to order the company to halt its “unauthorized diversions” of water from springs in the San Bernardino Mountains.State officials determined the company has been unlawfully diverting water without valid water rights. But BlueTriton Brands sued to challenge that decision in Fresno County Superior Court, arguing the process was rife with problems and that the company is entitled to the water.A spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said the agency has received the petition and is evaluating it.BlueTriton Brands responded to the petition in an email.“Responsible and proactive water stewardship is central to everything we do. We’re proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do in Strawberry Canyon, studying, reporting, and managing our operations to help protect the land and natural resources,” the company said. “We will continue to operate in compliance with all state and federal laws.”The company also said it will “partner with people in our communities, governments, policy makers, businesses, and consumers to sustainably protect and shape our shared future.”But Steve Loe, a retired biologist who previously worked for the San Bernardino National Forest, said the state should require the company to stop taking water from the creek and the ecosystem.“The stream has been completely dried up by BlueTriton, and BlueTriton needs to put some water back in the stream to meet state and federal requirements,” Loe said. “Restoring water back to Strawberry Creek will make a huge difference in the watershed for all of the plant and animal species.”Restoring water to the habitat would help endangered bird species such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and least Bell’s vireo, he said, as well as other species including the mountain yellow-legged frog and southern rubber boa.He said a flowing creek could also support the return of native fish species, such as Santa Ana speckled dace.In the petition, Loe and others cited historical records describing the springs and the creek nearly a century ago, including field notes and reports from W.P. Rowe, an engineer who surveyed the watershed starting in 1929.Rowe wrote that Strawberry Creek flowed on the south slope of the San Bernardino Mountains from a “source at a group of springs” and flowed in a canyon filled with “alder, sycamore, dogwood and cedar trees together with ferns and thimble berry bushes.”Loe said the records show that before the water was tapped for bottling, the stream was flowing and supported a thriving riparian habitat, which is now largely dry.“It’s public water,” Loe said. “And the public has a right to push for its protection.”“I want water back in the creek this summer,” he said.In the decision that is being argued in court, the state water board ordered the company to stop taking water for bottling from most of its water-collection tunnels and boreholes in the mountains north of San Bernardino.Records show about 158 acre-feet, or 51 million gallons, flowed through the company’s network of pipes in 2022.The system of 4-inch steel pipes collects water that flows from various sites on the steep mountainside above the creek. The pipeline runs to a roadside tank, and some of the water is hauled away on trucks to be bottled and sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water.Local activists have campaigned for years calling for state and federal authorities to shut down the bottled water pipeline. Controversy over the use of water from the national forest erupted after a 2015 investigation by the Desert Sun revealed that the U.S. Forest Service was allowing Nestlé to continue siphoning water using a permit that listed 1988 as the expiration date.The Forest Service subsequently began a review of Nestlé’s permit, and in 2018 granted a new permit for up to five years. The revelations about Nestlé piping water out of the national forest sparked an outpouring of opposition and prompted several complaints to California regulators questioning the company’s water rights claims, which led to the state’s investigation.BlueTriton Brands took over the bottled water business in 2021 when Nestlé’s North American bottled water division was purchased by private-equity firm One Rock Capital Partners and investment firm Metropoulos & Co.BlueTriton and prior owners of the business have for years had a federal “special-use” permit allowing them to use the pipeline and other water infrastructure in the San Bernardino National Forest.The Forest Service has been charging an annual permit fee, currently $2,500 per year. There has been no fee for using the water.BlueTriton’s 2018 permit expired in August, and the company has submitted an application to renew the permit, which Forest Service officials are reviewing, said Gustavo Bahena, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino National Forest.“Because Blue Triton had a timely request for renewal of the permit, the current permit remains in effect… until the Forest renders a decision on their new request,” Bahena said in an email.Other groups that are petitioning the state include Save Our Forest Assn., Center for Biological Diversity, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, Southern California Native Freshwater Fauna Working Group and the Tri-County Conservation League.Amanda Frye, an activist who has taken a leading role in the campaign, said she thinks the Forest Service is failing to uphold its responsibility to manage public land and resources.“We still have a dry creek,” Frye said.“Something’s got to change,” she said. “We have the right to have these resources protected.” Newsletter Toward a more sustainable California Get Boiling Point, our newsletter exploring climate change, energy and the environment, and become part of the conversation — and the solution. 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