Iowa Rep. Steve King’s claims on water quality get SciChecked – @factcheckdotorg

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SciCheck spills the scientific T on water quality data – and schools Rep. Steve King on his recent claims (including the snarky, but hilarious point that ‘bison’ is more scientifically accurate than ‘buffalo’).

During a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Steve King of Iowa underestimated what scientists know about the relationship between farming practices and water quality.

  • King said scientists don’t know about the quality of water in the U.S. “when the buffalo roamed” because there were “no water quality tests then.” Pre-1900 water quality data is relatively scarce, but experts can use techniques from paleolimnology to evaluate past water quality.
  • He implied that this lack of “baseline” data prevents scientists from knowing whether applications of crop fertilizer are “too much.” But experts say they don’t need 19th century data to know fertilizers have negatively impacted water quality. The 20th century provides plenty of evidence.

To start, the term “bison” is scientifically more accurate than “buffalo” when referring to North American populations.

What’s going on with the water in Flint, MI?

If you haven’t been keeping up, Flint, Michigan has been in the news lately due to its toxic tap water. Two years ago, to cut costs, the state decided to switch Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron (which they were paying the city of Detroit for), to the Flint River, a notorious tributary that runs through town known to locals for its filth. The results are not surprising.

Turns out the water is highly toxic, and highly corrosive. Researchers discovered more than double the normal levels of lead in children’s blood samples. From the Washington Post:

The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”

Importantly, the lead contamination in the water can have adverse health effects. Just this week, Flint has also reported a spike in reported cases of Legionnaires disease in the area. While there isn’t enough evidence to directly link this to the contaminated water, it could be a potential reason for the spike.

All of this has resulted in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) asking Obama to declare a state of federal emergency in Flint.

My $0.02… when it comes to health and safety, it is wise to NOT cut costs.  As a result of trying to save some money, now Flint is dealing with far greater issues including irreversible damage to the health of its residents and water supply infrastructure. Fixing these problems will be far more costly…

#Science Quotable: Rachel Maddow – Be a Scientist!! #BeAScientist #scienceissocool

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Turns out if you want to find out where the water is on Earth, gravity can help. Specifically, if you want to find out where water is below the Earth’s surface, satellites can use the force of gravity to figure that out… from space. Which is SO COOL.

If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, be a scientist. this stuff is so cool.

-Rachel Maddow introducing new studies about NASA research about water aquifers.

Check out the whole segment from the Rachel Maddow Show – New research sounds alarm on global water supply. It contains tons of other awesome science!

Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks with Rachel Maddow about new research using satellites to detect underground water around the world and finding startling deficiencies in the global water supply.

ScienceAtNASA video about SMAP launch and mission – Mud Matters!!

ScienceAtNASA – ScienceCasts: Mud Matters

Visit http://science.nasa.gov/ for more.

NASA has launched SMAP, a new satellite to study water, not in oceans or lakes but in the soil beneath our feet. This often overlooked repository of water can have big effects on weather, climate, drought and agriculture.

http://smap.jpl.nasa.gov/