Alternet water story is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Hate to pick on Alternet, which I think is generally great, great, great, but I’m not sure why they chose to publish Yasha Levine’s article titled “Why Just About Everything You Hear About California’s Water Crisis Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong“. (Whoaa, that title is long, long, long!)

I don’t think the article is necessarily wrong X 3, but it’s misleading at best, irresponsible at worst. Levine’s central claim is that, essentially, California is not experiencing a drought. This amazing assertion seems to be based on Levine’s “fact-checking” at the Bureau of Reclamation’s site, which notes in a report about its Central Valley Project (CVP), that Northern California’s 2009 precipitation was 94 percent of the average. While Levine lauds the “power of simple fact-checking,” he (or she) neglects to point out that the report is careful to state that:

. . .runoff remained low at about 70 percent of normal due to the 3 years of dry conditions (based on the Sacramento River Index). In the CVP, runoff is a better indicator for water supply availability than precipitation.

Also, as the table below shows, the end-of-year storage stats for 2007–2009 are substantially (like 40- to 50-percent) lower than the previous two years.

There is a drought in California. Why do I think that? Well, I could just say that it’s because Dr. Peter Gleick, who unlike Levine is an actual expert on California water, says there’s a drought, that’s why. However, read Levine’s own article to see that this is not even a controversial issue. Everybody looking at the situation– except Levine–agrees that there is a drought, as even Levine points out in this article.

I don’t disagree with a lot of Levine’s conclusions. I think the drought is being used to create panic and convince people to support building dams and whatever the flavor-of-the-day name is for a peripheral canal. I believe that there are entrenched water interests working every angle to their advantage, particularly Central Valley corporate farmers. And yes, there’s a whole bunch of lying going on. What I object to is making an absurd claim and cherry-picking facts that support it, and–as characterizes the article in general–failing to link to sources for details and assertions, both to give real reporters credit and lend credence to your piece. And I think that if Alternet wants to be taken seriously as a news source, they won’t publish what is essentially a fact-challenged opinion piece as journalism.


A crock of Vitaminwater

Coca-Cola wants you to take your medicine and ophers phourteen phreindly, phake phlavors in pharmaceutically phormed bottles.

Coca-Cola wants you to take your medicine and ophers phourteen phreindly, phake phlavors in pharmaceutically phormed bottles.

Without even bothering to look at the ingredients, the brains behind have always scornfully dismissed Vitaminwater as a crock of corporate hype. One day, Alternet writer Andrea Whitfill did vet the label’s fine print, an experience she called “eye-opening.” As our annoying little hairsplitting copy editor triumphantly pointed out,Whitfill’s  eyes must have already been open, because–as he stammered–“She was all, like, you know, reading.”

OK, let’s suppose that Whitfill’s eyes were already opened, but then widened with dismay when she read that:

. . .Vitaminwater had “natural” ingredients like “processed crystalline fructose,” “natural” caffeine and a lot of other things I didn’t understand like deionized and/or reverse-osmosis water.

And as I did the math, I realized there were 125 calories in one of those sexy* bottles, along with 32.5 grams of sugar …”natural” of course. Hmm … that’s almost what a can of Coca-Cola has.

These revelations led Whitfill to do further research and write the Alternet article “Vitaminwater’s Empty Calories Are at the Heart of What’s Wrong with the Beverage Industry,” an excellent think piece on the relationship between misleading advertising and the obesity epidemic. Whitfill scrupulously points out that she’s not the first to address the fact that Vitaminwater is basically BS in a bottle, and possibly a public-health menace. She notes:

In January 2009 the Coca-Cola Co. was served notice of a class-action lawsuit filed over what the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) says are deceptive and unsubstantiated claims on its Vitaminwater line of beverages.

“Vitaminwater is more likely to increase a regular consumer’s chances of being obese or developing diabetes,” says the CSPI.

*Sexy isn’t the first word that jumps to the collective mind of the editorial staff when we consider the deceptively designed label. But Whitfill is spot on when she alludes to the phony pharmaceutical look. It’s a phriendly, phun, and phully phake message that Vitaminwater is just what the doctor ordered for health and vitality.

California is No. 1!!

Taken at's short-lived celebration

Taken at's short-lived celebration

On American Rivers’ annual list of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers, that is. Dang! The editorial staffers here at–headquartered in Northern California–were all momentarily florid in the face from that ferocious rush of adrenaline-laden pride that engorges all Americans who learn that their country, state, municipality, area code, school, team, car, child, patchwork quilt, or pet rabbit has been ranked No. 1. Then we read the fine print.  From AlterNet’s coverage of the announcement:

The nation’s most endangered river is actually an entire river system threatened by outdated water and flood management policies. California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, the largest watershed in the state is on the verge of collapse, American Rivers warns. The risks are numerous – climate change, population growth, water supply demands, and endangered species listings.

OK, we get it. California got owned by American Rivers, and this No. 1 business is an ironic tribute to the Big Bad-assed Bear’s relentless race to the bottom ranking in every category. (We were recently named No. 1 on the list of the least amount of money spent per student in our K-12 system! Below Mississippi. Really.)

But yo, other states! You runner-ups, no-shows, and wanabees have to admit that we do everything big in the Golden State, including fail! This isn’t that little trickle you call Flint River, second-place Georgia! This is an entire friggin’ system that we’re neglecting at our own peril! We’re talking major watershed, suckahs! Deal with it!

Water video madness

As Not Seen on TV: The Water Channel

As Not Seen on TV: The Water Channel

From Abigail Brown’s blog via Alternet, we give you The Water Channel, which boasts 200+ and counting films about water from around the globe. Says Abby:

Already today, I have been able to visit people and places in Yemen, India, Mexico, Niger, and Kenya to learn more about local and global water issues. How, you may ask? Easy, I reply — The Water Channel.

Easy, and fun! Well, as much fun as learning about global water problems and local solutions can be. We’ll let Abby bore you with the details about the Water Channel’s founders and mission. Do visit Abigail’s essential blog, Water for the Ages. And it’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of Alternet’s water coverage. So, because I’m late for work, I won’t try to exaggerate, I’ll just urge you to check it out for yourself.

Waterblogging made easy!

Step 1: Subscribe to Alternet’s weekly water newsletter.

Step 2: Receive an email from Alternet editor Tara Lohan pointing out two interesting articles that you may have missed, with links.

Step 3: Post Tara’s email message and the links!

Step 4: Congratulate yourself for completing a blog entry in five minutes, you web-savvy power blogger, you!

Step 5: Show appreciation by sending a donation to Alternet!

Two current water stories from Alternet

Alternet logoJeff Conant of Food and Water Watch has a terrific inside look at what’s happened in Bolivia since the 2000 “water war” in Cochabamba that ousted Bechtel. Conant’s piece is an important look at the problems that communities face, especially in countries lacking in both financial and water resources, to create truly equitable systems of public control of water. The insights in the piece about the problems Bolivians have faced since taking back control of their water and the lessons they’ve learned are  important to share with other water justice advocates.

And we’ve got a piece by AlterNet regular Stan Cox about how development is pushing Florida over the brink when it comes to resources like water. This is not only a problem threatening the future of Florida, Stan writes, but also applies to many other states in the U.S.

Be sue to check these out if they catch your interest and sign up for our weekly water newsletter if you’re not already on the list.

Water Consciousness!

In previous posts,’s summer reading list! Part 1, and’s summer reading list! Part 2, we recommended what we believe to be 10 important books about the global water crisis. All great books, but if you want the essential primer about the problems and how you can contribute to solutions*, snag a copy of Alternet’s Water Consciousness. Timely and informative, but also beautiful and accessible, it’s truly a good choice for agenda-driven holiday gift giving. Go here and press that green button that says Buy Now and follow the instructions to the letter.

*For example, a list of 14 Actions You Can Take to Protect Our Water. Don’t search–it’s not there.’s first coloring contest (with prizes)! thinks outside the lines thinks outside the lines

A second-childhood vibe prevails at as we kick off our second century of posts. We’re once again all tingly with a childlike sense of awe about water and its wonders and–like the good kids we are–we want to share.

So, break out your crayolas, pastels, color pencils, oil paints, watercolors, gouache, egg tempera ( duh, not tempura, but food coloring of any ethnic variety is encouraged!) paintbrushes, q-tips, eyeliner pencils, airbrushes, paintball guns, or painting/drawing software and enter’s first coloring contest! You may even win a prize*!

The good people at the Groundwater Foundation (we’ll let them explain themselves) have created a Kids Corner chockablock with resources to bait-and-switch blissfully innocent children into learning about groundwater, water science, and conservation.

We downloaded their PDF of the water cycle coloring sheet, converted it to a jpeg, and uploaded it to the Coloring Contest Gallery!

How to Enter:

  1. Click on the coloring-sheet image or here to get there,
  2. Download the image,
  3. get all creative on it, (Analog methods like coloring with real crayons or paints obviously requires scanning. You could use an online image editor like, which looks like fun!)
  4. sign it, and
  5. finally, upload your masterpiece to the gallery by attaching it to an email message addressed to . (Sorry, encoded to avoid spambots. Replace “at” with @ and “dot” with “.”)
  6. Let us know you entered by leaving a comment on this post.

The first ten entrants will win a Water Cycle in a Bag that will somehow bear the logo! Our panel of water experts and art aficionados will pick a grand prize winner, upon whom we will bestow either a copy of the Groundwater Foundation’s Rainmakers: A Photographic Story of Center Pivots or editor Tara Lohan‘s recently published Water Conciousness.

We can imagine some stick-in-the-mud out there thinking, “Hey,, this all strikes me as kind of childish.” Hey, dude, it’s childlike, not childish, OK? So, nyaa-nyaa-nyaa-nyaa-nyaaaaaaa!

But if your inner child has run away from home and you insist on being all grown-up and uptight about the water cycle (and maybe want to impress your date by casually dropping hip hydrological terms like sublimation and streamflow), click on the image at left to go to the U.S. Geological Survey’s information-drenched Water Cycle page. You’ll be glad you did, and we’ll be glad that you’re not here spoiling our fun.

*Void where prohibited.

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