Climate change may dramatically reduce wheat production, study shows

Vara Prasad, professor of crop ecophysiology and director of the USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab at Kansas State University, is part of a collaborative team that found wheat yields are projected to decrease by 6 percent for each degree Celsius the temperature rises if no measures to adapt to extreme weather fluctuations are taken.

Based on the 2012-2013 wheat harvest of 701 million tons worldwide, the resulting temperature increase would result in 42 million tons less produced wheat — or a loss of nearly one-quarter of the current wheat production.

“It’s pretty severe,” Prasad said. “The projected effect of climate change on wheat is more than what has been forecast. That’s challenging because the world will have to at least double our food supply in the next 30 years if we’re going to feed 9.6 billion people.”

Prasad and colleagues published their study, “Rising temperatures reduce global wheat production,” in a recent issue of the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. The study was supported through the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Wheat Alliance, two organizations seeking ways to increase wheat yield.

For the study, researchers systematically tested 30 wheat crop models against field experiments from around the world that were conducted in areas where the average temperature of the growing season ranged from 15 to 32 degrees Celsius. The models accounted for planting dates, planting rates, temperatures and other crop management factors.

With the models, researchers were able to look at the effects of temperature stresses on wheat and predict future changes based on temperature changes.

Researchers found that the effects from climate change and its increasing temperatures on wheat will be more severe than once projected and are happening sooner than expected. While Prasad said increases in the average temperature are problematic, a bigger challenge is the extreme temperatures that are resulting from climate change.

“Extreme temperature doesn’t only mean heat; it also means cold,” Prasad said. “Simply looking at the average temperature doesn’t really show us anything because it’s the extremities that are more detrimental to crops. Plants can handle gradual changes because they have time to adapt, but an extreme heat wave or cold snap can kill a plant because that adjustment period is often nonexistent.”

Researchers also found that increasing temperatures are shortening the time frame that wheat plants have to mature and produce full heads for harvest, resulting in less grain produced from each plant.

“It’s like having one minute to fill a tall glass with water. Under optimal conditions, we can fill that glass pretty well,” Prasad said. “But now we’re factoring in extreme temperatures that are affecting the growing window and the grain size. So it becomes like trying to fill that same glass, but now we only have 40 seconds to do it and the faucet is running slower.”

Currently, Prasad and colleagues at Kansas State University, in collaboration with the university’s Wheat Genetics Resource Center, are using growth chambers and heats tents to quantify the effects of temperature. The data will help in refining the crop models so that they can be more accurate in predicting wheat responses.

Their work will help scientists develop more robust models that can help farmers globally select more weather-tolerant and resilient wheat varieties based on their location. Additionally, farmers can determine the optimal planting date to avoid stress and minimize possible exposure to extreme weather events, such as heat and cold snaps, during the growing season. More

 

CARICOM Special Meetings Focus on CCREEE, Sustainable Energy

5 February 2015: The Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) and the Caribbean region's sustainable energy strategies were at the center stage at two Special Meetings of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The ministerial meetings on energy and the environment focused on the establishment of the CCREEE, regional energy coordination and sustainable energy strategies, and the post-2015 development agenda, among other themes.

The establishment of the CCREEE, which was endorsed by COTED in November 2014, was on the agenda of the Special Meetings on Energy, and Energy and the Environment, held in Georgetown, Guyana, from 4-5 February. The meetings, among other things, explored “the full ramifications and optimum exploitations of CCREEE.” CCREEE is currently in the process of being established with the assistance of the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Austrian Government and SIDS DOCK initiative of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The Centre's mandate will be technical, namely to support and coordinate the execution of CARICOM's sub-regional and regional renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes, projects and activities.

Calling for a “cohesive regional effort” to achieve sustainable energy security, Chair of the Special Meeting on Energy, and Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining of Jamaica Phillip Paulwell said that “although sustainable energy solutions have made great strides” in the CARICOM region, significant gaps and barriers remained in the areas of renewable energy access, energy efficiency and reliable grid development and deployment.

CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Manorma Soeknandan similarly noted that, despite progress made, “significant additional changes” would need to be made to meet the demands for reliable, secure, efficient and cost-effective energy services, suggesting that “energy is about sustainable livelihoods and job creation alike.”

The 54th and 55th Special Meetings of COTED, held at the CARICOM Secretariat, were preceded by preparatory sessions among regional officials from the fields of energy and the environment. [CARICOM Today Press Release on CCREEE] [CARICOM Today Press Release on Paulwell's Speech] [CARICOM Today Press Release on Soeknandan's Speech]

 

Branson urges students to lobby leaders for clean energy

Cayman could be ‘carbon neutral’ in six years, says entrepreneur

Sir Richard Branson told Cayman Islands students they need to lobby their government to go green. He said the island could save money and be “carbon neutral” within six years if leaders committed to clean energy.

Sir Richard Branson

Speaking at a forum for students at Camana Bay on Friday, Sir Richard sounded a dire warning for the world’s coral reefs, saying it may already be too late to save marine ecosystems from the impact of global warming.

But he said more could be done to move toward clean energy and lessen the impact of carbon emissions on the environment.

And he said young people would need to lead the campaign for more environmentally friendly policies from their governments.

“If a group of you, just the people here, put placards above your head and went to the government, you’ve got a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

“The Cayman Islands could be carbon neutral in five or six years and save themselves a lot of money, but it needs absolute determination from the government to get you there.”

Sir Richard acknowledged it is difficult to get governments to think beyond the short term. But he said he is optimistic that international leaders would put the necessary policies in place to achieve total clean energy across the globe within the next 50 years.

The billionaire businessman, who owns his own Caribbean island powered completely from renewable sources, believes the energy revolution can start in the region.

He has launched a “10-island challenge,” starting in Aruba, to assist small islands in moving toward 100 percent renewable energy.

“It would be great if we could get the Cayman Islands to join and make it the 11-island challenge,” he said.

“I’ll be bending the arm of your prime minister [sic] later today to see if we can get him on board.”

Sir Richard believes the Caribbean can be a hot house of innovation in the clean energy sector, and he told the students there would be many opportunities for scientists and entrepreneurs to tackle the world’s problems.

“If we move forward to when you are 50 or 60, I hope the world will be powered completely by clean energy. It is definitely doable,” he added. More

 

The US is heading for a ‘megadrought’ if climate change continues at this pace

The long and severe drought in the US southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says.

Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday.

Researchers from Nasa and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California.

“We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it,” said Toby R Ault, an assistant professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, one of the co-authors. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”

Megadroughts are sustained periods of sparse precipitation and significant loss of soil moisture that span generations, about 10 times as long as a normal three-year drought.

Tucson had less than 80 percent of its normal rainfall for long stretches in the 1990s. If that were to last for two decades, “that’s a megadrought,” Ault said.

Based on climate models the researchers used for the study, there is an 80 percent chance that such an extended drought will strike between 2050 and 2099, unless world governments act aggressively to mitigate impacts from climate change, the researchers said.

North America’s last megadroughts happened in medieval times, during the 12th and 13th centuries. They were caused by natural changes in weather that give megadroughts a 10 percent chance of forming at any time.

But climate change driven by human activity dramatically increases those chances. “With climate change, the likelihood of a megadrought goes up considerably,” Ault said.

The other writers for the study were its lead author, Benjamin I Cook, a research scientist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and co-author Jason E Smerdon, a research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was published Thursday in the journal Science Advances.

“We got some exciting, thrilling and important research,” said Marcia Kemper McNutt, a geophysicist and editor in chief of the journal Science. “We are facing a water situation that hasn’t been seen in California for 1,200 years.”

At the study’s presentation, Ault had a word of caution. Weather conditions can vary, climate impacts can be mitigated, and the warnings of the study might not come to pass. A single El Niño weather pattern in the West could interrupt periods of prolonged drought.

Smerdon said the researchers went back over a thousand years’ worth of data to look at conditions that caused drought in North America and observing patterns in tree rings to determine wet and dry periods.

After 2050, there is “overwhelming evidence of a dry shift,” he said, “way drier than the megadroughts of the 1100s and 1200s.” The cause, Smerdon continued, “is twofold, reductions in rainfall and snowfall. Not just rainfall but soil moisture and changes in evaporation that dry out the soil much more than normal.”

The research is newly published, but its findings are not dramatically different from similar studies in the past. Beverly Law, a specialist in global change biology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, co-authored a study of megadroughts three years ago.

It showed that a drought that affected the American West from 2000 to 2004 compared to conditions seen during the medieval megadroughts. But the predicted megadrought this century would be far worse. Law said Thursday’s study confirmed her previous findings.

“We took the climate model and compared” two periods, 2050 to 2099 and 1950 to 1999, she said. “What it showed is this big, red blotch over Southern California. It will really impact megacities, populations and water availability.”

Law is also co-author of an upcoming study commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey about forest mortality later this century, and the preliminary findings are disturbing, she said.

According to predictions, the amount of precipitation in Arizona will be half of what it was between 1950 and 1999.

“We have drinking water to be concerned about,” she said. “That area’s really vulnerable.” More

 

Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.

A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

“Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” Mr. Asif said in an interview, echoing a warning that he first issued at a news conference in Lahore this week.

The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.

In Pakistan, it poses a further challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government has come under sharp criticism for failing to end the country’s electricity crisis. In some rural areas, heavy rationing has meant that as little as four hours of electricity a day is available.

In the interview, Mr. Asif said the government had started to bring the electricity crisis under control, and predicted a return to a normal supply by 2017. But energy experts are less confident that such a turnaround is possible, given how long and complex the problem has proved to be.

Now the country’s water supply looms as a resource challenge, intensified by Pakistan’s enduring infrastructure and management problems.

Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Pakistani economy. The 2,000-mile-long Indus River, which rises in the Himalayas and spans the country, feeds a vast network of irrigation canals that line fields producing wheat, vegetables and cotton, all major sources of foreign currency. In the north, hydroelectric power stations are a cornerstone of the creaking power system.

A combination of melting glaciers, decreasing rainfall and chronic mismanagement by successive governments has put that water supply in danger, experts say.

In a report published in 2013, the Asian Development Bank described Pakistan as one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world, with a water availability of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year — a fivefold drop since independence in 1947, and about the same level as drought-stricken Ethiopia.

“It is a very serious situation,” said Pervaiz Amir, country director for the Pakistan Water Partnership. “I feel it is going to be more serious than the recent oil shortages.”

Shortages of resources have climbed to the top of the political agenda in recent years. Fuel shortages last month, for which government officials blamed mismanagement by the national oil company, caused lengthy lines outside fuel stations that embarrassed the government at a time of low global oil prices.

Mr. Sharif’s government was already grappling with the seemingly intractable electricity crisis, which regularly causes blackouts of 10 hours a day even in major cities. And Mr. Sharif has been visibly distracted by grueling political duels, with the opposition politician Imran Khan, who accuses him of stealing the 2013 election, and with powerful military leaders who have undermined his authority in key areas.

Mr. Asif, the water and energy minister, said the government had started to turn the corner. But he acknowledged that the country’s resource problems were, to a large degree, endemic. “There is a national habit of extravagance,” he said, noting that it extended across resource areas, whether gas, electricity or water.

“I will be very careful not to use the word ‘drought,’ but we are water stressed right now, and slowly, we are moving to be a water-starved country,” he said.

Evidence of chronic water shortages have been painfully evident in some parts of Pakistan in recent years. A drought caused by erratic rainfall in Tharparkar, a desert area in southern Sindh Province, caused a humanitarian emergency in the region last year.

“The frequency of monsoon rains has decreased but their intensity has increased,” said Mr. Amir of the Pakistan Water Partnership. “That means more water stress, particularly in winters.”

Water is also tied to nationalist, even jihadist, politics in Pakistan. For years, religious conservatives and Islamist militants have accused rival India, where the Indus River system rises, of constricting Pakistan’s water supply.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, regularly rails against Indian “water terrorism” during public rallies.

Mr. Asif said that contrary to such claims, India was not building reservoirs on rivers that flow into Pakistan. “We will never let it happen,” he said, citing the Indus Water Treaty, an agreement between the two countries that was brokered by the World Bank and signed in the 1960s.

One major culprit in Pakistan’s looming water crisis, experts say, is the country’s inadequate water storage facilities. In India, about one-third of the water supply is stored in reservoirs, compared with just 9 percent in Pakistan, Mr. Amir said.

“We built our last dam 46 years ago,” he said. “India has built 4,000 dams, with another 150 in the pipeline.”

Experts say the country’s chaotic policies are hurting its image in the eyes of Western donors who could help alleviate the mounting resource crises.

“The biggest looming crisis is of governance, not water — which could make this country unlivable in the next few years,” said Arshad H. Abbasi, a water and energy expert with the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute, a research group based in Islamabad. More

 

“If we win, then every coastal city in the world wins, every fishing village in the world wins.” Seychelles Ambassador to the UN Ronny Jumeau

2015 is big year for the world. A final draft of the Sustainable Development Goals are due by the time heads of state gather in New York for the UN Summit in September.

Ambassador Ronny Jumeau

Then, six weeks later diplomats gather in Paris for the last best chance at striking a global agreement on climate change. Today we are kicking off a regular series we are calling “Meet a 2015er” that will offer glimpses into the life of the UN officials, NGO people, diplomats and advocates as they help shape the international development and climate change agenda this year.

We kick off this series in with Ronny Jumeau, the Seychelles Ambassador to the United Nations. Jumeau often represents the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) in climate change negotiations, but wants to emphasize that these are his own views.

So, we’re sitting here in a snow storm in New York and you are headed to equally cold Geneva for the adaptation meeting of the UNFCC. Let’s talk about the climate change SDG. What is your role in all these negotiations?

My job is to explain things in a way that people understand, without the jargon. We need to move past that and look at the people involved in climate change. We can’t just focus on the science or graphs and figures.

How are the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) feeling about the pace and status of the climate SDG and the climate talks leading up to Paris?

There are so many issues [left] unresolved [by the Lima round of talks in December]. Everybody’s frustrated. Well, maybe not everybody but if you want a strong, ambitious agreement in Paris of course you’re frustrated!

It’s unfortunate that the climate change process has reached a stage where we always say…at least it’s better than nothing. That’s a poor judgement. We say, ‘it could have been worse.’ Everything could have been worse! As long as you’re not dead, it could have been worse.

Sounds quite depressing for the fate of the climate SDG and Paris agreement.

[Laughing] Most resilient of us all are the islands. We are certainly the ones who smile the most, it’s our way of coping. Once you know the worst that can happen [it’s not so bad] — it’s when you don’t know that is the worst. We already know the bottom line…our countries will disappear. We just don’t want that narrative to take over.

There are countries that have approached us who say, you do know if the science is right, that even if we cut all emissions tomorrow, sea level will continue rising. That’s one of the problems AOSIS faces, but the moment you start that conversation, then no one has to listen to you anymore.

What does that mean for how you look at parallel SDG negotiations and Paris climate talks?

The more we make climate change a development narrative, the more attention we get. Tackling climate change cannot be seen as a barrier to pulling people out of poverty. I think we’ve kept that divorced too much. Between pulling out of poverty and climate change, I know which ones will ‘win votes’ as a politician: it’s the poverty reduction.

Our first priority is to make sure that we are still around! So for us, the SDGs and climate change action are one in the same.

Every year AOSIS has a luncheon with the Secretary General. The last time we had lunch and the Ambassadors were speaking, I told them a weak climate agreement will ensure that the SDGs will not succeed. For the SIDS, there can be no sustainable development if the SIDS are not around [due to the affects of climate change.] They go hand in hand.

Can you explain that a bit further?

Most SIDS are heavily dependent on tourism and fisheries. How can we in the SIDS plan the sustainable development of our fisheries, if we don’t know what ocean acidification is going to do? And that’s a climate issue. So until we know how the climate is going to affect the oceans, we can’t plan our biggest industry. Same with agriculture.

Another example is the airport in Seychelles which [ according to the data] will need a new runway to be built at a level that is higher than the whole airport is currently. We need the additional runway to increase tourism, but how do you build it without knowing how high the ocean level will rise and when?

The Secretary General gets it. His Cabinet gets it. But politics comes into play.

We’ll continue the SDGs, of course, but…everyone is saying: whatever you say in the SDG on climate must not pre-judge the Paris agreement [without understanding] that the two cannot be divorced.

Is there hope for a more effective climate SDG

I think we’re going to have SDGs that sound strong, but as long as it’s not strong on the financing! They look good, until someone will say ‘by the way, how are we going to pay for all this?’

Is it really about finance?

It’s all about finance. I think the development narrative has more staying power than the climate narrative because development is about the politics of the developing world. It’s more tangible. That’s what people are elected to do; pull people out of poverty, create jobs. The climate part of that is creating ‘green’ jobs.

One of the ways of getting traction for climate is to say you cannot develop without climate action.

It looks like the meeting in Ethiopia [The Conference on Financing For Development to be held in Addis Ababa this July] is everything. I think that meeting is becoming the whole thing, incredibly important. But, I think people will be saying [once they get to Addis], ‘we’re talking about financing for what now?’

If you take development as something separately from climate change, what are we discussing financing exactly – development projects or climate projects? For the SIDS and [Least Developed Countries] they still go hand in hand, especially in financing context.

Is it necessarily a bad thing to be so focused on finance?

When countries like China and U.S. are interested in solar power, its not because of climate change – it’s business and economic development. I’m not going to argue with that though – whatever it takes to get you to the table!

Will the climate SDG and any agreement that comes out of Paris be completely, separately formulated then?

They [SDGs and UNFCCC] will come together but unfortunately after 2015. We’re so focused now on delivering separately the SDGs, post-2015 development agenda, Paris agreement – but they’re all inter-related. I can understand if someone says, ‘look when it comes to climate change, let’s just develop Paris and not complicate it further.

The trouble is on the one hand: delivering it, on the other hand: are we going to deliver something weak and then start talking?

What happens if there is a weak climate SDG and subsequently, a weak deal in Paris? Why should other countries care what happens to the SIDS as a result?

At first we said ‘you can’t wipe out whole countries, ancient cultures, and so on.’ Then we realized, it’s not us vs. them.

If we win, then every coastal city in the world wins, every fishing village in the world wins.

You cannot take a globe and with blue paint, paint out all those little dots because every continental coastline will change too. We would have to redraw every single continent in the entire world. We’re trying now to say: you save us, you’re saving everybody. As long as we stay above water, everybody else does. If you sacrifice us, who’s next? If we go, we won’t go alone. Just because we disappear, at that point we’ll have runaway climate change, it won’t stop with us. More

 

Naomi Wolf making a crucial point about the news agenda

Via Jonathan Cook, journalist – I am happy to see in this short video clip Naomi Wolf eloquently making a crucial point about the news agenda. Her argument is that we no longer have journalists critically reporting events, so if we are not to be constantly manipulated and misled by our governments we must stop simply consuming news. We have to develop our skills as critical readers and viewers of the news.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrYdpQAZP7U

Gallery

We are building a network of Climate Change Clubs!

caribbeanclimate

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) welcomed a group of 25 students from the Belmopan Comprehensive High School today for an interactive climate change exchange. The visit forms part of a broader engagement with young people in an effort to create a network of school-based environmental clubs with a strong climate change focus across the region. The initiative is being piloted by the Centre in five (5) schools in Belmopan, Belize with support from the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development (MFFSD) under the “Enhancing Belize’s Resilience to Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change” project which is funded by the European Union.

The participating schools are:

  • Belmopan Comprehensive High School
  • Belize Christian Academy
  • Belmopan Baptist High School
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe High School
  • Belmopan Methodist High School

Through this means of youth engagement, we  are using a mixture of specially designed games, discussions, music and other tools…

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Designation as “special areas” in the Caribbean

caribbeanclimate

The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) has the greatest concentration of plant and animal species in the Atlantic Ocean Basin.  Yet these precious, and often irreplaceable, natural resources are disappearing at an astounding rate. The vast majority of all species are threatened by habitat loss or modification in addition to unsustainable practices such as over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution. These same habitats are often the main source of food and income for many coastal communities.

The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) of the Cartagena Convention, is a regional agreement for biodiversity management and conservation in the Wider Caribbean Region, in existence since 1990. It is managed by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and it became international law in 2000.  It aims to protect critical marine and coastal ecosystems while promoting regional co-operation and sustainable development.

To date, sixteen countries from the region have ratified the…

View original post 946 more words

As California Water Resources Dwindle, New Fears Over Drilling Waste Contamination

Situation described as 'unfolding catastrophe' as investigation finds oil drilling companies injected untold amounts of waste into protected groundwater reserves

With the blessing of California state regulators, drilling companies have injected an untold amount of toxic wastewater left over from fracking and other drilling operations into aquifers, according to an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle published on Sunday.

In October, it was confirmed that nearly 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater had been illegally dumped in aquifers through at least nine disposal wells. According to data reviewed by The Chronicle, it is now evident that more than 170 such wells injected a mix of “briny water, hydrocarbons and trace chemicals,” including acid, into aquifers suitable for drinking and irrigation.

This information about the extent of the aquifer contamination comes as the state's historic drought continues to push many desperate municipalities to tap groundwater reserves for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.

“It is an unfolding catastrophe, and it’s essential that all oil and gas wastewater injection into underground drinking water stop immediately,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Chronicle.

The practice first came to light in July 2014 when state regulators shut down 11 waste disposal wells in Kern County over fears of possible groundwater contamination.

The Chronicle reports on the source of the wastewater injection problem, which they say dates back to 1983 when EPA officials agreed to allow the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources responsibility for enforcing the federal Safe Drinking Water Act:

The agreement listed, by name, aquifers considered exempt, where oil companies could legally inject leftover water with a simple permit from the division. If state regulators wanted to add any aquifers to the list, they would need EPA’s approval.

But there were two signed copies of the agreement, said Steven Bohlen, the division’s new supervisor. Eleven aquifers listed as exempt on one copy weren’t included on the other. The state and the oil companies considered those aquifers exempt — perfectly suitable places to dispose of wastewater. The EPA didn’t.

“We cannot tell, nor can the EPA, which version is correct,” said Bohlen, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

The bureaucratic confusion didn’t stop there. In some cases, the state treated entire aquifers as exempt when, in fact, only specific portions of them had been approved for oil industry use. In other instances, the state issued injection permits for aquifers that the EPA had never declared exempt, Blumenfeld said.

Water classified as containing 500 parts per million or less of dissolved salts and other materials is considered high quality and safe to drink. The state aims to protect all water that registers below 3,000 ppm.

According to The Chronicle's analysis of state data, drilling companies bore 171 injection wells into aquifers with counts of 3,000 ppm or less and an additional 253 wells into potentially usable aquifers that the EPA considers protected. Further, an additional 40 injection wells were drilled into aquifers for which no water-quality data was available.

According to state officials, tests of nearby drinking-water wells show no contamination thus far.

However, the federal EPA has threatened to seize control of regulating the waste-injection wells, and the state has a February 6 deadline to present a comprehensive plan to fix the problem and prevent future contamination of supposedly off-limits drinking water wells. More