The toxic effects of lead—developmental delays, organ damage, even death—are well-known. But millions of Americans still rely on lead pipes to deliver drinking water. In an attempt to make them safer, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on a new technology that uses electrical current to rapidly build a protective layer on the insides of the pipes. In early tests they reduced the amount of the toxic metal entering water, but other scientists are skeptical of the method’s potential as a long-term solution.
It’s only May, and it’s already shaping up to be a stressful summer for many western states. Low mountain snowpack is a big part of the problem. Both the mighty Rio Grande and the Colorado River are experiencing low flow in places, prompting concerns about everything from water shortages to the plight of suffocating fish. U.S. officials have already launched rescue missions for an endangered minnow in New Mexico, where parts of the Rio Grande have already started to run dry—an unusual event so early in the season.