News Digest - April 18, 2023

  • Yesterday, the Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill (known as the TCEQ sunset bill) to increase the penalties the TCEQ can impose on industrial facilities that don’t comply with regulations and give the public more time to weigh in on industry permits.
  • Researchers from Canada have developed a filter that can potentially remove PFAS from drinking water in homes, industrial sites, and at municipal levels. The technology is promising, but still needs to be proved in real-world settings at scale.
  • As DE&I programs are in jeopardy of being removed from public colleges, engineering in Texas could consequentially be at risk with only 13% of engineers being women, and 9% being Hispanic. Christine Julien, the associate dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the UT School of Engineering, says their DE&I program "isn’t limited to just students of color, but includes women, people with disabilities and rural residents who have traditionally been overlooked by higher education." State Senator José Menéndez says, "If we remove the offices of DEI, we will hurt our ability to reach out to every corner of Texas and help many who might not know how they need to prepare for careers like those in engineering. DEI helps open the door for many. Texas would be mistaken to shut it."
  • ChatGPT and other AI chatbots have been found to consume a surprising amount of water- for a conversation of 20-50 questions and answers, ChatGPT needs to 'drink' the equivalent of a 500 ml bottle of water. This is because their data centers must be cooled to about 50-80ºF, and they pull water from clean, freshwater sources to avoid corrosion and bacteria growth.
  • The latest TWDB Drought Map shows improvement across large areas of South and Central Texas, making it the largest one-week decrease in drought area since November 2022

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