Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.
Dayton seeks fee increases for invasives fight
Saying zebra mussels, Asian carp, Eurasian water milfoil and other invasive species threaten Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, billion-dollar tourism industry and a way of life, Gov. Mark Dayton announced a legislative proposal to slow their spread.
Catching boaters who transport invasive species to or from infested lakes is part of the plan, which would be paid for by raising the boat registration surcharge and nonresident fishing fees. But the proposal clashes with the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has vowed no tax increases or fee hikes.
Still, Dayton and DFL legislators said it’s imperative that both parties agree to slow the spread of invasives before it’s too late.
”What we’re trying to protect is truly priceless,” Dayton said. “The clock is ticking. This is not a Republican, DFL or Independence Party problem, it’s a Minnesota problem. And once it’s too late, it’s too late.”
–The Star Tribune
U.N.’s World Water Day looks at urban water
Half of the world’s population now lives in cities, with 3 million urban arrivals every week. In the next two decades, nearly two-thirds of humanity will be living in cities, delegates at a three-day event held in Cape Town to mark World Water Day were told.
This year, WWD is focusing on the provision of water in urban areas.
Over a thousand representatives from more than 30 organisations gathered in South Africa to discuss the urban water challenges and opportunities facing the world today. It is hosted by South Africa, in collaboration with UN-Water, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (Amcow), the UN secretary general’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (Unsgab), the UN Environment Programme, and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
In Africa, where the rate of urbanisation is the world’s highest and urban populations are expected to double in the next 20 years, water services have been on the decline since 1990. Amcow highlighted the opportunities provided by the conference for African ministers, mayors, civil society organisations and representatives of development banks and the private sector to discuss how they can move faster and more effectively in closing this gap and achieving millennium development goals. The critical need for collaboration and communication between sectors, and the need for visionary leadership to manage the planet’s limited water resources were recurring themes.
EPA probes chronic sewage spills in Chicago
Billed as an engineering marvel and national model, Chicago’s Deep Tunnel was designed to protect Lake Michigan from sewage overflows and put an end to the once-frequent practice of dumping human and industrial waste into local rivers.
But nearly four decades after taxpayers started paying for one of the nation’s most expensive public works projects, billions of gallons of bacteria-laden sewage and storm runoff still routinely pour into the Chicago River and suburban waterways during and after storms, according to records obtained by the Tribune.
Lake Michigan, long considered the sewage outlet of last resort, has been hit harder during the past four years than it was in the previous two decades combined.
Between 2007 and 2010, records show, the agency in charge of Deep Tunnel dumped nearly 19 billion gallons of storm water teeming with disease-causing and fish-killing waste into the Great Lake, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs.
–The Chicago Tribune
Research: House cats a menace to birds
While public attention has focused on wind turbines as a menace to birds, a new study shows that a far greater threat may be posed by a more familiar antagonist: the pet house cat.
A new study in The Journal of Ornithology on the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that cats were the No. 1 killer in the area, by a large margin.
Nearly 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators, and cats were responsible for 47 percent of those deaths, according to the researchers, from the Smithsonian Institution and Towson University in Maryland. Death rates were particularly high in neighborhoods with large cat populations.
–The New York Times
Phenology applies nature to science
People have tracked phenology for centuries and for the most practical reasons: it helped them know when to hunt and fish, when to plant and harvest crops, and when to navigate waterways. Now phenology is being used as a tool to assess climate change and its effects on both natural and modified ecosystems.
How is the timing of events in plant and animal life cycles, like flowering or migration, responding to climate change? And how are those responses, in turn, affecting people and ecosystems?
The USA National Phenology Network is working to answer these questions for science and society by promoting a broad understanding of plant and animal phenology and their relationship to environmental change. The network is a consortium of organizations and individuals that collect, share, and use phenology data, models, and related information to enable scientists, resource managers, and the public to adapt in response to changing climates and environments. In addition, the network encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to observe and record phenology as a way to discover and explore the nature and pace of our dynamic world.
–U.S. Geological Survey
Wisconsin Gov. Walker calls for rules rollback
Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill proposal would roll back regulations designed to protect waterways from weed-producing phosphorus and other pollutants that wash from streets and construction sites.
The changes to water pollution rules – some of which were approved as recently as last summer – are coming under fire from environmentalists who say the existing regulations are needed to clean up lakes, rivers and streams.
Critics of Walker say his budget proposals also would unwittingly wipe out other pollution laws.
But the state Department of Natural Resources, which advanced the regulations under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, now says it needs to make changes to avoid heaping huge costs on municipalities and businesses.
”What we are trying to address are cities’ and companies’ concerns and still make sure we are addressing the phosphorus problem,” said Bruce Baker, administrator of the water division of the DNR.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Farmers urged to do more to clean Chesapeake Bay
A federal study assessing how much farmers are doing to clean up the Chesapeake Bay credits them with making progress in reducing their pollution but says the vast majority need to do more to help the troubled estuary.
Conservation practices adopted by farmers in Maryland and the other five states draining into the bay have cut erosion by more than half and curtailed runoff of fertilizer by 40 percent, according to the study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But 80 percent of the 4.6 million acres used to raise crops need additional measures, the report says, to keep fertilizer from washing off fields into nearby streams when it rains or soaking into ground water and ultimately reaching the bay.
The 158-page report comes as the Obama administration’s push to increase Chesapeake cleanup efforts comes under fire from farm groups and their supporters in the bay region and nationwide.
–The Baltimore Sun
Fix a leak. Save a trillion gallons.
Across the country, household leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water per year – enough to supply the water needs of Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles combined. Easily corrected household leaks can increase homeowners’ water bills by 12 percent.
”When households have a leak, it’s not just a waste of water, it’s a waste of money,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “But by fixing leaky pipes, buying WaterSense products and taking other simple steps, families can save on their water bills and conserve clean water for future generations to enjoy.”
Homeowners’ water bills provide an easy and quick leak-checking measure; if wintertime water use for a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, their home may have a leak. Fixture replacement parts often pay for themselves quickly and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers, professional plumbers, or EPA’s WaterSense irrigation partners.
–EPA News Release
Invasive lionfishes’ spread is unprecedented
The rapid spread of lionfishes along the U.S. eastern seaboard, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean is the first documented case of a non-native marine fish establishing a self-sustaining population in the region, according to recent U.S. Geological Survey studies.
“Nothing like this has been seen before in these waters,” said Dr. Pam Schofield, a biologist with the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center here. “We’ve observed sightings of numerous non-native species, but the extent and speed with which lionfish have spread has been unprecedented; lionfishes pretty much blanketed the Caribbean in three short years.”
More than 30 species of non-native marine fishes have been sighted off the coast of Florida alone, but until now none of these have demonstrated the ability to survive, reproduce, and spread successfully.
Although lionfishes originally came from the Indo-West Pacific Ocean, there are now self-sustaining populations spreading along the western Atlantic coast of the U.S. and throughout the Caribbean.
–USGS News Release
Conference on St. Croix set April 5
The 12th annual “Protecting the St. Croix Basin” conference will be held Tuesday, April 5, at the University Center in River Falls, Wis. The conference is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the St. Croix Basin Water Resources Planning Team.
This year’s conference features a celebration of the 100-year history of the St. Croix River Association. The conference will also explore phosphorus reduction, which is necessary to bring cleaner water to Lake St. Croix, a 25-mile stretch of the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minn. and Prescott, Wis. This year, the conference will feature a musical tribute, keynote speaker Tia Nelson and an art exhibition called “In a New Light.”
The conference is open to the public. Advance registrations will be accepted through March 25. See www.stcroixriverassociation.org or call 715-635-7406 for information and registration. The cost is $50, or $25 for students.
–MPCA News Release
Japan quake jolted Florida groundwater
The devastating earthquake that shook Japan caused a temporary jolt in groundwater levels throughout much of Florida, officials said.
The South Florida Water Management District reports that a network of groundwater gauges registered a jump of up to three inches in the water table from Orlando to the Florida Keys about 34 minutes after the quake struck on March 11.
The oscillations were observed for about two hours and then stabilized.
”We were not expecting to see any indication of the geological events in Japan given the island’s great distance from Florida,” Susan Sylvester, the water district’s director of operations control and hydro data management department, said.
Shimon Wdowinski, an earthquake researcher with the University of Miami, said the water table likely rose because of Florida’s porous limestone, which allows water to easily flow beneath the earth’s surface and respond to changes in pressure caused by a wave.
–The Associated Press