Posts Tagged ‘everglades’

G. Daily to lecture; EPA unveils new water rules

May 2, 2011

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.

Save the date;  Gretchen Daily to lecture June 13
What is a wetland worth? Is it only the price a buyer might pay for the land at the moment? Or does the wetland’s value include the future flood damage or water pollution it may prevent? How do you put a value on any individual natural site’s contribution to keeping plant and animal species from going extinct decades into the future?

Gretchen Daily

Those are the kinds of questions Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily has devoted her career to asking and answering.

 Daily, a global leader in efforts to protect the environment by attaching monetary value to all the services that natural systems provide to humans, will deliver a free public lecture in St. Paul on Monday, June 13.

 Her talk – titled “Harmonizing People and Nature: A New Business Model — will be the fifth lecture in the Moos Family Speaker Series co-sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. She will present the lecture at 5 p.m. in the theater of theSt. PaulStudentCenteron the university’s St. Paul Campus. 

 Stricter U.S. water controls proposed
The Obama administration announced that it will impose stricter pollution controls on millions of acres of wetlands and tens of thousands of miles of streams.

The new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency, which will be codified in a federal regulation later this year, could prevent the dumping of mining waste and the discharge of industrial pollutants to waters that feed swimming holes and drinking water supplies. The specific restriction will depend on the waterway.

The question of which isolated streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act has been in dispute for a decade. The Supreme Court has issued two decisions, and the George W. Bush administration issued guidance in 2003 and 2008 limiting the scope of the act.

 EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a telephone news conference with reporters that although the new rules will expand the waterways enjoying federal protection, “this is not some massive increase, as far as we can tell.”

 The policy change is likely to affect tributaries flowing into water bodies such as the Chesapeake Bay. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who chairs the water and wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined 13 other senators last month in urging President Obama to expand the application of federal law to such waterways.
–The Washington Post

 Opinion: New water rules praised
The Obama administration’s new guidelines for the Clean Water Act are an important first step in restoring vital legal safeguards to wetlands and streams threatened by development and pollution.

The guidelines are opposed by the usual suspects — real estate interests, homebuilders, farmers, the oil companies. They were welcomed, rightly so, by conservationists and others who have watched in despair as enforcement actions dropped and water pollution levels went up.

 For nearly three decades, the 1972 act was broadly interpreted by the courts and federal regulators as shielding virtually all the waters of the United States from pollution and unregulated development — seasonal streams and small, remote wetlands, as well as lakes and large navigable waters. The basic idea was that small waters have some hydrological connection to larger watersheds and should be protected against pollution that would inevitably find its way downstream.

 Then came two Supreme Court decisions that left uncertain which waterways were protected by the law.
–The New York Times 

Ag and EPA heads talk about soil and water
Read an op-ed column that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson jointly wrote for the Des Moines Register. In it, they say: “If we are going to solve the major environmental challenges of our time – combating climate change, reducing soil erosion and ensuring an ample supply of clean water for our families and food production – farmers need more than just a seat at the table. They need to help lead the way.”

DNR offers drain plug reminders
A bright-yellow warning sticker has been created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help remind boaters to “check the drain plug.”

Invasive species regulations, which went into effect last year, now require boaters to remove the plug and drain the bilge and live well before transporting a watercraft. The DNR developed the sticker because some boaters forget to put their drain plug back in place before re-launching their boats.

 DNR conservation officers say that some boaters have reported near-misses.

 “I’m told that one angler returned to the dock after parking his truck and trailer, only to find his boat nearly filled with water,” said Tim Smalley, Minnesota DNR boating safety specialist. “This is something new that boaters need to incorporate into their boat launch routine.”

 Bpaters can obtain the stickers at no charge by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367. They are also available by emailing boatandwater.dnr@state.mn.us  and requesting the “Drain Plug Sticker.”
–DNR News Release

 Salmon struggling to survive in L. Michigan
Forty years ago, fisheries biologists in Michigan dazzled the nation when they took salmon from the Pacific Ocean and planted them in the Great Lakes. Their success transformed the lakes into a sport-fishing paradise and created a multi-billion dollar industry. But now invasive species have changed the food web in the lakes. Salmon are struggling to find food, and the state might end one of its stocking programs.
–National Public Radio

Douglas County, MN, board acts on zebra mussels
Douglas County Commissioners are plunging right in.

 The board approved a list of action items to try to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species – specifically zebra mussels – in Douglas County lakes.

Currently, seven lakes are infested with zebra mussels: Lakes Darling, Carlos, L’Homme Dieu, Geneva, Victoria, Jessie and Alvin.

With a 4-0 vote, the county board authorized moving forward to:

  •   Take the position that no further lakes in the county shall become infested with zebra mussels or other aquatic invasive species.
  • Appoint Dave Rush, director of the county’s land and resource management department to serve as a zebra mussel “czar” to implement board-directed action to control, contain and eradicate zebra mussels.
  •  Sign a letter of intent with county lake associations indicating a united front to address zebra mussel containment and eradication.
  •  Commit an unspecified amount of funding to develop and place signage at lake access points. The Douglas County Citizen’s Committee recommended signage costs of about $1,500. The signs, stating “Don’t Move a Mussel,” would inform water-craft owners about pulling the boat’s drain plug, draining live wells and bait buckets and washing watercraft and trailers.
  •  Commit an unspecified amount of funding to establish a watercraft decontamination facility – also referred to as a washing station. A washing station would offer a spot at a lake access for watercraft owners to use hot water to wash off their boat, limiting the chance of transporting zebra mussels to another lake. With the Department of Natural Resource’s permission, the DCCC recommended a $26,000 washing unit be placed at the north access on Lake Geneva as part of a pilot project. That access has the space for a wash station and the Geneva Lake Association reportedly supports the concept.

–Alexandria Echo Press

 Montana eyes boat inspections in invasives fight
Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment on a new rule that would require vessels launched on Montana waters to be inspected at designated aquatic invasive species inspection stations operated by FWP.

Under the proposed rule, personnel at the stations would search the exterior of the vessel, livewells, bait buckets, bilge areas and trailers. If invasive species are found on a vessel, state officials would decontaminate it. The vessel would then be required to pass a second inspection before it can be launched on state waters. FWP has performed watercraft inspections since 2004.
–Hungry Horse News

Bad news on carp’s survival chances in L. Michigan
Some distressing news emerged at the end of a news conference at which federal officials went to great lengths to assure the public they are doing everything they can to protect the Great Lakes from an Asian carp invasion: the idea that Lake Michigan has become too sterile in recent years to support the giant fish may not hold water. 

New lab studies show that Asian carp, which normally make their living sucking plankton suspended in the water, also have a penchant for noshing on the noxious algae blooms that have exploded on the lake bottom in recent years. 

Plankton populations in Lake Michigan have plummeted in the past decade because of the invasion of plankton-loving quagga mussels, which now blanket the bottom of the lake from Wisconsin to Michigan. The mussels have dramatically increased the lake’s water clarity, and that has led to growth of sunlight-dependent algae, called Cladophora, on the lake bottom. 

Tests are now under way to determine whether this algae, which regularly washes ashore and smothers some of the lake’s prized shorelines, including Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach, has enough nutrition to sustain the fish as they migrate up the lake shorelines toward the rivers in which they need to spawn.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MPCA seeks citizen water monitors
For the past 10 years, Watonwan County farmer Norman Penner has been making weekly visits to a small bridge over the Watonwan River, about 1,000 feet from his home near Darfur, Minn.

 Penner, who grows corn and soybeans and raises beef cattle, is a volunteer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen Stream Monitoring Program.  Penner and 1,700 other volunteers across the state take regular readings of water clarity at assigned lakes or streams.  The information the volunteers collect aids in the MPCA’s efforts to improve water quality and ensures a long-term, continuous data record for water scientists. 

Water clarity, measured using a transparency tube (for streams) or a Secchi disk (for lakes) is a simple test that helps water resource professionals understand the health of a water body. 

This year marks Penner’s 10-year anniversary monitoring water clarity on the Watonwan River.  Penner enjoys noticing how clarity patterns change during the seasons. 

“In spring, after planting, I notice a lot of sediment in the water after a hard rain,” he observed.  “Into the summer, as the crops grow, that doesn’t happen nearly as much, and there is very little change even after a heavy rain.  You notice things like that when you’ve been monitoring for a while.” 

The MPCA is currently recruiting volunteers for the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program and Citizen Lake Monitoring Program.  Volunteers are asked to take readings of water clarity at a designated site every week from April through October.  

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call Laurie Sovell (for the streams program) or Johanna Schussler (for the lakes program) at the MPCA at 651-757-2227 or toll-free at 800-657-3864.  More information is available at http://www.pca.state.mn.us.
–MPCA News Release

 Small earthquake hits Minnesota
A rare earthquake rippled in and around Alexandria in western Minnesota early Friday (April 29), prompting numerous middle-of-the-night calls to emergency dispatchers and acting as a seismic alarm clock for one royal wedding fan. 

The temblor at 2:20 a.m. measured 2.5 in magnitude, falling into the “weak” category, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no reports of damage or injury.

 The quake probably “felt like a truck rumbling by or thunder,” said USGS geophysicist John Bellini.

Bellini said the agency collected several dozen “felt reports” on its website from citizens in Alexandria and nearby communities such as Brandon, Carlos and Garfield. 

While there is a margin of error in pinpointing any epicenter, the USGS put this one on the southwestern edge of Alexandria, near the town’s airport.
–The Star Tribune

 Questions follow farmed tilapia boom
AGUA AZUL, Honduras — A common Bible story says Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, which scholars surmise were tilapia.

 But at the Aquafinca fish farm here, a modern miracle takes place daily: Tens of thousands of beefy, flapping tilapia are hauled out of teeming cages on Lake Yojoa, converted to fillets in a cold slaughterhouse and rushed onto planes bound for the United States, where some will appear on plates within 12 hours.

 Americans ate 475 million pounds of tilapia last year, four times the amount a decade ago, making this once obscure African native the most popular farmed fish in the United States. Although wild fish predominate in most species, a vast majority of the tilapia consumed in the United States is “harvested” from pens or cages in Latin America and Asia.

 Known in the food business as “aquatic chicken” because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood.
–The New York Times

 What’s a shark worth? A lot, it turns out
Sharks can be worth far more when they are swimming around the reef than when they are in a bowl of soup — as much as nearly $2 million each, in fact, according to the results of a study.

 For the study, researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science considered the expenditures of divers who travel from around the world to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau to dive with the mainly gray reef and reef whitetip sharks that inhabit its waters, which were declared a shark sanctuary in 2009. 

As a remote country of more than 300 islands — Manila, 530 miles away, is the closest city of consequence — Palau does not have many attractions beyond diving, so spending by international tourists on airfare, lodging and diving makes up an important part of the nation’s economy.

 The economic logic is straightforward: diver tourism contributes about 39 percent of the country’s gross domestic product of $218 million, and 21 percent of divers chose their vacation there specifically to see the sharks, meaning that tourism to view sharks contributes about 8 percent of G.D.P., the study said.

 The researchers concluded that the roughly 100 sharks that inhabit the prime dive sites were each worth $179,000 annually to the island nation’s tourism industry, and that each shark had a lifetime value of $1.9 million.
–The New York Times

 California eyes Mexico for desalination
After more than a decade of public debate, Southern California water officials are considering Mexico for controversial desalination plants.

With efforts to build large-scale ocean desalination plants along the coast of California taking longer than anticipated, Southern California water agencies are looking more seriously at financing a desalination plant across the border in Mexico. 

Water agencies representing southern California, Arizona and Nevada are in discussions with the Mexican government about sharing a desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, just south of San Diego. But it’s the San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that are the most serious, based on interviews with officials. 

Construction could begin in as little as two years on a plant producing up to 75 million gallons of fresh water daily. That is more than 50 percent larger than the biggest facility currently planned for California – within San Diego County in Carlsbad – which has been delayed by lawsuits and permitting for more than a decade.
–Natural Resources News Service

 China plans $612 billion in water spending
Climate change is threatening China’s water supply, a government official said.

 “China faces an imbalance between the supply and demand of water to support its rapid social and economic development, while protecting the natural environment and ecosystems,” Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei told a roundtable meeting on climate change in China, the country’s English newspaper, China Daily, reports.

 Global climate change could further exacerbate existing problems over water security, water supply and farming irrigation, Chen said. 

While China has the world’s largest population, figures from China’s Ministry of Water Resources indicate the country’s per capita water resources are only 28 percent of the global average. 

Chen said China has a water shortage of 40 billion cubic meters a year, with two-thirds of cities experiencing increased scarcity of water. 

The Chinese government is expected to invest $612 billion in water conservancy projects over the next 10 years.
–UPI.com 

Forest Service plots fight against invasive plants in BWCA
Superior National Forest officials asked for public comments on a new plan to battle invasive species on land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

 The plan is to attack the invading plants at critical spots using herbicides, people power and education.

 While its remote location has helped keep the relative abundance of invasive plant species down in the BWCAW, the Forest Service has identified about 1,000 known sites totaling 13 acres for treatment in St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties within the 1.1 million-acre wilderness.

 Most of the problem spots are near campsites and portages, indicating the plants probably moved in as seeds by hitchhiking with unsuspecting campers. 

Invading species can choke out native plants and can affect entire ecosystems, including wildlife that is dependent on native species. 

For more information on the plan, or to comment, go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/superior, and select Land and Resource Management” then “Projects.” Look for “BWCAW Non-native Invasive Plant Management Project.”
–The Duluth News-Tribune

 Judge OKs EPA regulation of Florida pollution
Aiming a legal shot directly across the bow of Gov. Rick Scott’s anti-regulation agenda, a Miami federal judge cleared the way for the federal government to do something he contends the state has failed to do for decades: Enforce water pollution standards tough enough to protect the Everglades.

In the latest in a string of blistering rulings, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold reiterated frustration at repeated delays and “disingenuous” legal maneuvers by state lawmakers and agencies he charged have weakened rules intended to reduce the flow of phosphorus into the River of Grass.

“Protection of the Everglades requires a major commitment which cannot be simply pushed aside in the face of financial hardships, political opposition, or other excuses,’’ Gold wrote. “These obstacles will always exist, but the Everglades will not — especially if the protracted pace of preservation efforts continues at the current pace.”

Specifically, Gold’s order would strip authority from the state to issue critical pollution discharge permits for the state’s $1.2 billion network of nutrient-scrubbing marshes and give it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That may sound minor but it potentially has major implication in ongoing, high-stakes legal battles between the state and the federal government over setting the bar for what level of damaging nutrients can be released , not only in the Everglades but in lakes, streams and coastal waters statewide — at least if his ruling stands up on appeal.
–The Miami Herald

Dubuque settles sewer suit
The city of Dubuque agreed to pay $205,000 in fines and to install $3 million in sewer system improvements over the next three years to settle a federal water pollution lawsuit.

A court agreement settled the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The state of Iowa will get half the fine money. Dubuque has also agreed to spend about $260,000 to install pavement designed to reduce runoff.

Dubuque’s violations of pollution limits date to the 1970s, the EPA reported.
–The Des Moines Register

World using up groundwater, researcher says

September 27, 2010

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.

Research: World depleting its groundwater
The rate at which humans are drawing from vast underground stores of groundwater on which billions rely has doubled in recent decades, a Dutch researcher says.

Findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters say water is rapidly being pulled from fast-shrinking subterranean reservoirs essential to daily life and agriculture in many regions. 

So much water is being drawn from below ground that its evaporation and eventual precipitation accounts for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, the researchers said. 

Global groundwater depletion threatens potential disaster for an increasingly globalized agricultural system, Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said. 

“If you let the population grow by extending the irrigated areas using groundwater that is not being recharged, then you will run into a wall at a certain point in time, and you will have hunger and social unrest to go with it,” Bierkens says.
–UPI

U of M reverses itself on showing documentary
A University of Minnesota documentary about farming, pollution and the Mississippi River is headed to the big screen after all. 

The U reversed itself and will now show the film that Karen Himle, vice president of University Relations, pulled from broadcast on Twin Cities Public Television. 

“Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story” will be shown at the Bell Museum as originally scheduled on Oct. 3. Bell Museum director Susan Weller said she now hopes that TPT will agree to reschedule the broadcast, which had been set for Oct. 5.
–The Star Tribune

 Cut down on the flow of unwanted phone books
Do you have a collection of unused phone books accumulating on a desk or the top of your refrigerator? Here’s your chance to stop the flow of Yellow Pages directories to your home.

 Conservation Minnesota is working with the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group; and three Yellow Pages publishers – Dex One, SuperMedia and Yellowbook – to Minnesotans adjust the number of directories they receive, stop delivery altogether and learn about recycling oportunities.

 To take advantage of the service, go to www.donttrashthephonebook.org.

Everglades restoration shows progress
Over the past two years, the multibillion-dollar effort to restore the Everglades has finally begun showing some results on the ground.

 The work has been slow and, given the ambitious goals and big money already spent, hasn’t restored much of anything yet, aside from 13,000 acres of the Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida where water levels have been raised.

 But the Strand and a handful of other projects are actually being built. Congress at long last opened its wallet. The state and federal partners managing the work are no longer squabbling.

 A National Research Council progress report on the Everglades points to all those things as signs of marked improvement at the end of a decade that had previously produced stacks of science and engineering studies, countless meetings and endless red tape.

 Still, the 276-page report makes clear that the challenges have only grown more difficult — particularly from water pollution — and the need to accelerate projects more pressing.
–The Miami Herald

MPCA offers grants for water monitoring
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced the availability of $1.5 million in grant money for lake and water monitoring projects. Grant proposals are due to the MPCA by 4 p.m. on Nov. 5.

 Water monitoring is often the first step toward protecting or improving water resources. Volunteers across Minnesota have been measuring the health of lakes and streams to see if the waters meet standards set for fishing and other uses since 2007 as part of a state program called Surface Water Assessment Grants.  To date, the program has awarded 113 grants totaling $5.84 million, leading to monitoring of 991 lake sites and 981 stream sites. 

Eligible applicants may apply through a competitive application process. Eligible applicants include counties, soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, water management organizations, nonprofits, Minnesota colleges and universities, and American Indian tribes. No matching or in-kind funds are required under this program. 

The MPCA seeks applicants with experience in project administration, water quality monitoring and data management. The agency prefers projects that involve volunteers and that gather data for determining whether lakes and streams meet state water quality standards for aquatic life and/or aquatic recreation such as fishing.

Details are also available at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/swagrant.html.
–MPCA News Release

 Extreme heat puts coral reefs at risk
This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people.

From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.

 What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the situation is looking worse than in 1998.
–The New York Times

 North Dakota lake just keeps rising
It’s been called a slow-growing monster: a huge lake that has steadily expanded over the last 20 years, swallowing up thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings and at least two towns in its rising waters.

 Devils Lake keeps getting larger because it has no natural river or stream to carry away excess rain and snowmelt. Now it has climbed within 6 feet of overflowing, raising fears that some downstream communities could be washed away if the water level isn’t reduced. 

And those worries are compounded by another problem: Scientists believe the pattern of heavy rain and snow that filled the basin is likely to continue for at least another decade. 

“It’s a slow-moving torture,” said 72-year-old Joe Belford, a lifelong resident of Devils Lake and a county commissioner who spends most of his time seeking a way to control the flooding and money to pay for it.
–The Associated Press

 Drug-filled mice used against invasive snakes
Dead mice packed with drugs were recently airdropped into Guam’s dense jungle canopy—part of a new effort to kill an invasive species of snake on the U.S. Pacific island territory.

 In the U.S. government-funded project, tablets of concentrated acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, are placed in dead thumb-size mice, which are then used as bait for brown tree snakes.

 In humans, acetaminophen helps soothe aches, pains, and fevers. But when ingested by brown tree snakes, the drug disrupts the oxygen-carrying ability of the snakes’ hemoglobin blood proteins.
– National Geographic News Service

 Cut down on the flow of unwanted phone books
Do you have a collection of unused phone books accumulating on a desk or the top of your refrigerator? Here’s your chance to stop the flow of Yellow Pages directories to your home.

 Conservation Minnesota is working with the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group; and three Yellow Pages publishers – Dex One, SuperMedia and Yellowbook – to Minnesotans adjust the number of directories they receive, stop delivery altogether and learn about recycling oportunities. 

To take advantage of the service, go to www.donttrashthephonebook.org. 

BP officially ‘kills’ leaking oil well
U.S. officials said BP Plc killed its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico after creating another cement seal, plugging the source of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

 “The Macondo 252 well is effectively dead,” said National Incident Commander Thad Allen in a statement. BP completed its last pressure test on the plugs at 5:54 a.m. local time before declaring the well sealed, according to the statement.

The 87-day spill, triggered by an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers, tainted hundreds of miles of U.S. coastline. It also wiped out more than $70 billion of BP’s market value, brought new drilling in the Gulf to a standstill and cost Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward his job. About 400 lawsuits are pending, and the trial judge overseeing those predicted hundreds more will be filed. 

“The whole industry is terrified it could happen to them,” Peter Hitchens, an analyst for Panmure Gordon UK Ltd. in London, said in an interview. “The whole way we drill wells could actually change. They’re going to take a lot longer. They’re going to be a lot more scrutinized.”
–Bloomberg News

EPA head told to testify in Florida court
Five months ago, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered the top bosses of two state and federal environmental agencies to show up in his Miami courtroom to explain in person how they are going to end the “glacial delay” miring efforts to clean up the Everglades.

He reaffirmed his order, rejecting a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide a substitute for Administrator Lisa Jackson, who argued that a high-ranking assistant oversaw Glades issues and that Jackson was too busy to make the Oct. 7 hearing. 

“Furthermore, the demands of the administrator’s schedule, including travel to Asia as part of an official government delegation beginning October 8, would create a hardship for her to prepare for and attend the hearing,” an EPA motion filed last month read. Gold’s response: See you in court, Ms. Jackson. 

In a nine-page order, the judge questioned the federal agency’s priorities, saying the EPA had not “demonstrated any showing of a matter of national importance, issue, or great significance to preclude” her attendance. 

In April, in a federal lawsuit first filed in 2005 by the Miccosukee Tribe and the Friends of the Everglades, Gold delivered a blistering 48-page order finding state lawmakers and water managers had crafted “incomprehensible” rules and loopholes pushing back a 2006 cleanup deadline by a decade and that the EPA erred in approving watered-down standards.
–The Miami Herald

Cut greenhouse gases – feed oregano to cows
When cows and other ruminants digest their food, methane builds up in their rumen, the largest chamber of their four-chambered stomach. Releasing that greenhouse gas — mostly by belching — accounts for 20 percent of all methane emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

 That’s a problem, because methane is a far more powerful contributor to climate change than, say, carbon dioxide, since it prevents more heat and radiation from escaping into space.

 An agricultural scientist thinks he has a solution: oregano. 

Alexander Hristov, a professor of dairy nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, says that oregano-supplemented feed can reduce a dairy cow’s methane production by up to 40 percent, while increasing its daily flow of milk by close to three pounds. (That’s a lot, he says, about 5 percent of the average U.S. cow’s production.)
–The Washington Post 

Wisconsin considers L. Michigan water request
The state Department of Natural Resources restarted its review of Waukesha’s historic application for a Great Lakes water source, a process that stalled in June after Waukesha’s newly elected mayor raised questions about the city’s proposal.

 Waukesha is the first community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to seek a diversion of water under terms of a regional Great Lakes protection compact. In announcing its decision to reopen the review, DNR officials said that its study of the plan’s environmental impact will extend into next year.

Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank also informed city officials that their request for Lake Michigan water is not complete, and more information is needed.

Among details the department seeks are costs to Oak Creek and Racine if they are tapped to supply lake water to Waukesha and an explanation of why Waukesha wants to discharge its treated wastewater to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa regardless of whether it buys water from Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine, said Bruce Baker, DNR water division administrator. 

The Great Lakes compact requires a community to return water to a lake as close as possible to where it is withdrawn, Baker said.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Gulf may see a record ‘dead zone’

August 9, 2010

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.

Gulf ‘dead zone’ is one of the biggest
The annual Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” – a low-oxygen region of seawater that appears each spring and summer and either snuffs marine life or sends it fleeing – is one of the largest on record this year.

That’s the assessment of a team of scientists who wrapped up a cruise to take the dead zone’s measure. This year it’s roughly the size of Massachusetts and stretches from off of Galveston, Tex., east to the Mississippi’s “bird’s foot” delta.

The patch off of Texas is particularly noteworthy, says Nancy Rabalais, a marine scientist and director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Dr. Rabalais heads the annual survey effort.

 This year’s is the largest oxygen-deprived area seen off of the Texas coast since she and her team began conducting the surveys in 1985, she says. Indeed, the dead zone’s “total area probably would have been the largest if we had had enough time to completely map the western part.” 

The dead zone forms each spring and summer as snowmelt and rainfall in the Mississippi River’s vast drainage basin leach nutrients from farm fields and to a lesser extent from urban landscapes along the river and its tributaries.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 U.S. environmental officials seek Minnesota input
Lisa Jackson, the head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and top officials of other federal agencies with responsibility for the environment came to the Twin Citites on Aug. 4 for a “listening session” seeking citizen input as the Obama administration plans a new national agenda for conservation.

 In a meeting at the University of Minnesota that was attended by about 300 people, the administration officials asked for suggestions on four topics:

  • What is working well in promoting conservation and outdoor recreation?
  •  What obstacles keep people from connecting with the outdoors?
  • How can the federal government be a more effective partner with state and local groups working on conservation?
  •  What additional tools would help the state and local organizations?

 Read a Minnesota Public Radio report on the listening session and the officials’ visit to Minnesota. For more information about the national initiative, or to submit on-line comments, click here.

 Chicago’s Asian carp may have been put there
A 3-foot-long Asian carp discovered in a Chicago waterway near Lake Michigan appears to have spent most of its life there and may have been planted by humans who didn’t know what type of fish it was or the environmental risk it posed, researchers said.
Tests of chemical markers in the bighead carp suggest it was not a recent arrival to the waterway and probably did not get there by evading an electric barrier meant to prevent the species from infesting the Great Lakes, said Jim Garvey, a fisheries biologist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

He acknowledged the findings were not certain because of incomplete data and were based on a number of assumptions.
–The Associated Press 

Scientists question rosy assessment of Gulf spill
The “greatest environmental disaster” in U.S. history — which has appeared at times to leave a high-control White House powerless — seemed to have lost its power to scare.

A few hours after BP’s well was declared virtually dead, the Obama administration announced that only about 26 percent of the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico was unaccounted for.

“A significant amount of this,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “is a direct result of the very robust federal response efforts.”

But, in interviews, scientists who worked on the report said the figures were based in large part on assumptions and estimates with a significant margin of error.

Some outside scientists went further: In a situation in which many facts remain murky, they said, the government seemed to have used interpretations that made the gulf — and the federal efforts to save it — look as good as possible.
–The Washington Post

 DNR sues over lakeshore set-back variance
As more homes creep closer to Minnesota’s environmentally sensitive lakeshore, the state Department of Natural Resources is pushing back by suing a western Minnesota township that allowed a property owner to build a house 14 feet from Ida Lake. The rare move could signal a new statewide emphasis on controlling building on waterfront land.

 “This is a shot across the bow on the part of DNR,” said Brad Karkkainen, an environmental law expert at the University of Minnesota.

 Karkkainen said the new suit against Cormorant Township will send a message to localities that are allowing more buildings — often expansive vacation homes — that exceed state standards for size and distance from the water’s edge and create polluting stormwater runoff. “The importance of the suit,” he said, “is in setting a policy precedent that DNR will use state resources to prosecute.”
–The Star Tribune

Water study probes DEET insect repellent
DEET may be safe to spray on your skin, but not to swallow in drinking water.

To see how safe or unsafe it is, the Minnesota Department of Health has picked the popular insect repellent ingredient as the first of seven “chemicals of emerging concern” to assess during the next year. 

“We shower, it goes down the drain, and it ends up in wastewater that goes into rivers,” said state toxicologist Helen Goeden. 

Like many compounds, there are no state or federal standards for DEET, yet it has been detected in water samples nationwide, including Minnesota.
–The Star Tribune

Huge Everglades restoration keeps shrinking
For the third and likely last time, Gov. Charlie’s Crist’s controversial Big Sugar deal is being dramatically downsized.

With their budget squeezed by a brutal economy and two major legal defeats, South Florida water managers have proposed yet another major whack at a land buy once so bold and bright that environmentalists touted it as the holy grail of Everglades restoration: Buy out the entire U.S. Sugar Corp. — lock, stock and all 180,000-plus acres — for $1.75 billion and convert much of the massive swath of farms into water storage and cleanup projects. 

The fragments now left on the table: $197 million cash for 26,800 acres, most of it citrus groves, and “options” to buy the rest at $7,400 an acre over the next three years or at market price over the next decade.
–The Miami Herald 

Scientists probe California estuary
Scientists tasked with unraveling one of the nation’s most vexing environmental puzzles started their first field trip to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta at a fish processing facility here near one of the estuary’s major water-pumping stations. 

Assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists — 15 experts in estuarine ecology, hydrology, fisheries science and water resources engineering — were gathering information for a series of reports that could influence management of the West Coast’s largest estuary for decades to come.

The stakes for the two-year study are high. All around the delta, demand for water is growing — water for endangered fish, for farms and for 25 million people. Political pressure from California’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, and others finally forced the White House to order the review this spring.
–The New York Times
 

Florida contest saves tons of water
Gary and Linda Rogers are turning blue into green. 

The Cooper City couple saved $117 by reducing their water usage by 27,000 gallons in just three months. 

They weren’t the only ones. 

When the city’s utilities department issued a three-month water conservation challenge, 12 teams of Cooper City homeowners signed on. The competition pitted two local homeowners’ associations — the Homes at Forest Lake and Reflections at Rock Creek — to see who could save the most water. 

“Water conservation is not a new concept. We just wanted to make it more visible and try to engage folks a little more,” said Mike Bailey, director of utilities.
–The Miami Herald 

Chicago suburbs seek L. Michigan water
Worried about tapping out their wells and the possible risk of pollution, nearly a dozen Lake County communities have pushed a plan to allow them to draw their water from Lake Michigan.

The $252 million proposal, which needs approval from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, calls for pumping water from a proposed new treatment plant at Zion and running it through 57 miles of new pipelines.

Towns involved in the project now get their water from wells that tap into an aquifer in the bedrock. Some communities are running low, officials say.

“We’re seeing severe depletion,” said Matt Formica, Lindenhurst village administrator. The village has nine functioning shallow wells. “Two are on their last legs. We have to do something. … We’re running out of water.”
–The Chicago Tribune

Invasive spiny waterfleas spread to Burntside L.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed that spiny waterfleas were discovered in Burntside Lake near Ely recently. They were discovered by an angler when he observed them collecting on fishing lines in the water.

 “Spiny waterfleas can spread when boats, fishing or bait harvesting gear become contaminated with egg-laden females or when water from the infested lakes and rivers is transported,” said Rich Rezanka, DNR invasive species specialist. “Although the waterfleas can die between fishing trips, they might be carrying resting eggs that can begin a new infestation.” 

Spiny waterfleas are currently found in Lake Superior, Mille Lacs Lake, Fish Lake, and the U.S.-Canadian border waters such as Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and Namakan Lake as well as lakes on the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marias.

 Spiny waterfleas can collect in masses, entangling on fishing lines, downrigger cables, and anchor lines. The masses can resemble gelatin or cotton batting with tiny black spots, which are the creatures’ eyes or eggs. Individual animals are difficult to distinguish without magnification because they are only one-fourth to five-eighths inch long.

 Experts believe spiny waterfleas originally arrived in the U.S. from Eurasia in the ballast water of cargo ships. They were first found in Lake Superior in 1987.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

Research: Gulf oil dispersants not likely to be EDCs
Government researchers are reporting that eight of the most commonly used oil dispersants used to fight oil spills, such as those being used in the Gulf of Mexico, appear unlikely to act as endocrine disruptors.

More than 1.5 million gallons of oil spill dispersants — a combination of one or more surfactants with the ability to emulsify oil and a hydrocarbon-based solvent to break up large clumps of high molecular weight — have been used recently in the Gulf of Mexico following the spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

The NIH and Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study to measure the potential for endocrine disruption with eight oil spill dispersants. The researchers applied a rapid screening method using mammalian cells to determine the eight dispersants’ potential to act as endocrine disruptors and relative toxicity to living cells.

The tested dispersants also had a relatively low potential for cytotoxicity with JD-2000 and SAF-RON GOLD showing the least potential. Cytotoxicity was not seen until dispersants were tested at concentrations above 10 parts per million, according to the researchers.
–Edocrine Today

Phosphorus, wind farms and ‘Kentucky tuna’

April 26, 2010

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles where they originally were published.

Group sees protection for 404 species
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a massive petition to protect 404 freshwater species in the southeastern U.S. The list includes 48 fish, 92 mussels and snails, 92 crayfish and other crustaceans, 82 plants, 13 reptiles (including five map turtles), four mammals, 15 amphibians, 55 insects, and three birds. The species live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

 Why seek protection for so many species at once? The CBD says they all form a cohesive ecosystem, and they depend upon each other for their survival. According to the CBD’s Web site about what it refers to as the southeastern freshwater extinction crisis,  “All these species are intricately interconnected: For example, the map turtles’ survival depends on the abundance of snails and mussels, which they eat, while mussels depend on fish to host their larvae—and the fish, in turn, depend on the abundance of flies, whose larvae they consume.”
–Scientific American

 Agencies disagree over mine filling with water
A disagreement between two government agencies has stalemated a solution to a big problem for the Iron Range town of Bovey. That’s where a nearby mine pit continues filling with water that could inundate Bovey if not stopped. 

The 2008 state bonding bill authorized $3.5 million to draw down water in the Canisteo Mine pit — and two years later the money remains unspent while the water keeps rising.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Governors back Cape Cod wind farm
Political pressure continues to build on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as he prepares to announce his decision this week on the fate of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., that has been stalled for nine years.

 The governors of six East Coast states called on Mr. Salazar last week to approve the project, which is proposed by Cape Wind Associates and would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. Turning it down, they said, especially on the grounds that it would harm the view from historic sites, “would establish a precedent that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to site offshore wind projects anywhere along the Eastern Seaboard.” 

Their states — Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — all have offshore wind projects in the works. Four of the governors are Democrats and two, in New Jersey and Rhode Island, are Republicans, showing that views of Cape Wind do not break down along political lines.
–The New York Times

Wisconsin phosphorus rules could cost $1.3 billion
Nobody wants weeds and algae choking Wisconsin’s lakes. But are people willing to pay to clean up the widespread and sometimes dangerous problem? 

A proposal from the state Department of Natural Resources to toughen standards on phosphorus, a nutrient in fertilizers that causes weed growth in the state’s waters, could result in an $85 million bill to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) for an upgrade of its treatment systems, according to district officials. That, they say, could add $40 to the average residential customer’s annual bill. 

Statewide, according to DNR estimates, as many as 160 treatment plants could be affected, and the total cost of improvements to treatment systems could run as high as $1.3 billion.
–The Wisconsin State Journal

Judge blasts ‘glacial delay’ in Everglades clean-up
In the two decades since pledging to clean up the Everglades, Florida water managers, environmental regulators and political leaders have professed unwavering commitment to getting the difficult and costly job done.

 In a double-barreled legal blast this month, two Miami federal judges found the state, abetted by a lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more committed to something else in the Everglades: foot dragging.

 “Glacial delay” is how an exasperated U.S. District Judge Alan Gold summed it up in a blistering ruling that ordered Florida environmental chief Michael Sole and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to appear personally in court in October with new plans and hard deadlines.
–The Miami Herald

Floating plastic fouls Atlantic
Researchers are warning of a new blight at sea: a swirl of confetti-like plastic debris stretching over a remote expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The floating garbage — hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents — was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between Bermuda and the Azores. 

The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say probably also exists in other places around the globe. 

The debris is harmful for fish, sea mammals and, at the top of the food chain, potentially humans, even though much of the plastic has broken into such tiny pieces they are nearly invisible.
–The Associated Press 

A little white wine with that Kentucky tuna?
It’s Extreme Makeover: Aquatic Edition.

 Asian carp are reviled as vanquishers of native species, feared as hefty jumpers able to break a boatman’s jaw, and scorned as, well, carp. But even as Northern states battle to keep them from ravaging the Great Lakes, officials in the South, where the alien species have multiplied like guppies, are working to transform the carp into marketable assets.

 First, the rebranding. In January, Louisiana wildlife officials rolled out the Silverfin Promotion, enlisting chefs to create recipes for what they called the tasty white meat of the bighead carp and silver carp, the two dominant invaders. 

“A cross between scallops and crabmeat,” declared Philippe Parola, a noted seafood chef whose new recipes include silverfin almondine. 

Meanwhile, would-be carp exploiters in Kentucky, after trying the fish smoked, canned and in fried balls, concluded that it tasted remarkably like tuna and proposed labeling it Kentucky tuna.
–The New York Times

 Two men fined in minnow-selling case
The commercial minnow licenses of two Baudette men have been revoked for three years following an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources .

 John D. Hult, 69, and Kim D. Barsness, 55, convicted in Beltrami County District Court on April 14 for the attempted illegal selling of wild animals (minnows), also face fines and court costs of $1,500 each. A six-month jail sentence was stayed pending no similar incidents, but both men were placed on two years probation. 

Their equipment was forfeited to the state. 

Prior to the 2009 fishing season, the men were reported to be using invasive species-infested equipment from Lake of the Woods to take minnows from Upper Red Lake. 

To prevent the spread of invasive species, such as spiny waterfleas, to U.S. – Canada border waters, the DNR has implemented regulations on Rainy Lake, Namakan Lake, Rainy River and Lake of the Woods that prohibit the transport of water, prohibit harvest of bait for personal use, and restrict the commercial harvest of bait from those waters.
–DNR News Release

Study links atrazine to frog sex changes

March 9, 2010

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.

Atrazine alters frogs’ gender, study finds
A new study has found that male frogs exposed to the herbicide atrazine — one of the most common man-made chemicals found in U.S. waters — can make a startling developmental U-turn, becoming so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.

 The study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seems likely to add to the attention focused on a weedkiller that is widely used on cornfields. The Environmental Protection Agency, which re-approved the use of atrazine in 2006, has already begun a new evaluation of its potential health effects.

 Its manufacturer, Swiss agri-business giant Syngenta, says research has proven that the chemical is safe for animals and for people, who could be exposed to trace amounts in drinking water. 

But in recent years, a series of scientific studies have seemed to show atrazine interfering with the hormone systems that guide development in fish, birds, rats and frogs. In many cases, the result has been “feminized” males, with behaviors or body parts more like those of females.
–The Washington Post 

U of Iowa aims to hire 10 sustainability profs
University of Iowa officials are working to draw 10 experts on water sustainability to tenure-track positions by the fall of 2011. With searches underway now, five of the 10 may be here by July 1.

The water-sustainability hirings will be the first group of the 100 new tenure-track positions that the UI  Strategic Plan will create. 

A committee overseeing the hirings has been working for more than a year on the new initiative. UI administration are searching to fill five slots soon, while various departments will begin the process of hiring the other five next fall. The first round of candidates began visiting campus in February. 

“For [water sustainability] to be studied, and talked about, and investigated across campus, we think, is an outstanding opportunity,” said Larry Weber, director of the UI’s hydroscience labs.

The 10 new positions will cost roughly $1 million plus start-up costs, UI Provost Wallace Loh said.
–The Daily Iowan

 Everglades restoration threatened
It started out so big, so bold and with so much promise for healing the River of Grass that environmentalists proclaimed it the holy grail of Everglades restoration.

But 20 months after Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled his $1.75 billion bid to buy out the U.S. Sugar Corp., the grail is at serious risk of slipping away — rather, what’s left of it. 

Crist remains confident his landmark land buy will survive. “It’s a done deal,” he told The Miami Herald. “It’s got to be done.” 

Others, even supporters like Drew Martin, Everglades chairman for the Sierra Club, are less certain. “There is no question it’s hanging by a thread,” he said.
–The Miami Herald

Conservation easements go unchecked
Minnesota is preparing to pay more landowners to set aside thousands of acres for conservation, but it appears state officials have little idea how much they have already spent on such projects over the years and have rarely monitored how the land was being used. 

A continuing inventory of the properties, ordered by a state panel, shows that the Department of Natural Resources now has more than 1,000 such “conservation easements” across Minnesota, but has not inspected many properties in years. 

Use of conservation easements has grown since the practice started in the 1970s, exploding in recent years.
–The Star Tribune 

Minnesota DNR  lacks land management $$
The Department of Natural Resources continues to buy land for wildlife areas, parks, trails and other natural areas even though it lacks adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land, according to a report released by the legislative auditor.

 The report notes that the DNR or citizens advisory groups have recommended significant acquisitions of land and conservation easements in recent years — including a 64 percent increase in wildlife management areas, land open to public hunting.

 “Despite these ambitious proposals, DNR does not appear to have adequate resources to manage and maintain its current land holdings,” the report said.
–The Star Tribune

 EPA enforcement slows
The Environmental Protection Agency is riling many businesses with proposals to regulate greenhouse gases for the first time, but data suggest it has been slow out of the gate under President Barack Obama in enforcing existing regulations on traditional pollutants. 

In fiscal 2009, the EPA’s enforcement office required polluters to spend more than $5 billion on cleanup and emission controls—down from $11.8 billion the previous year, according to a report recently published by the agency. The report, which examines the EPA’s performance in enforcing limits on pollutants like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and soot, covers the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, a period that covers the last 3½ months of President George W. Bush’s watch and the first 8½ months of Mr. Obama’s. 

Defendants in agency enforcement cases committed to cut pollution by about 580 million pounds in fiscal 2009, down from 3.9 billion pounds in fiscal 2008, according to the report.
–The Wall Street Journal

Obama adviser defends climate science
The disclosure of research “missteps” hasn’t shaken the consensus that manmade emissions from burning fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, President Barack Obama’s top science adviser said.

 The release of scientists’ e-mails and errors in a report by a United Nations climate panel show researchers are human, John Holdren said at an energy conference in Washington’s Maryland suburbs.

The errors don’t alter the reality that carbon dioxide emissions are warming the earth, he said. 

Opponents of limits on emissions from burning coal and oil have seized on the miscues to challenge Obama’s plan to put a price on gases that cause global warming. Climate-change legislation has stalled in the Senate and more than 80 lawmakers are seeking to curb the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new greenhouse-gas limits. 

“Fossil-fuel and biomass burning, and land-use change are almost certainly responsible for a large part of the changes that are being observed,” Holdren said. “Nothing in the recent controversies cast doubt on any of those fundamental propositions.”
–bloomberg.com 

Take time to test your well
National Ground Water Awareness Week, sponsored annually by the National Ground Water Association, is March 7-13.

The majority of public water systems in the United States use groundwater as their primary source to provide drinking water to an estimated 90 million persons. An additional 15 million U.S. homes use private wells, which also rely on groundwater.

 Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that their well water is safe from harmful groundwater contaminants. These contaminants can occur naturally, but are usually the result of local land use practices (e.g., fertilizer and pesticide use), manufacturing processes, and leakage from nearby septic systems. The presence of contaminants in drinking water can lead to illness, disease, and other health problems.

NGWA uses this week to stress the importance of yearly water testing and well maintenance (4). Private well owners can take simple steps to reduce well water contamination risks. These precautions include ensuring that the well is located away from potential contamination sources (e.g., septic and waste-water systems, animal enclosures, and chemical storage areas) and conducting an annual maintenance check of the well.

 Additional information about Ground Water Awareness Week, well maintenance, water testing, and well water treatment is available from the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/index.html, from the Environmental Protection Agency at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/whatyoucando.html  and from NGWA at http://www.wellowner.org.
–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

 World Bank warns of groundwater crisis in India
About 60 per cent of aquifers in India will be in a critical condition in another 15 years if the trend of indiscriminate exploitation of ground water continues, the World Bank has said in a report.

 In its latest report on the country’s ground water level, the bank has expressed concern over the rate of depletion of water table in the country and has called for immediate corrective measures.

Around 29 per cent of ground water blocks in the country are semi-critical, critical or overexploited and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. By 2025, an estimated 60 per cent of ground water blocks will be in a critical condition. Climate change will further strain ground water resources, the report said.

India is the largest user of ground water in the world, with an estimated use of 230 cubic km of ground water every year––more than a quarter of the global level. Now,  ground water supports around 60 per cent of irrigated agriculture and more than 80 per cent of rural and urban water supplies.

“Out of a total of 5,723 ground water blocks in the country, 1,615 are classified as semi-critical, critical or overexploited, and regulatory directives have been issued by the Central Ground Water Authority for 108 blocks.  However, neither the authority nor the state ground water agencies have the resources or the personnel to oversee the enforcement of these regulations.”
The Deccan Herald

 Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration
Who has the right to bodies of water, in our state, our country, our world? What are the issues involved in making water available to us? How does gender affect the right to water?

These are just some of the questions a group of women began asking a couple of years ago. Their inquiry has blossomed into a project called Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration, which includes a visual arts exhibit, with music, dance and poetry performances, a two-day symposium and multiple lectures.

“Bringing awareness, gathering unity and encouraging legislation about the global fresh water crisis-and the part that women play” is what all of this activity is about, said Liz Dodson, board member on the Women’s Caucus for Art and coordinator of the project. “We can see [the crisis] especially in Africa, where women are the ones who need to gather fresh water for their families. Here, in Minnesota, it’s about women being part of water management efforts.”

The month-long WWR project began on Feb. 26 at a reception at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. At the center of the WWR project is the exhibit of work by around 50 women artists from Minnesota and around the world. Displayed in the Nash Gallery of the Regis Center for Art, their artwork is inspired by the symbolism and deep meaning of water.

Throughout the month of March, events will be held to challenge people to think analytically and emotionally about global and local water rights.
–Minnesota Women’s Press

Methane being released undersea
Climate scientists have long warned that global warming could unlock vast stores of the greenhouse gas methane that are frozen into the Arctic permafrost, setting off potentially significant increases in global warming.

Now researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and elsewhere say this change is under way in a little-studied area under the sea, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, west of the Bering Strait.

Natalia Shakhova, a scientist at the university and a leader of the study, said it was too soon to say whether the findings suggest that a dangerous release of methane looms.
–The New York Times

 Wind turbines in Lake Michigan?
Halfway up Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, wooded bluffs rise next to dunes, ice-fringed winter beaches, and steel-gray water stretching as far as the eye can see.

 Pentwater, a resort town whose year-round residents number fewer than 1,000, sits in the middle of some of the most prized lakefront in the region. So when a Norwegian-American company recently proposed putting up as many as 200 wind turbines in the water, many residents were appalled.

 “People are very up in arms about this,” says Juanita Pierman, Pentwater’s village president. “We still need to find alternative forms of energy, but I’m not sure putting windmills two or three miles out in the lake is going to do it.
–The Christian Science Monitor

 E.U. eases resistance to genetic modification
The European Commission began a new push to allow farmers in Europe to grow more biotech crops, clearing a genetically modified potato for cultivation despite persistent public opposition to the technology.

 In the first such decision in more than a decade, the commission approved the Amflora potato produced by the German company BASF for cultivation inside the 27-country European Union. John Dalli, the bloc’s health commissioner, said the potatoes could be planted in Europe, with some conditions, as soon as next month.

 The potato is engineered to be unusually rich in a starch suitable for making glossy paper and other products, as well as for feeding animals.

 Currently the only other biotech crop grown in Europe is a type of corn produced by Monsanto, which was approved in 1998.
–The New York Times

 USDA seeks water quality proposals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking project proposals that will improve water quality and the overall health of the Mississippi River in 41 eligible watersheds in 12 states.

The Request for Proposals  for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, through which up to $75 million will be available for partnership projects, was published in the Federal Register.Proposals are due by May 1. The RFP explains the procedures for potential partners to sign agreements with USDA for projects that meet with the initiative’s objectives. 

In Minnesota, three watersheds are eligible to participate: the Root, Middle Minnesota and Sauk. 

For more information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including the RFP and the eligible watersheds, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi.html.
–USDA news release

Oil slicks, estrogen in the water, and rooftop farming

June 8, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Estrogen linked to fish kills, study suggests
Exposure to estrogen puts fish at greater risk of disease and premature death, according to a new federal study.

The U.S. Geological Survey study showed that estrogen exposure reduces a fish’s ability to produce proteins that help it ward off disease and pointed to a possible link between the occurrence of intersex fish and recent fish kills in the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

The report, published in the current issue of Fish & Shellfish Immunology, adds to a growing body of research pointing to problems with estrogen in the nation’s waterways.
–The New York Times

DNR investigates reported fishkill
A reported die-off of sturgeon in the Mississippi River south of Prescott, Wis., prompted an inconclusive search by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff.

DNR area fisheries supervisor Kevin Stauffer said a three-hour search by fisheries staff didn’t reveal any dead sturgeon in Pool 3, the stretch of river between Hastings and Red Wing.

Anglers reported the fishkill to the DNR, saying they had seen dead fish last weekend and the previous week.

Greg Schorn of Newport said he and another angler had seen 50 to 100 dead sturgeon, as well as several other dead species, while they were fishing Pool 3.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Oil slick covers 80 miles of Mississippi River
Crews continued to work overnight Wednesday to corral a huge oil spill on the Mississippi River that now stretches more than 80 miles below New Orleans and threatens the fragile delta ecosystem. Government officials, meanwhile, are scrambling to bolster water supplies downriver from the spill and some anticipate possibly having to truck in water.

More than 400,000 gallons of thick industrial fuel oil spilled just upriver from the Crescent City Connection in the collision early Wednesday morning between a tanker and a barge being pulled by a tugboat. The oil spill, the largest on the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area in nearly a decade, halted shipping traffic on one of the nation’s busiest waterways.

The Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, has released few details, but confirmed that none of the tugboat’s crew had the proper licenses to operate on the river. Neither the tug operator’s name nor the name of the river pilot aboard the tanker has been released.
–NOLA.com

Vermont cows do their thing to curb global warming
Chewing her cud on a recent sunny morning, Libby, a 1,400-pound Holstein, paused to do her part in the battle against global warming, emitting a fragrant burp.

Libby, age 6, and the 74 other dairy cows on Guy Choiniere’s farm here are at the heart of an experiment to determine whether a change in diet will help them belch less methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that has been linked to climate change.

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.
–The New York Times

New mining development in northern Minnesota poses environmental risk
The fears about copper-nickel mining start with sulfuric rock the metals are found in. When exposed to the air, these rocks can leech caustic pollutants like acid and metals.

Just west of Duluth, the St. Louis River spills through rocky channels on a final plunge to Lake Superior. Retired biology teacher Len Anderson said, not only is this area beautiful, it’s key for the Lake Superior fishery.

“It also is the nursery for many of the fish that inhabit Lake Superior,” Anderson said. “You know, over 100 river miles away from PolyMet, but this is where, I believe, the critical issue is going to come to a head.”

The issue, he said, is methyl mercury – mercury in a form that can harm fish as well as the people and animals that eat the fish.
–Minnesota Public Radio News

L.A. restricts lawn sprinkling to two days a week
It’s now illegal to water lawns in the nation’s second-largest city except on Mondays and Thursdays as Southern California deals with the effects of drought and regulatory restrictions on its distant water supplies.

The city is facing its third consecutive year of water supply shortages, according to the city Department of Water and Power, and the new sprinkler ordinance is accompanied by a pocketbook incentive for conservation.

The amount of water customers can purchase at the lowest price, known as Tier 1, will now be reduced by 15 percent. Customers who do not achieve a 15 percent reduction in usage will be charged at a higher rate for every gallon above their Tier 1 allotment.
–The Associated Press

A rooftop garden grows in Milwaukee
A year ago, Erik Lindberg rented a boom lift with a bucket and hoisted 15 cubic yards of dirt to the roof of his north side remodeling business. In the process, he planted himself firmly in the middle of a growing urban agriculture movement.

Lindberg, owner of Community Building & Restoration, turned to rooftop gardening in the belief that his actions might encourage people to grow their own food or buy locally grown produce.

And by selling the vegetables he grows to subscribers and a nearby Outpost Natural Foods store, he may have become Milwaukee’s first commercial rooftop farmer.

“It’s an experiment,” said Lindberg, 42. “Can you develop a business plan out of something like this? The answer is, I don’t know yet.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Three-quarters of Texas county homes at risk from climate change
A new study suggests more than 100,000 households will be displaced and more than $12 billion infrastructure losses suffered as a result of climate change raising the sea level in the Galveston area over the next 100 years.

The finding comes three days after a Texas A&M University study found that Corpus Christi’s infrastructure will also be affected by climate change.

“The Socio-Economic Impact of Sea Level Rise in the Galveston Bay Region,” commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the British Consulate-General Houston, estimates that 78 percent of households will be displaced in Galveston County. A more aggressive sea level rise could displace 93 percent of households, according to the study.
–Houston Business Journal

Federal charges filed in Louisiana wastewater case
Louisiana Land and Water Co. owner Jeff Pruett was arrested by federal marshals after being indicted on 17 felony counts of violating federal pollution laws.

Pruett is president and chief executive officer of Louisiana Land & Water Co., the principal officer of LWC Management Co. and operates more than 30 water and wastewater treatment systems in northeastern Louisiana.

The charges involve violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act — commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act — at more than a half-dozen of the systems owned or operated by Pruett.
–The News Star

Invasive species legislation runs into a roadblock: pet owners
Water managers dispatched two experts to Washington recently to back a bill targeting an Everglades problem that seems to get bigger every year. The latest, largest evidence emerged in mid-May: a Burmese python stretching 16½ feet.

It is the longest yet of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the exotic constrictors the South Florida Water Management District has pulled off its lands and levees in the past few years. More sobering: The female was pregnant, carrying a clutch of 59 eggs — more proof the giant snakes are breeding in the wild.

“These are not little snakes running around. These are massive, dangerous animals,” said district spokesman Randy Smith.
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.S. restricts California water use to protect salmon
Federal regulators levied sweeping new rules on Delta water deliveries to prevent the thirst of California’s farms and cities from rendering extinct several salmon runs, steelhead, green sturgeon and a Pacific Northwest population of killer whales.

The suite of regulations would ensure more cold water is available for spawning fish, and that water operators make it easier for fish to swim from upstream spawning grounds through San Francisco Bay and back again.

The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the new regulations would cut water supplies from the Delta beginning next year by about 5 percent to 7 percent, or roughly 330,000 acre-feet a year, enough water for a city of about 2 million people. Most of the water loss is due to measures to help steelhead migrate down the San Joaquin River, officials said.

The hit to Delta water supplies comes on top of rules put in place in December to prevent Delta pumps from driving another fish, Delta smelt, to extinction.
–San Jose Mercury News

Lawmakers seek restrictions on oil drilling tactic
U.S. lawmakers expect to introduce legislation that would reverse a Bush era law exempting a controversial drilling practice from federal oversight, possibly driving up costs and curtailing the development of vast amounts of unconventional energy.

Democratic Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York plan a bill that would repeal a measure in a 2005 law that excluded the method of hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“This is a very serious issue. If it is not addressed, large numbers of people are very likely to suffer,” Hinchey told Reuters. “Their water will be contaminated. Their houses will no longer be livable.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” injects a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas. The practice is used to stimulate production in old wells, but is now also used to tap oil and gas trapped in shale beds across North America.
–Reuters

Wisconsin ballast water rules delayed
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank says shipping industry concerns about technology are holding up a state plan to make oceangoing Great Lakes ships clean-up their ballast water.

Fishing groups and environmentalists are urging the DNR to finish work on a proposed permit plan aimed at stopping ships with contaminated ballast water from using Wisconsin ports. The Great Lakes ships that come from other nations are thought to bring in invasive species.  Frank says his agency still plans to move ahead with the  permit. But he says some shipping companies say the clean-up technology isn’t quite ready.

Frank says he’s pleased that New York’s ballast water rules were recently upheld, but adds the best thing would be if the federal government passed tougher ballast water requirements. He says the DNR will make a decision sometime this year.
–Wisconsin Public Radio

China reports water pollution reduction
China cut its water pollution and emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide last year as it stepped up efforts to make its economic growth cleaner, state media said.

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, dropped by 4.42 percent in 2008 from a year earlier, while sulphur dioxide emissions were down 5.95 percent, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China has promised to cut the two key pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010, and is also looking to reduce its energy intensity, or the amount of energy used to create each unit of gross domestic product.
–Reuters

Vacant homes pose mosquito risk
Neglected and foreclosed, abandoned homes add one more obstacle to control mosquitoes, said Clark County Health Department official Doug Bentfield.



Though numbers are sporadic, the number of abandoned properties that need to be sprayed with chemicals to kill the bug’s larvae have increased, he said.



“This is costing the county money,” Bentfield said.



Most problems arise when owners leave items that collect water outside such as pools, bird baths and old tires. Even the children’s pools become a breeding ground for the mosquitoes if neglected.
–The News and Tribune

IBM researching better arsenic filter
Many people in the world lack access to clean drinking water. In places including Bangladesh, millions must drink water containing arsenic, which can cause neurological problems, organ failure, and death. Making robust water filters that can remove salt and arsenic without requiring a lot of energy has been a challenge. Researchers at IBM are developing a material used to make computer chips for more-efficient removal of salt and toxic chemicals from drinking water.

Polymer-membrane water filters have been in use since the 1970s “with no big materials innovation in a long time,” says Robert Allen, senior manager of chemistry at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, in San Jose, CA. There are problems with traditional membrane filters. The chlorine used to kill pathogens in water degrades them. They’re susceptible to fouling, or clogging up, when the water forced through them in a desalination process called reverse osmosis contains oil or proteins.

The IBM researchers have made a new membrane material that resists these problems while also screening out arsenic.
–MIT Technology Review

Ethanol, PFCs, smelt, a mud volcano — and more

December 22, 2008

Every week the Freshwater Society publishes In the News, a digest of regional, national and international news articles and other reports about water, water pollution, water conservation and the environment.

Click on the links below to read the original sources excerpted in the digest.

Oceans getting more acidic, study says
Parts of the world’s oceans appear to be acidifying far faster than scientists have expected.

The culprit: rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pumped into the air from cars, power plants, and industries.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Judge finds no proof PFCs harmed anyone
Did pollution by the 3M Co. hurt anyone?

Not for purposes of a lawsuit against the company, a Washington County judge has ruled.
–St. Paul Pioneer Press

Ballast water rule set to go into effect
Commercial ships must dump ballast water at sea or rinse their tanks if empty under a new federal policy designed to prevent invasive foreign species from entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters.

The Environmental Protection Agency included the requirement in a general permit issued under a court order requiring it to regulate water discharges from ships to protect native ecosystems.
–The Associated Press

Mining, drilling threaten Colorado River
The Colorado River has endured drought, large-scale climate changes, pollution, ecological damage from dams and battles by seven states to draw more water.

Now the life vein of the Southwest faces another threat: Energy companies are sucking up the Colorado’s water to support increased development of oil, natural gas and uranium deposits along the river’s basin. The mining and drilling will likely send more toxins into the waterway, which provides drinking water for one out of 12 Americans and nourishes 15 percent of the nation’s crops along its journey from Wyoming and Colorado to Mexico.
–San Diego Union-Tribune

Drillers hit molten rock in Hawaii
A geothermal power company drilling a mile and a half deep on one of the Hawaiian Islands has for the first time encountered an undisturbed chamber of magma, or molten rock, scientists reported.

Before the discovery, which was made in 2005, the only access to magma had been on Earth’s surface — in the form of lava from volcanoes.
–The Washington Post

USGS assesses chances for ‘abrupt’ climate change
The United States faces the potential for abrupt climate change in the 21st century that could pose clear risks to society in terms of our ability to adapt.

The new assessment was prepared by a team of climate scientists from the federal government and academia. The report was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program with contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.
–USGS News Release

Greenhouse gas rules could apply to farmers
It’s not on the books yet, but farmers in Minnesota are worried about a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would allow the government to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act — and cost farmers big bucks.

In Washington parlance, the agency has issued an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” on its ability to police emissions — an early warning shot demonstrating the government’s intent to impose a new regulation. The document is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that dealt with a petition to regulate vehicle emissions, and essentially requires the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases endanger public health.
–minnpost.com

Eyota ethanol plan put on hold
The controversial ethanol plant planned for tiny Eyota, near Rochester in southeastern Minnesota, has been put on indefinite hold with developers of the proposed 55-million gallon plant citing low investor interest and high startup costs.

“Uncertain economic times and dramatic fluctuations in commodity prices have dampened the public’s investing appetite,” said MinnErgy President Ron Scherbring in a press release filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. MinnErgy has been working since last May to raise $133 million to advance plant construction.
–minnpost.com

NASA documents decline in arctic ice
More than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003, according to new NASA satellite data that show the latest signs of what scientists say is global warming.

More than half of the loss of landlocked ice in the past five years has occurred in Greenland, based on measurements of ice weight by NASA’s GRACE satellite, said NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke. The water melting from Greenland in the past five years would fill up about 11 Chesapeake Bays, he said, and the Greenland melt seems to be accelerating.
–Discovery.com

Florida agency approves Everglades deal
Water managers narrowly approved a $1.34 billion deal to buy a sprawling swath of sugar fields — a landmark purchase with promise to dramatically reshape Everglades restoration and surrounding farming communities.

A deeply divided South Florida Water Management District’s governing board voted 4-3 to accept the controversial deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp., supporting Gov. Charlie Crist’s appeal to seize a “historic opportunity.”
–The Miami Herald

FDA to continue studying ingredient in plastic
The Food and Drug Administration, criticized by its own scientific advisers for ignoring available data about health risks posed by a chemical found in everyday plastic, said it has no plans to amend its position on the substance but will continue to study it.

The agency has been reviewing its risk assessments for bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in a wide variety of products, from baby bottles to compact discs to the lining of canned goods. The chemical, commonly called BPA, mimics estrogen and may disrupt the body’s carefully calibrated endocrine system.
–The Washington Post

California water diversion slashed to help smelt
Federal biologists issued new rules that will reduce the amount of water pumped to cities and farms from San Francisco Bay’s delta by as much as one-third in some years — part of a court-ordered effort to save a two-inch, silvery fish from extinction.

The long-awaited “biological opinion” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could have a significant impact on Silicon Valley, which receives roughly half of its drinking water from the delta and the other half from local underground aquifers.
–San Jose Mercury News

EPA lauds Orange County water re-use
The Orange County Water District is being awarded the prestigious Water Efficiency Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of the district’s leadership in wastewater purification for groundwater replenishment.

The southern California district supplies water to more than 20 cities and water agencies, serving more than 2.3 million Orange County residents. Since 1933, the agency has replenished and maintained the groundwater basin at safe levels while more than doubling the basin’s annual yield. This important source of water provides local groundwater producers with a reliable supply of high-quality water.
–EPA News Release

Drilling spawns mud volcano in Indonesia
Her children insist, so every week or two Lilik Kamina takes them back to their abandoned village to look at the mud.

“Hey, Mom, there’s our house, there’s the mango tree,” she said they shout. But there is nothing to see, only an ocean of mud that has buried this village and a dozen more over the past two-and-a-half years.
–The New York Times

Opinion: Go slow on genetically modified crops
As the Bush administration nears its final weeks, officials are hastily loosening key rules in workplace safety, environmental protection — and soon, perhaps, on American farmlands. This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began finalizing its oversight rules for genetically modified crops: artificial plant strains with the potential for doing humans great good — and serious long-term harm.

The USDA needs to resist any industry pressure to rush these new rules into effect.
–Houston Chronicle

EPA seeks comment on Indiana injection wells
Duke Energy Indiana of Plainfield, Ind., has applied for federal permits to construct eight underground injection wells at its plant just south of Edwardsport, Ind. EPA has determined the disposal wells do not pose a threat to underground sources of drinking water and proposes to approve the permits. EPA asks the public to comment on them by Jan. 15, 2009.

The draft permit is available for review at Bicknell-Vigo Township Public Library, 201 W. Second St. or online at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/uic/uicpub.htm.
–EPA News Release


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.