Posts Tagged ‘frogs’

Minnesota and Mississippi river plans

February 27, 2012

The Freshwater Society blog 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.

Public comments sought on two major TMDLs
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is taking public comment on two long-awaited reports on sediment pollution in the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers.

Public comment period began Feb. 27 and runs through April 27 for draft Total Maximum Daily Load studies on the Minnesota River and on the Mississippi, from its confluence with the Minnesota at Fort Snelling to Lake Pepin. The studies attempt to calculate the amount of pollution the rivers can sustain and still meet water-quality standards.

Sediment – much of it from bluffs collapsing into the Minnesota and its tributaries, from erosion in deep ravines and from runoff from farm fields – currently sends about 700,000 metric tons of sediment down the Mississippi each year. Three-quarters of the total comes from the Minnesota. The reports call for 50 percent to 60 percent reductions in the sediment flowing from the Minnesota.

Both reports are available on the MPCA web site. Comments on the draft Minnesota River Turbidity TMDL may be sent to Larry Gunderson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., Saint Paul, MN 55155. For more information, contact Gunderson at larry.gunderson@state.mn.us or  651-757-2400. Comments on the South Metro Mississippi Total Suspended Solids TMDL may be sent to Robert Finley, MPCA, 12 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 2165, Mankato, MN 56001. Contact Finley at Robert.finley@state.mn.us or 507-344-5247.

Three big events this week and next month
You can still register to take part in three important events:

  •  A lecture Thursday, March 1, by Mindy Lubber, an international leader in efforts by investors to pressure corporations to become more sustainable in the water they use and the carbon they emit. The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences.
  • A Watershed Solutions Summit sponsored March 17 by the Minnesota division of the Izaak Walton League. The event will include discussions of the Great Lakes Water Compact and the 2012 federal Farm Bill.
  •   A conference March 29 on precision conservation. The conference, sponsored by the Freshwater Society, will examine technology and decision-making strategies for targeting conservation practices to places on the land where runoff, erosion and pollution are disproportionately bad and the potential for improvement is disproportionately great.

Groundwater pumping depletes White Bear Lake
New research from the U.S. Geological Survey shows White Bear Lake water levels are falling because communities north of the lake are pumping too much water from an aquifer connected to the big lake.

The water level at White Bear Lake has dropped five feet in the last decade.

Dry weather accounts for just a small part of the drop, said USGS hydrologist Perry Jones. Jones said growth in suburbs north of the lake has led to greater demand on the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer. When the aquifer depletes, lake water trickles from higher elevation to replenish it.

“There was probably always some water from White Bear Lake leaving and going down into the lower aquifers,” Jones said. “But what’s happened is that by increasing the amount of pumping, you actually lower the water levels in that lower aquifer, so it exacerbates the amount of water leaving the lake.”
–Minnesota Public Radio

Take a carp to lunch 
Don’t forget to observe this week – Feb. 26 through March 3 – as National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Minnesota moose herd continues decline
 Minnesota’s moose population continues to decline, dropping from an estimate of 4,900 in 2011 to 4,230 in 2012, according to the annual aerial survey by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Estimates from the survey and results from research using radio-collared moose both indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader. Minnesota’s moose population was estimated at 8,840 in 2006 and has trended downward since then.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 119 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Only 11 deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.

This year’s aerial survey, however, showed some positive trends. The number of cows accompanied by calves and twin calves increased in 2012, which means more calves can potentially mature into adults. But the cow and calf ratio,estimated at 36 calves per 100 cows in 2012, remains well below 1990s estimates that likely contribute to a peak population in the early 2000s.
–DNR News Release

Texas court says landowners own groundwater 
In a ruling with possible wide-ranging effects on water regulation, the Texas Supreme Court sided with two Von Ormy landowners who objected to the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s power to limit the pumping of groundwater on their ranch.

“The water underneath your property belongs to you,” Joel McDaniel, who brought the lawsuit more than 10 years ago, said about the ruling. “This changes everything for everyone who owns a well.”

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Nathan Hecht, the court ruled ownership of groundwater should be considered no differently than that of oil and gas. “We held long ago that oil and gas are owned in place, and we find no reason to treat groundwater differently,” Hecht wrote.

While ownership rights are the same, regulation of water should not be, the court found. “Unquestionably, the state is empowered to regulate groundwater production,” the opinion states. “In many areas of the state, and certainly in the Edwards Aquifer, demand exceeds supply.”
–The Houston Chronicle

Research: Farmers support conservation
A new research paper finds that most farmers support the long-standing conservation compact that has helped protect the rich soil and clean water that sustain food, farming and public health.

Conservation Compliance: A Retrospective…and Look Ahead by conservationist Max Schnepf concludes through a comprehensive review of public opinion polls that the farming community has consistently supported the historic deal between taxpayers and farmers that was struck in the 1985 farm bill. Under it, growers agreed to keep soil from washing away and chemicals out of waterways in return for generous taxpayer support.

Seven polls taken in the last 30 years show that a solid majority of farmers believe that bargain is a fair one.

“The conservation compact was a godsend for agricultural and conservation groups and farmers,” Schnepf writes. “In the 10 years following the 1985 farm bill, farmers did more to curb soil erosion than at any time since the infamous Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.”   Schnepf notes that Environmental Working Group’s 2011 report, Losing Ground, found that high prices, intense competition for farmland leases and ethanol mandates have put unprecedented pressure on land and water. As a result, the historic gains in soil conservation the compact achieved are being lost.
–Environmental Working Group News Release

DNR seeks frog counters
logo of frog and toad surveyThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program is looking for volunteers to participate in its ongoing Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey. The survey is part of the nationwide North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.

“Without the dedication of generous volunteers, this project would not be possible,” explained Rich Baker of the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program. “Many frog and toad species are indicators of habitat quality and provide valuable information on the condition of Minnesota’s wetlands.”

New volunteers receive a kit that includes a CD of calls by Minnesota’s frog and toad species, a poster of Minnesota’s frogs and toads, a map of a predefined route in an area of their choice. Route availability and past survey results are on the DNR web site, as are directions on how to run the route. A vehicle is required to travel between stops. Read a 2009 Freshwater article on the frog survey. –DNR News Release

Iowa measuring groundwater reserves 
Iowa may have trouble coming up with enough water to fill taps and meet industrial needs in coming decades. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is worried that underground water supplies in some areas might not be able to quench the future thirst created by urban sprawl and the state’s growing biofuels industry.

Geologists already wonder if the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area, one of the fastest growing parts of the state, will have enough water to go around decades from now. That’s especially true of Marion, which may have to find new sources or pipe in water from another system, said state geologist Robert Libra.

Those concerns are emerging from the DNR’s four-year-old effort to inventory and measure how much water remains in Iowa’s network of aquifers. It’s the first large-scale effort of its kind, and one that some say is long overdue.
–The Des Moines Register

Feds reject Colorado water pipeline
Conservationists are casting a project to pipe water from Wyoming to Colorado as dead after federal authorities nixed an entrepreneur’s pitch for a preliminary permit.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a zombie. It’s just staggering around looking for anything to latch onto to keep it alive,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a Western Resources Advocates energy policy analyst.

But entrepreneur Aaron Million said he’s undaunted and soliciting bids after investing millions in planning the pipeline. He’ll submit new engineering and pipeline details within two weeks.

And Parker water manager Frank Jaeger is moving ahead with a rival project to divert water from Wyoming. Jaeger said he has 19 water utilities committed — mostly in southern suburbs dependent on depleted underground aquifers.
–The Denver Post

 Environmentalists rip ballast rule 
Ships entering the Great Lakes should be made to kill all the creatures that hitch a ride in their ballast tanks, environmental groups said, challenging as too lax a proposed government standard to combat invasive species.

Zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, round gobies and other invaders brought into the lakes in ships’ ballast water have damaged the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishery and allowed algae – some that produce toxins that foul the world’s largest body of fresh surface water – to flourish.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame put the annual cost of dealing with invasive species such as clearing mussels from clogged water intakes at $200 million. The mussels and other invaders have filtered out plankton at the base of the food web, hurting lake fish species and allowing more sunlight to fuel algae growth.

Environmental groups said they may go to court for a fourth time since the 1990s to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tighten its restrictions on ballast discharge.
–Reuters

Mixed ruling on Florida water standards 
A federal judge has upheld a 2009 formal determination by the Environmental Protection Agency that numeric nutrient standards are necessary for Florida’s waters, but invalidated certain aspects of the water quality criteria the agency developed.

Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in a mixed decision Feb. 18 said EPA was correct in determining that standards were needed. Hinkle upheld the criteria for lakes and springs, but invalidated the criteria for streams, saying they were arbitrary and capricious.

Moreover, he upheld the decision to adopt downstream protection criteria and upheld some, but not all, of the criteria EPA set.

The judge also backed the EPA administrator’s decision to allow site-specific alternative criteria and the procedures for adopting them. He also upheld a March 6 deadline, or an extended date approved by the court, for the validated portion of the rulemaking. –Bloomberg

Soybeans, a river on fire and zebra mussels

April 13, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts links to some of the best regional, national and international coverage of water and the environment. Follow the links to the publications where the articles originally appeared, and let us know your reaction to the research and policy issues they report.

Soybean farmers object to river research
What started as a $600,000 project to improve water quality in rural Minnesota is in jeopardy after soybean growers protested, causing funders to reconsider and send the money to more cooperative states.

The controversy centers around a $5 million initiative that Monsanto Co., which produces seeds and herbicide, announced last December in an attempt to reduce fertilizer runoff and sediment in the Mississippi River. It planned to work with farmers and conservation groups to measure whether different methods of fertilizing, tilling, and filtering runoff improved stream water quality or affected crop yields.

But now the Nature Conservancy, which is overseeing the studies, says objections by the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association have made it likely that at least $125,000 of the three-year grant destined for southeastern Minnesota will be diverted to similar projects in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin — where soybean farmers have not objected.
–The Star Tribune

Environmental Education Week set
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has declared the week of April 12 – 18, 2009, as Environmental Education Week.

The state designation coincides with the National Environmental Education Foundation’s efforts to increase the educational impact of Earth Day by creating a full week of educational preparation, learning and activities in K-12 classrooms, nature centers, zoos, museums and aquariums. National Environmental Education Week is the largest organized environmental education event in the United States.

In support of Environmental Education Week’s 2009 theme, “Be Water Wise!,” more than 2,000 partner organizations around the country will participate with a week’s worth of environmentally-themed lessons, field trips and special events.

For more information about Environmental Education Week programming around the country, visit www.eeweek.org.
–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Environmentalism caught fire from the Cuyahoga
Environmentalists observing 2009 as “The Year of the River” are celebrating the remarkable return to health of the Cuyahoga River over the last four decades.

But before there was a Cuyahoga comeback, the Cuyahoga was a catalyst.

When the oily, murky and sluggish waterway caught fire in June 1969, it not only caught the attention of a previously indifferent industrial nation — it also ignited an already smoldering ecological movement.
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Zebra mussel shells found in Prior Lake
Empty zebra mussel shells have been discovered in Prior Lake, prompting state officials to ask boaters and anglers using the popular southwest metro lake to take extra precautions.

A homeowner recently found about a dozen empty shells of the invasive mussel along the southeastern shore of lower Prior Lake, the Department of Natural Resources said.

Officials, however, aren’t certain whether the shells came from live mussels in the lake or were brought there on equipment and fell off. The DNR said its staff soon will search the lake for more of them. If any are found, it said, the lake will be designated as infested.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Research challenges biological maxim
Scientists have produced strong new evidence challenging one of the most fundamental assumptions in biology: that female mammals, including women, are born with all the eggs they will ever have.

In a provocative set of experiments involving mice, Chinese researchers have shown for the first time that an adult mammal can harbor primitive cells in her ovaries that can become new eggs and produce healthy offspring, they reported yesterday.

While much more research is needed to confirm and explore the findings, the work raises the tantalizing possibility that it could someday lead to new ways to fight a woman’s biological clock, perhaps by stockpiling her egg-producing cells or by stimulating them to make eggs again.
–The Washington Post

Drought lowers White Bear Lake
Gary Christenson’s dock stretches for 340 feet.

It’s still a few yards shy of getting wet in White Bear Lake.

“We think the dock will be 600 feet this year,” said the geologist, who lives on the lake’s northwest shore. “Six hundred feet – then I give up. Then I quit.”

Christenson’s dock is an extreme example of what a long, mild drought, combined with White Bear’s small watershed, has done to the east metro’s largest body of water.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

PBS to air ‘Poisoned Waters’ documentary
Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency chief for the Obama Administration, asserted at a forum for the PBS Frontline documentary “Poisoned Waters” that new legislation is needed to strengthen the EPA’s authority to control pollution and protect local rivers, streams and wetlands across America.

Jackson, speaking at the National Press Club, said that court decisions had left “murkiness” about the EPA’s authority to enforce some mandates of the Clean Water Act. She said EPA would seek new legislation to “clarify” its authority to take action on smaller waterways.

The two-hour documentary, to be aired on PBS on April 21, shows sobering evidence of America’s failure over the past 35 years to contain water contamination from agricultural waste, stormwater run-off, and now, a new wave of chemicals, known as endocrine disrupters, most of which have no safety standard set by the EPA. The danger to human health from these chemicals in the environment and in drinking water systems was underscored Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
–PR News Wire

Invasive ash borers found near Minnesota border
Minnesota inspectors are poring over the southeastern tip of the state for signs of emerald ash borers, an invasive beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in 10 other states.

An infestation of the small, metallic-green beetle was discovered near the Wisconsin town of Victory along the Mississippi River, only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Iowa border and 20 miles south of La Crosse, Wis. It was the first appearance in western Wisconsin.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Proposed 30,000-cow feedlot raises water worries
Scott Collins’ family has been farming in arid eastern Washington since his great grandfather first homesteaded the 1,500-acre, dry-land wheat farm more than a century ago.

But the 58-year-old Collins fears he may be the last of four generations on the farm.

That is because the groundwater he and his family depend on could be in jeopardy if a proposed cattle feedlot and other industrial-sized projects like it are built in his rural Franklin County.
–The New York Times

ADM plans to bury C02 deep underground
The drillers have gnawed through a mile of rock here, almost down to a 600-million-year-old layer of sandstone where they hope to bury about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — equal to the annual emissions of 220,000 automobiles.

The $84-million project, of which $66.7 million comes from the Energy Department, will help determine whether storing greenhouse gases underground, so-called sequestration, is a viable solution for global warming.

The project by Archer Daniels Midland Co., in which greenhouses gases from a corn mill will be buried beneath shale, is important because it’s the furthest along of the seven federally sponsored partnerships nationwide to study the matter.
–The Los Angeles Times

Assault planned on invasive pondweed
When common carp were purposely introduced to Minnesota lakes sometime before 1900, they apparently brought along another visitor that today is just as reviled as the big rough fish: a water plant called curly-leaf pondweed.

A century after the aggressive pondweed was discovered in state waters, agencies from cities to watershed districts to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have declared war on the invader. Now, the results of contrasting eradication efforts in three conjoined lakes in Eden Prairie and Bloomington could help shape future efforts to contain curly-leaf pondweed.

Near the end of this month or early in May, herbicide will be applied to Southeast Anderson Lake in Bloomington in the first of four annual chemical treatments to kill pondweed.
–The Star Tribune

Texas report calls for linking energy and water
A joint report from the University of Texas and an environmental group urges state planners to conserve both water and energy.

The report released Monday claims that improving water conservation will cut power demand and that upgrades in energy efficiency will decrease water needs, allowing Texas to utilize “finite supplies of both” and cut consumers’ costs.

One recommendation in the report, which the Environmental Defense Fund helped prepare, requires studies to determine how much water is available for use at new fossil-fueled or concentrated solar power plants.
–The Associated Press

Oregon Zoo tries to restore native frogs
The small, elegantly colored frogs raised in a humid backroom at the Oregon Zoo have already defied the odds. Now, they will try to defy a grim fate.

About 120 rare Oregon spotted frogs, raised from eggs and overwintered to grow as large as possible, will be released into a wetland near Olympia. If they survive, the frogs could be the first wave in restoration of threatened native frogs that have been losing their battles for survival.

Once common from southwest British Columbia to northwest California, rana pretiosa — precious frog — has been decimated by habitat loss and invasive species such as the American bullfrog. But a partnership of scientists, state officials and zoos hopes to counter the dismaying trend.

A year ago, biologists gathered portions of the frogs’ gelatinous egg masses from Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Mount Adams in Washington state and delivered them to the Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Wash., for rearing.
–The Portland Oregonian

Antarctica glaciers lose huge chunks of ice shelves
Antarctica’s glaciers are melting more rapidly than previously known because of climate change, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report prepared in close collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey.

The USGS study documents for the first time that one ice shelf has completely disappeared and another has lost a chunk three times the size of Rhode Island.  This research is part of a larger ongoing project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline.

“This study provides the first insight into the extent of Antarctica’s coastal and glacier change,” Salazar noted.  “The rapid retreat of glaciers there demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing-more rapidly than previously known– as a consequence of climate change.  The scientific work of USGS, which is investigating the impacts of climate change around the world, including an ongoing examination of glaciers, is a critical foundation of the Administration’s commitment to combat climate change.”

The USGS study focuses on Antarctica, which is the earth’s largest reservoir of glacial ice. In a separate study published in today’s Geophysical Letters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that ice is melting much more rapidly than expected in the Arctic as well, based on new computer analyses and recent ice measurements.
–U.S. Geological Survey

Pollution concerns, frog calls and smuggled dish soap

March 30, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

Drinking water pollution tops concerns, poll shows
Pollution of drinking water is Americans’ No. 1 environmental concern, with 59% saying they worry “a great deal” about the issue, according to a new Gallup Poll.

All eight environmental issues tested in the 2009 Gallup Environment survey, conducted March 5-8, appear to be important to Americans, evidenced by the finding that a majority of Americans say they worry at least a fair amount about each one. However, on the basis of substantial concern — that is, the percentage worrying “a great deal” about each — there are important distinctions among them.

Four water-related issues on the poll fill the top spots in this year’s ranking. In addition to worrying about pollution of drinking water, roughly half of Americans also express a high degree of worry about pollution of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs (52% worry a great deal about this), and water and soil contamination from toxic waste (52%). About half worry about the maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water for household needs (49%).
–The Gallup Poll

EPA finding pushes Obama on climate change
The Environmental Protection Agency’s new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act.

Under that law, EPA’s conclusion — that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public’s health and welfare — could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation’s future environmental trajectory. The agency’s finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare, also reversed one of the Bush administration’s landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama’s appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs.
–The Washington Post

Human drugs found in fish near treatment plants
Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported.

Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations.
–The Associated Press

Listen for some croaks, help with some research
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Wildlife Program is recruiting volunteers to participate in its ongoing statewide frog and toad calling survey.

Since 1996, volunteers have collected data by listening to and identifying frog and toad species on specified 10-stop routes. The results provide information on where species are located and how their populations change in abundance and distribution.

For information, click here. Want to listen to a frog? Click here.
Minnesota DNR

Spokane phosphate ban sparks dishwasher revolt
The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers.

They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don’t work as well.
–The Associated Press

Water issues now part of power-generating calculus
Last month, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a utility that provides power to mostly rural areas, agreed to conduct a major study to see if it might meet growing energy needs through energy efficiency and not a big, new coal-fired power plant, as it had proposed for southeast Colorado.

One reason for the move was a challenge by Environment Colorado, an advocacy organization, about the amount of water a new plant would require.
–The Wall Street Journal

Firm plans trash-to-diesel plant in Rosemount
Plans for a plant outside Rosemount that would turn trash into diesel fuel are moving along, despite early concerns from nearby cities.

The Empire Township Board approved a zoning change and comprehensive plan amendment Tuesday that will allow Rational Energies LLC to build a 200,000 square-foot biomass gasification facility on about 50 acres at the intersection of Hwy. 52 and County Road 46.
–Star Tribune

Great Lakes ice cover diminishing over time
Ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined more than 30 percent since the 1970s, leaving the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes open to evaporation and lower water levels, according to scientists associated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

They’re concerned about how the milder winter freeze may affect the environment. But they’re also trying to come to terms with a contradiction: The same climate factors that might keep lake ice from freezing might make freezing more likely if lake levels drop due to evaporation.
–The Associated Press

Big wilderness bill passes Congress
Congress set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness — from California’s Sierra Nevada mountains to the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

The legislation is on its way to President Barack Obama for his likely signature.

The House approved the bill, 285-140, the final step in a long legislative road that began last year.
–The Associated Press

EPA reverses stand on mountaintop mining
In a sharp reversal of Bush administration policies, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said the agency planned an aggressive review of permit requests for mountaintop coal mining, citing serious concerns about potential harm to water quality.

The administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said her agency had sent two letters to the Army Corps of Engineers in which it expressed concern about two proposed mining operations in West Virginia and Kentucky involving mountaintop removal, a form of strip mining that blasts the tops off mountains and dumps leftover rock in valleys, burying streams.
–The New York Times

Ethanol industry faces scrutiny on feed byproduct
The ethanol industry must be wondering where the bottom is. Profits are slim or non-existent and about 20 percent of all U.S. plants are shut down. In addition, ethanol’s main by-product, which is sold as livestock feed, has raised potential food safety concerns. Several studies have linked the by-product known as distillers grain to elevated rates of E. coli in cattle. And now, distillers grain is facing further scrutiny because the Food and Drug Administration has found that it often contains antibiotics leftover from making ethanol.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Water a new cash crop for California farmers
As Don Bransford prepares for his spring planting season, he is debating which is worth more: the rice he grows on his 700-acre farm north of Sacramento, or the water he uses to cultivate it.

After three years of drought in California, water is now a potential cash crop. Last fall, the state activated its Drought Water Bank program for the first time since 1994. Under the program, farmers can choose to sell some of the water they would usually use to grow their crops to parched cities, counties and agriculture districts.
–The Wall Street Journal

Las Vegas water pipeline opposed
A coalition of ranchers, farmers and conservationists is turning up the volume on efforts to block a plan to pipe billions of gallons of groundwater a year from the northeast part of Nevada to Las Vegas.

A coalition lawyer says State Engineer Tracy Taylor relied on bad data and flawed reasoning in deciding last July to let the Southern Nevada Water Authority pump some 6.1 billion gallons of water a year from the rural Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys.
–The Associated Press

Snail evolves larger shells to fight invasive crab
With all the recent changes in the oceans, like dying coral reefs and collapsing commercial fisheries, it’s easy to forget that most changes occur over the longer term. Sometimes the incremental changes are so slight that they aren’t noticeable for decades.

A case in point is described in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Jonathan A. D. Fisher of Queen’s University in Ontario, Peter S. Petraitis of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues: They report on a large size increase in the shells of a well-studied intertidal snail, the Atlantic dogwinkle (Nucella lapillus), around Mount Desert Island in Maine over the last century.
–The New York Times

USDA gardening zones to reflect climate change
As winter retreats northward across the nation, gardeners are cleaning tools and turning attention to spring planting. But climate change is adding a new wrinkle, and now a standard reference – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map – is about to make very clear how much rising temperatures have shifted planting zones northward.

The guide, last updated in 1990, shows where various species can be expected to thrive.  A revision is expected sometime this year, and while the agency hasn’t released details, horticulturalists and experts who have helped with the revision expect the new map to extend plants’ northern ranges and paint a sharp picture of the continent’s gradual warming over the past few decades.
–The Daily Climate

Nestle spring water plan sparks Colorado fight
A plan to suck, truck and bottle Arkansas Valley spring water has residents here crusading against the world’s largest food and beverage company.

“Nestle is seeking to drain the blood of Chaffee County,” said Salida local Daniel Zettler during a fiery public hearing last week.
–The Denver Post

USGS studies endocrine-disruptors in Chesapeake Bay
Fish health and reproductive issues in the Chesapeake Bay drainage may be associated with fish exposure to hormone-mimicking compounds and other chemicals.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists have studied yellow perch, a species that has declined in recent years, and found that differences in the egg quality of these fish is occurring in some sites they sampled.  In addition, scientists sampled smallmouth bass and other species from major fish kills in the South Branch of the Potomac and the Shenandoah River. They found the fish were infected with a variety of types of skin lesions and a number of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites.
–U.S. Geological Survey

EPA nominee withdraws, citing investigation
President Obama’s nominee for U.S. EPA’s second highest post abruptly pulled out of the Senate confirmation process because of an investigation into the nonprofit group where he once served on the board of directors.

Jon Cannon, a former top EPA lawyer, withdrew from consideration as deputy administrator after learning America’s Clean Water Foundation “has become the subject of scrutiny.”
–The New York Times

‘Water wars,’ bottled water and robo-carp

March 23, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of regional, national and international news articles and research reports on water and the environment. Go to the Freshwater web site to read the latest digest, or click on the links below to read the original articles. If you see something that interests you, let us know by posting a comment.

Specter of ‘water wars’ may be overblown
The United Nations warned recently that climate change harbours the potential for serious conflicts over water. In its World Water Development Report of March 2009, it quotes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting the risk of water scarcity “transforming peaceful competition into violence”. It is statements such as this that gave birth to popular notions of ‘water wars’. It is time we dispelled this myth. Countries do not go to war over water, they solve their water shortages through trade and international agreements.

Cooperation, in fact, is the dominant response to shared water resources. There are 263 cross-boundary waterways in the world. Between 1948 and 1999, cooperation over water, including the signing of treaties, far outweighed conflict over water and violent conflict in particular. Of 1,831 instances of interactions over international freshwater resources tallied over that time period (including everything from unofficial verbal exchanges to economic agreements or military action), 67% were cooperative, only 28% were conflictive, and the remaining 5% were neutral or insignificant. In those five decades, there were no formal declarations of war over water.
–Nature

Florida considers charging water bottlers
Each day more than five million gallons of spring water is bottled in Florida, and companies pay almost nothing for local water permits. Florida is considering joining other states that have imposed “severance fees” on commercially bottled spring water. It would charge six cents for every gallon taken from springs or aquifers.
–National Public Radio

U.S. toxic chemical releases down slightly
The release of toxic chemicals to the air and water decreased across the country in 2007, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Releases to the air decreased 7 percent, and releases to water declined 5 percent, according to a report issued by the agency.

The report shows increases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals like lead, dioxin, mercury and PCBs. Overall PBTs releases increased 1 percent. The increases were primarily due to a handful of facilities, and most of the releases reported were not to the air or water.

Total disposal or other releases of mercury increased 38 percent, but air emissions of mercury were down 3 percent. The majority of mercury releases were reported by the mining industry.

State-by-state data on facilities and releases to air, land and water can be found by accessing the EPA’s state fact sheet by clicking here.

Additional information on releases on zip code, county and facility can be found using the TRI explorer, accessible here.
–U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Major bird populations decline
Several major bird populations have plummeted over the past four decades across the United States as development transformed the nation’s landscape, according to a comprehensive survey released by the Interior Department and outside experts, but conservation efforts have staved off potential extinctions of others.

“The State of the Birds” report, a broad analysis of data compiled from scientific and citizen surveys over 40 years, shows that some species have made significant gains even as others have suffered. Hunted waterfowl and iconic species such as the bald eagle have expanded in number, the report said, while populations of birds along the nation’s coasts and in its arid areas and grasslands have declined sharply.
–The Washington Post

Invasives rules sought for Lake Minnetonka
The Lake Minnetonka Association is calling for emergency boat launch rules for the coming season to prevent the spread of zebra mussels into the lake.

An exploding population of zebra mussels in Lake Mille Lacs warrants emergency action to protect Lake Minnetonka, the association says. It wants to require that all boats be clean and dry, inside and out, before they enter the lake.

The lakeshore owners group is pushing the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, which manages lake issues for the 14 cities ringing the lake, to adopt these ramp rules and step up efforts to protect the lake from invasive species. It is also asking the cities to work on the problem as well.
–Star Tribune

Caribbean fish populations down
Populations of both large and small fish have been declining sharply across the Caribbean in the past 10 years, say researchers, who combined data from 48 studies of 318 coral reefs conducted over more than 50 years.

The data show that fish “densities” that had held steady for decades began to drop significantly around 1995, a trend not reported previously. Although overfishing has long taken a toll on larger species, the drop in smaller species that are not fished indicates that other forces are at work, said author Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Drastic losses in coral cover and changes in coral reef habitats, driven by warming water temperatures and coral diseases, as well as sediment and pollution from coastal development could be among the factors.
–The Washington Post

Robotic carp developed to fight pollution
Robotic fish, developed by UK scientists, are to be released into the sea for the first time to detect pollution.
The carp-shaped robots will be let loose in the port of Gijon in northern Spain as part of a three-year research project.

If successful, the team hopes that the fish will used in rivers, lakes and seas across the world, including Britain, to detect pollution.

The life-like creatures, which will mimic the undulating movement of real fish, will be equipped with tiny chemical sensors to find the source of potentially hazardous pollutants in the water, such as leaks from vessels in the port or underwater pipelines.

The fish will then transmit their data through Wi-Fi technology when they dock to charge their batteries with last around eight hours.
–The Telegraph

EPA sponsors video contest
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is sponsoring a contest for the production of educational videos that will inspire people to help protect streams, lakes, wetlands, and coasts.

Two winners will each receive $2,500 and their videos will be featured on EPA’s Web site. The deadline for entry is Earth Day, April 29.

The contest has two categories: 30- or 60-second videos usable as a television public service announcement, and 1- to 3-minute instructional videos.

For information, go to contest rules on the EPA web site by clicking here.
–U.S. EPA web site

Dubuque museum works to save amphibians
Out of sight and tucked away under lock and key in the basement of the Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, the tiny toads hopping about in climate controlled captivity might not seem sexy.

But when Lee Jackson, Abby Urban and Jerry Enzler begin to talk about their little guests, passion is just around the corner.

It’s a passion for preservation of the Wyoming toad, one of the four most endangered amphibian species in the United States, Urban points out. And one-tenth of the Wyoming toads in captivity are in her care.
–The Dubuque Telegraph Herald

European water use not sustainable, report says
European environmental officials warned that the continent does not have enough water to sustain current consumption levels.

The European Environment Agency issued a report that concluded the problem now applies to northern Europe as well as the south and cannot be addressed by expanding supplies alone.

“The short-term solution to water scarcity has been to extract ever greater amounts of water from our surface and groundwater assets,” said agency director Jacqueline McGlade. “Overexploitation is not sustainable.”
–United Press International


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