Archive for August, 2009

Asian water crisis, invasives and a carp-algae link

August 31, 2009

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

Changing diet stresses Asia’s water resources
The beefed-up diets of Asia’s expanding middle class could lead to chronic food shortages for the water-stressed region, scientists said at a global water conference in Sweden.

Asia’s growing economy and appetite for meat will require a radical overhaul of farmland irrigation to feed a population expected to swell to 1.4 billion by 2050, experts warned at Stockholm’s World Water Week.

The threat was highlighted in a study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimate that Asian demand for food and livestock fodder will double in 40 years.

At current crop yields, East Asia would need 47 percent more irrigated farmland and to find 70 percent more water, the study found.
–National Geographic News

Seaway brings invasives to Great Lakes
The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 to great fanfare. The system of canals connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the five Great Lakes cut a lucrative international trade route through the heartland and gave the United States a refuge and staging ground for ships and submarines in case of war with the Soviet Union.

No one expected the seaway to become the key player in a different war, the invasion of non-native aquatic species into the Great Lakes, which has dramatically altered ecosystems and costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year. About a third of the 186 invasive species in the Great Lakes are thought to have entered on oceangoing ships in the ballast water they take on for stabilization when carrying little or no cargo.
–The Washington Post

Coast Guard floats ballast proposal
The U.S. Coast Guard announced a proposed regulation designed to prevent invasive species from entering U.S. waters. The rule would require ships to treat ballast water, which is pumped into tanks when leaving port and typically dumped at the incoming port, to kill microorganisms and larvae that come along for the ride. The Coast Guard says it “will work to elevate the priority” of research to figure out how effective the measure will be.

Ships are already required to exchange their ballast water at sea to get rid of any hitchhiking species, but the effectiveness varies quite a bit, depending in part on the ship’s construction. The proposed regulation will require that ships have new technology on-board—such as filtration systems—that will reduce the number of organisms released in port to a standard set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004.

Under the proposed Coast Guard rule, new vessels launched after 2012 would need to have treatment systems that meet the IMO standard. Existing vessels will need to be retrofitted to meet that standard between 2014 and 2016, depending on the ship’s size. The cost will likely run $1.18 billion over 10 years.
–Science Magazine

Removing carp stimulated algae
Researchers experimenting with cleaning up area lakes by removing carp were thrilled this summer with their success at Chanhassen’s Lake Susan — until they began to see a surprising side-effect:

The water had become so clear that the sunlight passed through it and warmed the lake bottom, igniting an algae bloom that turned the water pea green.

When University of Minnesota researchers removed more than 3,000 carp from the lake last winter, their goal was to clean up its muddy waters. The bottom-feeding fish constantly stir up sediment by rooting through the mud looking for food.
–The Star Tribune

Environment tax revenue lags
Minnesota voters in 2008 agreed to increase the state sales tax to pay for the arts and outdoors projects.

Now the Minnesota economy is having a say on how quickly the money flows into state coffers to pay for such things.

The three-eighths of 1 percent increase to the sales tax went into effect July 1.

Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) Department executive budget officer Mike Salzwedel on told a state House committee that the 2010 receipts are expected to be down 5 percent, or $8.7 million, from projections used during the most recent legislative session. The new revenue numbers were tabulated Aug. 10.
–St. Paul Legal Ledger

Alberta-to-Superior pipeline project begins
Construction of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline is beginning in northern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Crews are beginning to clear land along the right-of-way. They also are stringing pipe — laying pipe along the right-of-way in anticipation of being welded and placed in trenches, according to Lorraine Grymala, community affairs manager for Enbridge Energy, which is building the pipeline.

The U.S. State Department approved the final permit needed for the company to begin building the pipeline between the oil tar sands region of Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wis.
–The Grand Forks Herald

Some ‘green’ buildings don’t deliver
The Federal Building in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, features an extensive use of natural light to illuminate offices and a white roof to reflect heat.

It has LEED certification, the country’s most recognized seal of approval for green buildings.

But the building is hardly a model of energy efficiency. According to an environmental assessment last year, it did not score high enough to qualify for the Energy Star label granted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which ranks buildings after looking at a year’s worth of utility bills.
–The New York Times

Researcher seeks living deep-sea fossil
For 33 years, Peter A. Rona has pursued an ancient, elusive animal, repeatedly plunging down more than two miles to the muddy seabed of the North Atlantic to search out, and if possible, pry loose his quarry.

Like Ahab, he has failed time and again. Despite access to the world’s best equipment for deep exploration, he has always come back empty-handed, the creature eluding his grip.

The animal is no white whale. And Dr. Rona is no unhinged Captain Ahab, but rather a distinguished oceanographer at Rutgers University. And he has now succeeded in making an intellectual splash with a new research report, written with a team of a dozen colleagues.
–The New York Times

EPA offers fellowships in water studies
The US Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is offering graduate fellowships for master’s and doctoral level students in environmental fields that include “drinking water” and “water quality,” the EPA announced online.

According to the EPA, applications will be considered for interests in and investigations on the science of drinking water quality. Proposals in this topic focus on protecting drinking water sources, producing and distributing safe drinking water, managing health risks associated with exposure to waterborne contaminants, and promoting the safety and sustainability of water resources and water infrastructure.

EPA says applications also will be considered for interests in and investigations on the science of water quality. Proposals in this topic focus on assessing, protecting and restoring surface and groundwater quality, aquatic ecosystems, watershed management and source control management. Applicants to the water quality topic area must choose one of the subtopics: hydrogeology and surface water (focusing on pollution) or coastal and estuarine processes (focusing on pollution).

EPA said that, subject to availability of funding, the agency plans to award approximately 120 new fellowships by June 30, 2010. Master’s level students may receive support for a maximum of two years; doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years, usable over a period of four years. The fellowship program provides up to $37,000 per year of support per fellowship.

To read the full announcement, click here.
–WaterTech Online.com

MPCA gets stimulus money for planning
In an effort to improve water quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $727,600 to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  A total of $39 million will be awarded nationally to states for Water Quality Management Planning grants that will keep and create jobs to help prevent water pollution and protect human health and the environment.

“The Recovery Act investments are meeting urgent needs for economic growth and protecting human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “Communities across the nation can count on green jobs to help pull them out of this downturn and ensure the long-term strength of our economy and our environment.”
–EPA News Release

Carbon-neutral desert oasis planned
The Sydney architect behind Beijing’s Water Cube has helped design what is being called the first carbon-neutral city.

Street lights triggered by pedestrian movement. Giant shade umbrellas that move with the sun. Driverless transport pods to whisk commuters around.

It could be a list of props from the Star Wars set but these unlikely gadgets will soon take their place in a real city centre, designed by the Sydney architect Chris Bosse.

Bosse and his multinational practice, LAVA, beat several hundred applicants to design the heart of the world’s first carbon-neutral, waste-free city, Masdar, in the United Arab Emirates.
–The Sydney Morning Herald

Atrazine, mercury and top water issues

August 24, 2009

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

Spikes in weed killer concentrations found

For decades, farmers, lawn care workers and professional green thumbs have relied on the popular weed killer atrazine to protect their crops, golf courses and manicured lawns.

But atrazine often washes into water supplies and has become among the most common contaminants in American reservoirs and other sources of drinking water.

Now, new research suggests that atrazine may be dangerous at lower concentrations than previously thought. Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems.

An investigation by The New York Times has found that in some towns, atrazine concentrations in drinking water have spiked, sometimes for longer than a month. But the reports produced by local water systems for residents often fail to reflect those higher concentrations.

–The New York Times

 

Atrazine disrupts rat reproduction, study finds

The common and highly-used herbicide atrazine can act within the brain to disrupt the cascade of hormone signals needed to initiate ovulation, finds a study with rats published online in the journal Biology of Reproduction. Ovulation is a complex process that begins in the brain and ends with the release of eggs from the ovary. This new study finds that exposure to atrazine can interrupt this process but once the exposure ends, normal function resumes in a few days. The results shed new light on the way atrazine affects the female reproductive system and the persistence of these effects when adults are exposed.

–Environmental Health News

Learn about freshwater mussels

Join the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance on August 28-29 for a fascinating presentation on the mussel world in Minnesota. Mike Davis and Bernard Sietman of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, experts in this field will give a close-up view of this rarely seen and understood native species.

 •    At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, there will be a presentation at the Ney Nature Center outside of Henderson (28003 Nature Center Lane).

•    At 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, take a mussel hike in the Le Sueur River at Red Jacket Park (2.5 miles south of Mankato off of State Highway 66).  Be prepared to get wet and dirty!

 Mike Davis has worked for the MN DNR since 1987 and specializes in freshwater mussel ecology, in particular on the Mississippi River. As part of the mussel conservation effort, Mike has played a major role in the federal plan to revive the endangered Higgins Eye mussel. Today, the Higgins Eye is one of the 25 of 48 mussel species listed as either: Extirpated, Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern in Minnesota.

 Found across the globe, freshwater mussels or clams reach their greatest diversity in North America at around 300 species. Mussel populations have seen a decline in abundance and diversity because of human influences. This devastating loss is the result of dam construction, stream channelization, water pollution and sedimentation, over harvesting, and the introduction of exotic zebra mussels.

Mussels are considered to be the biological indicators of a river’s health and increasingly being regarded as the aquatic “canaries of the coal mine.” They are an important part of the ecosystem by providing food for fish, birds, and mammals. They have evolved a unique parasitic reproductive system with fish serving as the host during the larval stage of the mussel.

-The Jordan Independent
 

 Household pesticide use underestimated

Pesticides and fertilizers from homes are a major and overlooked source of water pollution, according to new research from the University of California, Davis. Previous estimates may have underestimated water pollution from homes by up to 50%, the study says.

Researchers monitored homes in eight different neighborhoods in California, and say that the estimates likely extend to households across the country.

Pesticides, particularly for ant control, were the most common source of pollution. Surprisingly, pesticides made from organophosphate chemicals, which have been off the market in California since 2002, turned up in many of the samples.

“We expected to find pesticides, but I think we were surprised at how consistently we found them,” says Lorence Oki, a landscape expert who lead the research.

–USA Today

 

Mercury taints every stream tested by USGS

Scientists detected mercury contamination in every fish sampled in 291 streams across the country, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

About a quarter of these fish were found to contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of people who consume average amounts of fish, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than two-thirds of the fish exceeded the U.S. EPA level of concern for fish-eating mammals.

“This study shows just how widespread mercury pollution has become in our air, watersheds, and many of our fish in freshwater streams,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers.”

Some of the highest levels of mercury in fish were found in the tea-colored or “blackwater” streams in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana — areas associated with relatively undeveloped forested watersheds containing abundant wetlands compared to the rest of the country. High levels of mercury in fish also were found in relatively undeveloped watersheds in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest. Elevated levels are noted in areas of the Western United States affected by mining. Complete findings of the USGS report, as well as additional detailed studies in selected streams, are available online.

–U.S. Gelogical Survey new release

 

Water issues top concerns worldwide

What is the latest and most important environmental concern these days? Global warming? Disappearing ice caps and rain forests? Reliance on non-renewable energy?

Wrong. According to a new survey sponsored by Molson Coors Brewing Co, water pollution ranked No. 1, followed by fresh water shortages, depletion of natural resources, air pollution and loss of animal and plant species.

The survey was commissioned by Circle of Blue, a nonprofit affiliate of the Pacific Institute, a water and climate think tank. It polled people in 15 countries, including the United States, Mexico, China and India, about their views on water issues including sustainability, management and conservation.

Molson Coors, maker of Coors Light and Molson Canadian beers, sponsored the survey as a first step in trying to understand how people in international markets — where it hopes to expand its business — view water.

–Reuters

 

Minneapolis arsenic cleanup continues

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soil at nearly 500 South Minneapolis homes will begin after Labor Day.  This project is supported by $20 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.   Residents pay nothing for the cleanup.

From 2004 to 2008, an EPA Superfund team cleaned up 197 properties with arsenic levels above 95 parts per million, or ppm, at the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Site. The work beginning in September targets properties with lower levels of contamination.

The South Minneapolis Superfund site encompasses a number of neighborhoods near the intersection of 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue where the CMC Heartland Lite Yard was located from about 1938 to 1968.  A pesticide containing arsenic was produced there and material from an open-air railcar-unloading and product-mixing operation is believed to have been wind-blown into nearby neighborhoods.  Since 2004, EPA has collected soil samples from more than 3,000 properties in the area.

For more information on the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Superfund Site, click here.

–EPA news release

 

Plastic breaks down – and pollutes – in oceans

Amidst waves and wildlife in the world’s oceans, billions of pounds of Styrofoam, water bottles, fishing wire and other plastic products float in endless circles.

This bobbing pollution is more than just an eyesore or a choking hazard for birds. According to a new study, plastic in the oceans can decompose in as little as a year, leaching chemical compounds into the water that may harm the health of animals and possibly even people.

“Most people in the world believe that this plastic is indestructible for a very long time,” said Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University in Chiba, Japan. He spoke this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.

–Discovery News

 

Nestle gets OK  to bottle Colorado water

The world’s largest beverage company has won approval from officials in Colorado to extract and bottle spring water from the mountains of south central Colorado.

Nestle Waters North America may draw 65 million gallons of water a year from a spring in Chaffee County to sell under its Arrowhead brand, county commissioners decided.

The proposal elicited fierce opposition from many residents, who feared the company would deplete the local aquifer and that its trucks hauling the water to Denver would snarl traffic on mountain roads. Others supported the project, saying it could spur economic development in the rural area.

In a concession, Nestle agreed to draw water from one, not two, springs and to place conservation easements on its land and allow access on its property to anglers.

–The Los Angeles Times

 

Wyoming groundwater drops, report says

Some areas of the Powder River Basin have experienced significant groundwater drawdown – as much as 625 feet between 1993 and 2006 in some areas, according to a new report.

But what the report is missing is analysis to determine whether the impact is in line with federal modeling conducted in 2002.

However, some say the raw data reveals obvious impacts to groundwater supplies.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council issued a statement suggesting that the monitoring data proves the actual groundwater drawdown – largely from the development of coalbed methane gas – far exceeds predictions made by federal officials in 2002.

About 600 million barrels of water are pumped from coal aquifers in the Powder River Basin each year in the production of coalbed methane gas, according to the state. Some of the water is used in irrigation and to water livestock, but a majority of the water – which belongs to the state – is not put to a specific beneficial use.

–The Casper Star-Tribune

 

Panel OKs continued moose hunt

Minnesota’s moose may be in trouble, but they can still be hunted.

Despite fears that the population is crashing, a special committee reporting to the Department of Natural Resources recommended that the population will hold its own “for the foreseeable future.”

And despite the threat to the species posed by what the committee called “the long-term threat” of climate change, it recommended that moose hunting continue in the northeastern part of the state.

The committee was formed, in part, because moose numbers have declined dramatically in northwestern Minnesota during the past two decades and appear to be dropping in northeast Minnesota.

–The Star Tribune

 

Lead poisoning provokes Chinese riot

Hundreds of Chinese villagers have broken into a factory that poisoned more than 600 children, reports say.

Villagers tore down fencing and smashed coal trucks at the lead smelting factory in Shaanxi Province.

Local authorities have admitted that the plant is responsible for poisoning the children. More than 150 were in hospital.

Air, soil and water pollution is common in China, which has seen rapid economic growth over the past few decades.

–BBC News

 

Army Corps builds world’s largest pump

New Orleans sits smack dab between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Pontchartrain, and when a hurricane comes rolling in, those bodies of water tend to spill into the streets. This summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started construction on a barrier that can block a 16-foot swell blown in from the Gulf and a massive pumping station that will blast floodwaters back to sea.

The $500-million station—the newest installment of a $14-billion federal project to fortify the Big Easy against the type of fierce storm the city sees once in 100 years—will protect the 240,000 residents living in New Orleans, a high-risk flood area because of its nearby shipping canals. The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is one of the city’s most trafficked industrial waterways, but it provides a perfect path from the Gulf for a 16-foot storm surge to flood homes and businesses. When a major storm threatens, the waterway’s new West Closure Complex will mount a two-point defense. First, operators will shut the 32-foot-tall, 225-foot-wide metal gates to block the surge. Then they’ll fire up the world’s largest pumping station, which pulls 150,000 gallons of floodwater per second. And unlike the city’s notorious levees, the WCC won’t break when residents need it most. “This station is designed to withstand almost everything,” including 140mph winds and runaway barges, says Tim Connell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’s project manager for the complex.

–Popular Science

 

Climate change, neutrinos and river otters

August 17, 2009

Climate change challenges U.S. security

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

–The New York Times

 Draw-down in India’s groundwater mapped

Farming is a thirsty business on the Indian subcontinent. But how thirsty, exactly? For the first time, satellite remote sensing of a 2000-kilometer swath running from eastern Pakistan across northern India and into Bangladesh has put a solid number on how quickly the region is depleting its groundwater. The number “is big,” says hydrologist James Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine–big as in 54 cubic kilometers of groundwater lost per year from the world’s most intensively irrigated region hosting 600 million people. “I don’t think anybody knew how quickly it was being depleted over that large an area.”

The big picture of Indian groundwater comes from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission, launched in March 2002 as a joint effort by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the German Aerospace Center. Actually two satellites orbiting in tandem 220 kilometers apart, GRACE measures subtle variations in the pull of Earth’s gravity by using microwaves to precisely gauge the changing distance between the two spacecraft.

–ScienceNOW

MPCA offers ‘Eco Scale Challenge’ at State Fair

There are plenty of scales at the Minnesota State Fair: for weighing produce, livestock and even midway-goers.  An exciting new interactive exhibit at this year’s state fair, the Eco Scale Challenge, allows Eco Experience visitors to see the effect their choices at home and on the road have on emissions of carbon dioxide.

 The fair runs Aug. 27-Sept. 7. 

 Home energy use and transportation for the average household are responsible for approximately 21 tons of carbon emissions a year, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Even small changes can add up to big reductions.  For instance, if visitors move the transportation slider on the Eco Scale to carpool or bus just twice a week, the scale points to a yearly carbon savings of half a ton.  Energy-saving actions at home, like turning off unneeded electronics, washing clothes in cold water, and lowering the temperature of the water heater, cuts another half ton of carbon.

 The Eco Scale Challenge not only allows visitors to see how their actions lighten their impact on the environment, but allows them to see how tradeoffs in their decisions work.  Other categories on the scale include reducing/recycling, renewable energy, sustainable yard, saving energy, and eating local foods.

More information and schedules are at www.ecoexperience.org.

–MPCA news release

 GM drops support for mercury removal

The new General Motors is dropping out of a program designed to prevent mercury pollution from scrapped cars. This comes just as hundreds of thousands of cars are being junked through the Cash for Clunkers program.

 The End of Life Vehicle Solutions program encourages junk yards to remove mercury switches from vehicles before they’re sent to the shredder. The switches are collected and recycled and it’s all paid for with contributions from the major automakers. These switches were used in trunk lights and anti-lock breaks in the 80s and 90s. But if they’re not removed, when the cars are melted down, toxic mercury is released into the air.

 GM was a major contributor. But since filing for bankruptcy, the automaker hasn’t paid its dues. The reasoning — bankruptcy gave GM a clean slate. As in, the “new GM” never made cars with mercury switches. The program’s director told the Associated Press the timing with Cash for Clunkers now in full force, is a real problem.

–Marketplace

 River otter returns to Mississippi in Minneapolis

Trapping and pollution almost drove the river otter out of Minnesota.

 But now, the otter is back, and there’s even a report of river otter living in a once badly polluted stretch of the Mississippi river in downtown Minneapolis.

 EPA’s get-tough policy yields guilty plea

A man who was extradited to San Diego from Malta on water-pollution charges pleaded guilty Thursday to dumping pollutants into San Diego Bay while repairing a boat in 2006.

 Robert Fred Smith, 45, admitted in federal court that tiling concrete, paint and rust were dumped into the bay. Smith was brought back to San Diego under a new extradition treaty between the U.S. and Malta and a new get-tough attitude by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Smith faces a possible five years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 26. A co-defendant, Joseph Anthony O’Connor, remains in Malta, awaiting extradition. The pair allegedly fled there while under investigation in the United States.

–The Los Angeles Times

 Neutrinos rocket between Illinois and Minnesota

Scientists are playing an exotic game of pitch and catch between Illinois and Minnesota. Their catcher’s mitt is solid iron, weighs 5,500 tons, and is parked in northern Minnesota in an abandoned iron mine. With millions of dollars from the federal stimulus package, construction crews are now building a second mitt near the Canadian border. It’s even heavier, some 15,000 tons, and is made of 385,000 liquid-filled cells of PVC plastic.

Five hundred miles to the south is the pitcher: Fermilab, a sprawling U.S. government laboratory west of Chicago where physicists do violent things with tiny particles.

The objects in flight are very strange particles called neutrinos. Fermilab scientists have figured out how to generate a beam of neutrinos and send it across Wisconsin to the big detectors in northern Minnesota.

–The Washington Post

 FTC attacks claims for bamboo clothing

 The textiles go by names such as “ecoKashmere,” “Bamboo Comfort,” and “Pure Bamboo.” Products made with them – baby clothes, women’s leggings, sweaters – tout a variety of environmental benefits, such as that they are nonpolluting, biodegradable, and retain some of bamboo’s natural antimicrobial properties.

 But the Federal Trade Commission said that at least four companies’ versions of bamboo clothing have been marketed with claims made out of, well, whole cloth. It said the material is nothing more than rayon – a fiber made from cellulose in a process that involves harsh chemicals and releases hazardous pollutants.

 The federal agency announced settlements with three of the companies, including Sami Designs L.L.C. of Wexford, Pa., near Pittsburgh. None acknowledged any wrongdoing, though all agreed to drop key marketing claims – including that their products are made of bamboo or bamboo fiber or are produced via environmentally friendly processes – unless they can substantiate them.

–The Philadelphia Inquirer

 Wisconsin pushes groundwater rules

Scores of Wisconsin communities that don’t disinfect their water supplies would have to install systems to screen out bacteria and viruses under rules proposed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

 The new regulations are being driven by Wisconsin’s new groundwater protection law, and by a growing body of research showing viruses from human waste seep into the ground and contaminate public water systems.

The Natural Resources Board, meeting in Hayward this week, voted 7-0 to hold public hearings this fall on the new controls.

–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 Army plans Mojave solar farm

The U.S. Army has selected two energy firms to build an industrial-sized solar farm in California’s high Mojave Desert.

The move capitalizes on two resources the military has in abundance. “Not only do we have the land … we also have the demand,” said Kevin Geiss, energy security program director at the Army’s installations and environment office.

 Both are necessities for building big, expensive renewable projects.

–The New York Times

 Kraft Foods claims 21% cut in water use

Kraft Foods Inc., the world’s second-largest foodmaker, said it cut water use worldwide by 21 percent, joining Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. in efforts to minimize their impact on the environment.

 The company needed a total of 3 billion fewer gallons of water for manufacturing over the past three years, spokesman Richard Buino said in an Aug. 5 telephone interview. Plants are recycling water and fixing leaks, while water frozen in basement pools cools the Northfield, Illinois, headquarters.

 Kraft set environmental goals in 2005, including the elimination of 150 million pounds of packaging by 2011, said Buino. Wal-Mart has decreased the amount of trash it sends to landfills and is investing in solar and wind energy. Whole Foods composts food waste and is installing solar panels in stores.

–Bloomberg

Take Mom’s advice: Don’t eat the beach

By washing your hands after digging in beach sand, you could greatly reduce your risk of ingesting bacteria that could make you sick. In new research, scientists have determined that, although beach sand is a potential source of bacteria and viruses, hand rinsing may effectively reduce exposure to microbes that cause gastrointestinal illnesses. 

“Our mothers were right! Cleaning our hands before eating really works, especially after handling sand at the beach,” said Dr. Richard Whitman, the lead author of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study. “Simply rinsing hands may help reduce risk, but a good scrubbing is the best way to avoid illness.” 

For this study, scientists measured how many E. coli bacteria could be transferred to people’s hands when they dug in sand. They analyzed sand from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Using past findings on illness rates, scientists found that if individuals were to ingest all of the sand and the associated biological community retained on their fingertip, 11 individuals in 1000 would develop symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.  Ingestion of all material on the entire hand would result in 33 of 1000 individuals developing gastrointestinal illness.

–USGS news release

 Tribe invests in algae-based bio-fuel

An unusual experiment featuring equal parts science, environmental optimism and Native American capitalist ambition is unfolding here on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southwest Colorado.

 With the twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, a start-up company co-founded by a Colorado State University professor recently introduced a strain of algae that loves carbon dioxide into a water tank next to a natural gas processing plant. The water is already green-tinged with life.

 The Southern Utes, one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian communities thanks to its energy and real-estate investments, is a major investor in the professor’s company. It hopes to gain a toehold in what tribal leaders believe could be the next billion-dollar energy boom.

–The New York Times

 World Water Week celebrated in Stockholm

This week, Aug. 16-22, is being observed as World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, by the Stockholm International Water Institute. A series of seminars and events held during the week brings together experts, practitioners, decision makers and leaders from around the globe to exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions. The  theme for 2009 is Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good.

–World Water Week

Drainage, percholate and climate change

August 10, 2009

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

Drainage technique could cut farm runoff

A big contributor to the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone” is farmland runoff, but a new approach to farmland drainage may help reduce its size.

The problem starts when farm runoff, containing a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus, makes its way to the Mississippi River. When the water reaches the Gulf, the nutrients promote massive algae blooms that consume oxygen when they die.

 As a result, the water can no longer sustain life. A recent report by a team of researchers says the dead zone is about 3,000 square miles.

 One part of the solution to the dead zone could be a box-like structure found on the farm of Brian Hicks, near Tracy, in southwest Minnesota.

–Minnesota Public Radio

 EPA to review percholate contamination

Fulfilling a confirmation pledge, Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa P. Jackson is revisiting the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate rocket fuel pollution in the nation’s drinking water.

Jackson’s move is being welcomed by the environmental community and children’s health advocates. Perchlorate, a major component of rocket and missile propellants and many explosives, is a potent thyroid toxin known to disrupt brain and neurological development. For that reason, scientists and medical experts strongly urge that fetal and neonatal exposures to the chemical be prevented.

 Defense and aerospace contractors are certain to fight any federal effort to order up perchlorate clean-ups, whose costs could run into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. During the Cold War, tons of improperly stored rocket fuel seeped into ground waters around rocket and missile test sites and chemical manufacturing and storage facilities.

–Environmental Working Group

 Climate change dramatically shrinks glaciers

A report on long-term glacier measurements released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar shows that glaciers are dramatically changing in mass, length and thickness as a result of climate change. Over the past 50 years, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have monitored the melting of Alaska’s Gulkana and Wolverine Glaciers and Washington’s South Cascade Glacier, yielding the longest such records in North America.

 “This report we are releasing today is great example of the science and data our Department has gathered over the past 50 years,” said Secretary Salazar.  “This information is helpful in tackling the effects of climate change and it is exactly the kind of science we need to invest in to measure and mitigate the dangerous impacts of climate change.”

 Glacier shrinkage has global impacts, including sea level rise that threatens low-lying and coastal communities. Smaller glaciers will also result in a decrease of water runoff, and impacts are especially important during the dry late summer when other water sources are limited.

 “There is no doubt that most mountain glaciers are shrinking worldwide in response to a warming climate. Measuring changes in glacier mass provides direct insight to the link between glaciers and climate, ultimately helping predict glacier response to anticipated climate conditions,” said USGS scientist Edward Josberger.

–USGS news release

Food-processing waste taints Michigan water

John Dekker feels like he’s camping out in his own home. He showers with bottled water and drags his laundry to a Laundromat. He can’t sell his house without disclosing its glaring flaw — his well is contaminated.

 Neighbor Kari Craton’s fingernails turned orange; her appliances were destroyed. Diana Bennett’s garden is useless.

 Some 50 families live near a plume of groundwater contaminated with metals that spread from the local Birds Eye processing plant. At a nearby Minute Maid juice plant, there’s another plume.

In rural west Michigan, food processors have sprayed so much wastewater onto fields that heavy metals seeped into groundwater, contaminating wells. State officials have known of the polluting for at least a decade but, residents complain, moved slowly.

The Detroit Free Press 

Duck resurgence yields 60-day season

With continental populations of many species of ducks again near record highs, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has established a 60-day duck season that opens Oct. 3 with a daily bag limit of six ducks.                  

Bag limits for most species will be the same as last season, except hunters will be able to harvest one canvasback and the scaup limit will be two for the entire 60-day season. This good news for diver duck hunters is based on increased numbers of canvasbacks and scaup in the continental breeding duck survey. 

Based on an increase in breeding waterfowl populations and pond numbers across Canada and the northern plains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering states in the Mississippi Flyway, including Minnesota, a 60-day season that could include a six-duck limit with two hen mallards and three wood ducks. Minnesota will continue with a daily bag limit of one hen mallard that has been in place since 2005. Likewise, the DNR is maintaining a conservative approach to wood ducks by maintaining a two-bird limit.

–Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 

California studies 35-mile water tunnel

California officials are studying whether a 35-mile tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta might help solve some of the state’s water supply problems.

 Teresa Engstrom, chief of the delta engineering branch at the California Department of Water Resources, confirmed that the agency is conducting feasibility studies on an “all tunnel” option that would route water under the Bay Delta from rivers and reservoirs to the north of Sacramento to farms in the south.

 The idea to build a tunnel sprang from a handful of public workshops the department held recently on how to approach California’s long-running fight over water rights in the northern part of the state.

–The New York Times

 Pollution comes cheap in China

In addition to its cheap labor costs, China has another comparative advantage as the world’s factory: Companies often pay almost nothing to pollute China’s air, water and soil and to poison its people.

Need pliant workers to handle toxic chemicals? Wages are just $2.60 a day. What if the chemicals contaminate a town? Compensating a family of five costs just $732. Local water supply contamination makes 4,000 people vomit? That’s just $7 per household. Cost of bribing local Chinese officials to look the other way rather than adhering to safety standards? Well, that’s unknown, but given the frequency of China’s pollution atrocities, apparently it is cost-effective.

–Forbes

 UM researcher Tillman writes on biofuels

“Done right,” biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production. This consensus emerges in a new journal article by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Princeton, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley.  

“The world needs to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but recent findings have thrown the emerging biofuels industry into a quandary. We met to seek solutions,” said the U of M’s David Tilman, a noted ecologist and lead author of the paper. “We found that the next generation of biofuels can be highly beneficial if produced properly.”  

The article, “Beneficial Biofuels—The Food, Energy and Environment Trilemma,” appears in the July 17 issue of Science. Tilman, a resident fellow of the U of M’s Institute on the Environment, said the paper resulted from a year of conversations and debate among some of the nation’s leading biofuel experts.

–University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment 

Wild rice harvest opens Aug. 15

People who have purchased a wild rice license can begin harvesting on Saturday, Aug. 15.

 “Harvesters need to carefully check wild rice stands for ripeness prior to attempting harvest,” said Ray Norrgard, who oversees wild rice management for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources .It is illegal to harvest wild rice that is not ripe.

 This year’s ricing season opens 30 days later than previous years, but the change is expected to have little effect on actual harvesting, which tends to occur after Aug. 15.

Several popular wild rice harvesting waters will be closed to harvest until posted open. Approximately 48 hours before harvest opens on any of these water bodies, the opening date will be posted near access points listed on the DNR Web site and available from the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

–Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

 California prepares for climate change

Along with California’s efforts to crack down on its own greenhouse gas emissions, state officials have begun preparing for the worst: heat waves, a rising sea level, flooding, wildlife die-offs and other expected consequences from what scientists predict will be a dramatic temperature increase by the end of this century.

California’s Natural Resources Agency on Monday issued the nation’s first statewide plan to “adapt” to climate change.

 It offers strategies to cope with threats in seven sectors from firefighting to public health and water conservation. Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman called the plan an effort to acknowledge the problem and suggested that Californians “recognize their role in solving that problem and alter their behavior so that the change lasts.”

–The Los Angeles Times 

Fertility decline reverses

For decades, the rate at which women were having babies in many of the world’s most highly developed countries slowly declined. 

While the trend cheered some environmentalists worried about overpopulation, it stoked increasing concern among policymakers, demographers and social scientists about the long-term impact on societies as their populations aged and sometimes began to shrink. 

Now, however, new research has produced the first glimmer of hope that economic prosperity may not be linked to an inexorable decline in fertility. The new analysis has found that in many countries, once a nation achieves an especially high level of development, women appear to start having more babies again.

–The Washington Post 

Washington County wildlife sanctuary OK’d

A rare slice of metro area wilderness will be saved and opened to the public through a state land trust program.

The Washington County Board granted the Trust for Public Land and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources approval to acquire 120 acres of Denmark Township property southwest of Afton at its July 28 meeting. The property will be preserved as a wildlife sanctuary and become part of a growing network of public open space in southern Washington County.

Peggy Booth, a unit supervisor for the DNR Scientific and Natural Areas Department, told the board the land will be designated for passive recreation and observation. It is one of four scientific and natural areas in Washington County.

“It will be protected by state law because of its rare resources,” she said.

The area is located in bedrock bluff prairie west of St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park and south of 90th Street. It is home to unique plant species and a wide range of birds, including the endangered Henslow sparrow.

The property will connect to the existing 200-acre Lost Valley Scientific and Natural Area.

–The Forest Lake Press

 Some golf courses lead the way to conservation

Six years ago, when Georgia’s state government rewrote its rules for water use during droughts, it cut no slack for an obvious culprit: golf courses.

 With emerald fairways that glistened even in the most blistering conditions, they were a tempting target.

 Yet golf course managers were indignant. They argued that they were reining in water use in dozens of ways, like planting native grasses and auditing sprinkler spray patterns. Instead of being penalized, they said, they should be emulated.

It took a while, but from the South to the arid West, their wish is coming true. Mindful that global warming could provoke more and longer dry spells, state governments are increasingly consulting golf courses on water strategies.

–The New York Times

Threatened fish, buffer strips and zebra mussels

August 3, 2009

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

Climate change threatens fish, USGS expert says

Entire populations of North American fish already  are being affected by several emerging diseases, a problem that threatens to increase in the future with climate change and other stresses on aquatic ecosystems, according to a noted U.S. Geological Survey researcher giving an invited talk on this subject at the Wildlife Disease Association conference in Blaine, Wash.

 “A generation ago, we couldn’t have imaged the explosive growth in disease issues facing many of our wild fish populations,” said Dr. Jim Winton, a fish disease specialist at the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center.  “Most fish health research at that time was directed toward diseases of farmed fish.”

 In contrast, said Winton, recent studies in natural aquatic systems have revealed that, in addition to being a cause of natural death, infectious and parasitic fish diseases can produce significantly greater mortality in altered habitats leading to population fluctuations, extinction of endangered fish, reduced overall health and increased susceptibility to predation.

–USGS news release

 Complaint accuses farmers of ignoring buffer rule

The Zumbro River is slow and lazy on a summer’s day as it curves along a gentle bend near Terry Klampe’s home just outside Rochester.

But all is not tranquil in Olmsted County.

 Klampe, a dentist and ardent conservationist, has filed a complaint to give the river some space in farm country.

 Farmers are thwarting the law by planting corn and soybeans to the edge of the river and its tributaries, Klampe said, violating pollution rules that require a 50-foot buffer of permanent vegetation to protect streams and lakes from soil and chemical runoff.

–The Star Tribune

Zebra mussels increase blue-green algae

As if there aren’t enough reasons to keep zebra mussels out of Minnesota lakes, add one more: toxic blue-green algae blooms.

 A recent spike in state lakes infested with the non-native mussel has scientists mindful of an emerging — and unwelcome — connection.

 In Michigan, where zebra mussels have infested more than 200 lakes, blue-green algae blooms — the kind that can make people sick and have killed animals that drink the water — are enjoying a resurgence of sorts. And instead of pinning the blame on excess nutrients that typically cause them, scientists are looking squarely at zebra mussels as a trigger.

 Every year, blue-green algae blooms occur across central and southern Minnesota, typically in shallow lakes with high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus from animal waste or vegetative decomposition. Sometimes, those blooms become toxic, causing farm animals or dogs that consume any of it to get sick or die.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Twin Cities suburbs press water conservation

With thirsty lawns and trees in need of water, suburban residents are struggling to get their home landscapes through a dry summer while obediently adhering to water conservation restrictions.

 City after city now has adopted watering restrictions and stepped-up rates for high water usage, and some residents are shy about watering even when it’s allowed, fearing they are wasting a precious resource.

 Yet there is no water crisis in Minnesota. The Twin Cities area has more water in lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves than almost any other metro area in the country.

So, when is it OK for an environmentally conscientious citizen to water?

–The Star Tribune

 ‘Dead zone’ smaller than predicted

Scientists said that the region of oxygen-starved water in the northern Gulf of Mexico this summer was smaller than forecast, which means less disruption of shrimp, crabs and other marine species, and of the fisheries that depend on them.

But researchers found that although the so-called dead zone along the Texas and Louisiana coasts was smaller — about 3,000 square miles compared with a prediction of about 8,000 square miles — the actual volume of low-oxygen, or hypoxic, water may be higher, as the layer is deeper and thicker in some parts of the gulf than normal. And the five-year average size of the dead zone is still considered far too big, about three times a target of 2,000 square miles set for 2015 by an intergovernmental task force.

–The New York Times

 Invasive flowering rush found in 3 L. Minnetonka bays

Flowering rush, an invasive water plant, has taken root as the latest unwelcome species in Lake Minnetonka — this time probably through the actions of a gardener, not a boater, the Department of Natural Resources says.

 The DNR got word of the plant’s presence in Lake Minnetonka on June 29. In searching 10 of the lake’s 132 miles of shoreline so far, the DNR has confirmed its growth in Smith’s Bay, Brown’s Bay and Crystal Bay near Orono.

–The Star Tribune

 Scientists agree on identifying plant species

An international panel of scientists has agreed to a bar-code standard for plant DNA that will allow the precise identification of most of Earth’s 300,000 species of plants, according to a research report.

 The agreement is expected to generate a wide range of benefits, from checking the purity of herbal supplements to exposing illegal logging operations and helping to protect fragile plant ecosystems, observers said.

 “It’s the first time we have actually developed a technique that will allow people to identify plants,” said James S. Miller, vice president for science at the New York Botanical Garden, one of 25 institutions working on the agreement.

 A similar technique for animals was created in 2003 and has been used to expose mislabeled caviar, crack a food-poisoning case involving fish and determine the bird species that caused US Airways Flight 1549 to ditch into the Hudson River in January.

–The Washington Post

 Invasive kelp threatens San Francisco Bay

Chela Zabin will not soon forget when she first glimpsed the golden brown tentacle of the latest alien to settle in the fertile waters of San Francisco Bay.

Skip to next paragraph “I had that moment of ‘Oh God, this is it, it’s here,’ ” said Dr. Zabin, a biologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “I was really hoping I was wrong.”

 The tentacle in question was that of an Asian kelp, Undaria pinnatifida, a flavorful and healthful ingredient in miso soup and an aggressive, costly intruder in waters from New Zealand to Monterey Bay.

–The New York Times

 Appeals court rejects challenge on ballast rules

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to how Minnesota regulates ships dumping ballast water into Lake Superior.

 In its decision, the court sided with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, saying the agency’s approach, designed to keep non-native species out of the lake, met legal requirements.

 The St. Paul-based Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy sued, contending the permit system took too long to implement and isn’t strong enough.

The system requires that, by 2016, all ships treat their ballast water before dumping it into the Minnesota waters of Lake Superior. New ships must start in 2012.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 L.A. June water use hits 32-year low

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported that water demand reached a 32-year low for the month of June, dropping 11% compared with the same period in 2008.

Jim McDaniel, the senior assistant general manager of DWP’s water system, said hard work by ratepayers is paying off. Though experts said June was on average 4 degrees cooler than normal, McDaniel attributed the low demand to the new water restrictions.  

“You don’t see those kinds of reductions just due to weather,” he said.

The restrictions limit the use of sprinklers to 15 minutes a day on Mondays and Thursdays. No watering is allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
— The Los Angeles Times

 Restored reef teems with oysters

Scientists say they’ve created something in a Virginia river that hasn’t been seen since the late 1800s: a vast, thriving reef of American oysters, the shellfish that helped create the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem and then nearly vanished from it.

The reef sits on the bottom of the Great Wicomico River, a bay tributary about 80 miles southeast of Washington. The scientists say they found a better way to plant oysters, creating an 87-acre colony of bivalves that teems with other marine life.

That’s a long way from bringing oysters back in all of the Chesapeake. Virginia and Maryland officials said this week that they doubted this success could be replicated widely.

But the oyster researchers said their work, published online in the journal Science, provides new hope for one of the bay’s most beleaguered species. The oyster, depleted by overfishing, pollution and disease, has fallen to less than 1 percent of its historical population.

–The Washington Post

 Pollution contaminates beaches

Raw sewage and other pollution continued to foul American beaches in 2008.

For the fourth year in a row, more than 20,000 beach closing days were reported in the USA, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, D.C.

 “Storm water and sewage runoff are the biggest sources for the contamination,” says Nancy Stoner, NRDC’s water program co-director. The report monitored beaches along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, along with those in the Great Lakes states.

–USA Today

 DNR, Trout Unlimited to restore Vermillion

Some time in the Roaring ’20s, someone tried to turn the Vermillion, or at least part of it, into a rushing river.

 It might have been a farmer or the Army Corps of Engineers, but whoever it was removed the curves from a meandering stretch east of Farmington.

The goal was increasing the speed of the prairie river’s flow to quicken drainage of the farm fields that surround it. It worked, but over the years, the water has also whisked away a lot of farm runoff, soil and silt.

 So next summer, in the name of trout habitat and water quality, the Minnesota DNR and Trout Unlimited are leading a project that will help make the rural river meander again.

–The Star Tribune

 Study links soy diet to endocrine disruption

Women who are having difficulty conceiving may want to cut back on their soy consumption after a mouse study reveals that dietary exposure to genistein, a compound found in soy foods, can reduce the odds of a successful pregnancy in multiple ways. The study examined the impact of genistein exposure on oocytes, or eggs, from adult mice and found it can impair oocyte maturation, reduce their potential to become fertilized and hamper the growth of the newly formed embryo.

 The results reveal how natural compounds like genistein may have both risks – it can act as an endocrine disruptor to affect female reproduction – and benefits – such as protecting the heart.

–Environmental Health News

 Syrian drought displaces thousands

Only a few decades ago, fish were plentiful in the Orontes river which for thousands of years has provided water to the lush Syrian plains, at the crossroads of the ancient world.

 These days the Orontes’s 12th Century norias, enormous water wheels famous for their distinctive creak, barely turn in the weak tides. Algae covers the river’s surface and the desert has been closing in.

“The river has become so polluted. The quality of our produce has suffered and there is barely enough now to feed my family,” said 80-year-old farmer Mohammad al-Hamdo.

 Syria’s worst drought in decades has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and raised calls for a coordinated water policy for the Middle East as the region faces a dryer climate and water supplies depleted by damming and water well drilling.

–Reuters

 Wisconsin groundwater funding urged

Water experts recommended to state legislators that they strengthen groundwater laws by pumping more money into monitoring, broadening protections for springs and possibly increasing the distance between high-capacity wells and sensitive surface waters.

The Legislature beefed up groundwater protections in 2004, but Ken Bradbury, a hydrogeologist with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, said during the hearing that it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the law because there has been no money for monitoring.

 The hearing was before a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly natural resource committees. The hearing was the first step in an effort to improve regulations of groundwater created in the 2004 law. State Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, one of the co-authors of the initial legislation, said the committees’ examination of groundwater issues is part of a review of the law called for in the 2004 bill.

–The Wisconsin State Journal

 USDA allocates water project funds

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White announced nearly $58 million for water conservation and water quality improvements on agricultural working lands.

 The funding was made available for 63 projects in 21 states through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. No projects in Minnesota or Wisconsin were funded.

 “We must take steps to protect and preserve our water resources, and the Obama Administration is committed to using this program to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their land,” said White.

 The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) promotes ground and surface water conservation and improves water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities. With the services and resources of other conservation partners, AWEP allows the Federal Government to leverage investment in natural resources conservation.

–U.S. Department of Agriculture