Archive for December, 2009

Minnesota, Ohio seek to join carp suit

December 28, 2009

Minnesota, Ohio join fight over Asian Carp
Minnesota and Ohio are seeking to join Michigan in its lawsuit seeking to prevent invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. Michigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to force Illinois to sever connections between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. Here’s a link to a Star Tribune article on Minnesota joining the suit. And here is a link to a news release about Ohio’s action.

NPR documentary looks at Chesapeake pollution
National Public Radio last week aired a two-part series on pollution of Chesapeake Bay. The first broadcast examined agricultural pollution, primarily from manure and chemical fertilizers. The second broadcast looked at urban pollution: automobile exhausts, dishwasher detergents, lawn fertilizers and sewage.

Glowing tadpoles detect pollution
Here’s something cooler than a canary in a coal mine: Tadpoles genetically engineered to glow when they encounter water pollution.

African clawed frog tadpoles modified with jellyfish genes show promise as a faster and less expensive way to detect pollution than traditional methods, say a University of Wyoming professor and researchers in France.

What’s more, the green-glowing tadpoles indicate whether pollution exists in a form that can be absorbed by an organism and therefore might be dangerous to people. That’s more difficult with conventional methods.
–The Associated Press

Organic dairy farmers win Minnesota award
 Organic dairy farmers Joe and Tom Molitor have been named the December winners of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Good Farm Neighbor Award.  The Molitor brothers milk 300 cows and farm 1200 acres, all certified organic.  

The Molitors recently completed the Livestock Environmental Quality Assurance program in which they achieved environmental excellence in water, air, soil and wildlife habitat.  As organic farmers they can’t use commercial fertilizers and the program helped them determine how to more efficiently utilize their organic nutrients.  

The Molitors are also considered pioneers in dairy grazing in the Upper Midwest, having intensively grazed their cows for more than 20 years.  Tom Molitor says most of the farmland is used as pasture for rotational grazing which helps avoid the runoff found in a cow yard.  He says good environmental stewardship and animal care are the keys to running a successful dairy farm.

Winners of the MDA’s Good Farm Neighbor Award are selected by a committee representing the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the MDA.
–Minnesota Department of Agriculture news release 

Colorado water use varies by region
Colorado Front Range residents are using less water, but some parts of the Western Slope have seen per capita water use explode in the past decade, according to a new state study.

 The number of gallons per person used daily in Denver and other South Platte River basin cities decreased 13.6 percent between 2000 and 2008, to 178 gallons from 206 gallons.

 Water use in Colorado Springs and Arkansas River basin communities decreased during that time by 11.2 percent to 190 gallons, down from 214.

The catch: Population growth still is pushing total water use up — and state officials project shortages.

 Water use rose to 256 gallons per person in the Colorado River basin, 332 in the Rio Grande, and 236 in the Dolores/San Juan, according to Colorado Water Conservation Board data.
–The Denver Post

Mojave protection bill scuttles power projects
Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in Congress to protect a million acres of the Mojave Desert in California by scuttling some 13 big solar plants and wind farms planned for the region.

But before the bill to create two new Mojave national monuments has even had its first hearing, the California Democrat has largely achieved her aim. Regardless of the legislation’s fate, her opposition means that few if any power plants are likely to be built in the monument area, a complication in California’s effort to achieve its aggressive goals for renewable energy.
–The New York Times

Crystal Light drink mix promotes hydration
The phrase “just add water” is a staple on packages for convenience foods, an enticement that pancakes, ranch dressing, or macaroni and cheese are simply a turn of the faucet away. But a new campaign by Crystal Light, the sugarless powdered drink mix made by Kraft, turns that approach on its head, stressing not that water adds life to Crystal Light, but that Crystal Light adds life to water.

A television spot— by the Chicago office of McGarryBowen, part of Dentsu — features fit actresses frolicking in the ocean, a lake and a swimming pool, while a voiceover says, “Our bodies crave water, and women who drink Crystal Light drink 20 percent more of it.” The spot concludes with the tagline for the campaign, which includes print and online ads: “Water your body.”

The claim that Crystal Light drinkers are better hydrated draws on data from Kantar Worldpanel Beverage, a consumer research agency that is a subsidiary of TNS Global, which compared consumption levels of tap and bottled water drinkers with those who drink powdered beverages.
–The New York Times

Cracks found in Coon Rapids Dam
The Coon Rapids Dam on the Mississippi River has a new failure in its concrete apron — a problem that is not yet a safety concern but could cost millions to repair, a Three Rivers Park District inspection shows.

Repairing the cracked area with steel pilings could cost $1.5 million to $2 million, and reinforcing the entire apron could cost $6 million or more, Bill Holman of Stanley Consultants advised the park board.

Three Rivers officials are scheduled to discuss the problem with the Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 6 and with park board members later in the month.
–The Star Tribune

 

Conservation $$, Asian carp, declining aquifers

December 21, 2009

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

$56.3 million in conservation projects OK’d
Minnesota’s ailing wetlands and shallow lakes could get a boost after the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council gave preliminary approval to $56.3 million in conservation projects.

Two projects receiving the most funding focus on restoring wetlands and shallow lakes.

The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Wetlands Reserve Program, which matches federal money to restore private-land wetlands, received approval for $6.9 million. A joint program between Ducks Unlimited and the Department of Natural Resources to restore 19 shallow lakes was approved for $6.5 million.

 The council gave preliminary approval to 22 conservation projects that will be funded with one-third of the tax money from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. 

The other 20 projects fund enhancement, protection and restoration of trout streams, native prairies and grasslands, shore land areas, forests and lakes.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Catfish vs. bullheads in Lake Nakomis
Three thousand channel catfish will be introduced to Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis starting in the spring in a “bio-manipulation” experiment aimed at cleaning up the water by altering the lake’s food chain.

The channel catfish are expected to eat black bullheads, whose feeding habits are fouling the lake.

 “There is a high density of black bullheads in Lake Nokomis — we are estimating between 200 and 400 pounds of bullheads per lake acre,” said Steve McComas, owner of Blue Water Science in St. Paul. “We kind of ignored them over the years, but they can have a huge impact on water quality.”
–The Star Tribune

 Michigan sues Illinois, Army Corps over Asian carp
The state of Michigan is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to net the problem of Asian carp before the fish make their way into Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. 

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced he is filing a lawsuit, asking the high court to close the Chicago-area locks and waterways leading to the Great Lakes to prevent Asian carp from ruining the $7-billion annual fishing and tourism industry. 

“With DNA within six miles of Lake Michigan, now is the time to do it,” Cox said, even blaming the Bush and Obama administrations – among other public officials – and accusing them of foot-dragging. “They haven’t acted quickly enough.” 

Cox’s suit targets the state of Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
–The Detroit Free Press

EPA offers $13 million to halt Asian carp
Less than two weeks after fishery experts spent about $3 million to poison the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in a desperate attempt to beat back an Asian Carp invasion of Lake Michigan, the federal government has announced it will throw another $13 million at the problem. 

That money will come from the recently passed $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and much of it will go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so the agency can build emergency berms and plug various waterways in the Chicago area to keep the carp from riding floodwaters into the lake. 

“The challenge at hand requires the immediate action we’re taking today,” Environmental Protection Agency boss Lisa P. Jackson said in a news release. “EPA and its partners are stepping up to prevent the environmental and economic destruction that can come from invasive Asian carp.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 The economic impact of flying carp
William Contos has piloted barges on the Chicago canal connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes for a quarter century, hauling salt that melts ice off the city’s roads and coal that feeds its power plants.

 Denny Grinold also depends on the water, running a charter salmon-fishing outfit in Grand Haven, Michigan. Both men’s livelihood is at risk from the Asian carp, a non-native fish that threatens to enter Lake Michigan through the canal.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in a Dec. 2 letter urged “emergency action” to close the canal’s locks. Contos and other opponents say that would imperil shipping jobs, air quality and the waterway’s century-old role of keeping sewage out of the city’s drinking water. 

If Asian carp reach Lake Michigan and thrive, it could hurt the region’s $7.09 billion sport fishing industry and bond ratings for the communities that rely on Michigan’s $16.3 billion tourism industry.
–Bloomberg.com

 California groundwater declines
California’s two main river basins and the aquifers beneath its agricultural heartland have lost nearly enough water since 2003 to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, new satellite data show.

 Depleted aquifers account for two-thirds of the loss measured, most of it attributed to increased groundwater pumping for irrigation of drought-parched farmland in California’s fertile but arid Central Valley, scientists said.

 The findings have major implications for the economy as the Central Valley is home to one-sixth of all irrigated U.S. cropland, said Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine, and member of the research team.–Reuters

 New MCEA head is ‘farm kid’ who went to Harvard
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s new executive director is a lawyer with both public- and private-sector experience. But perhaps equally important, he is a self-described farm kid from Red River Valley who grew up outdoors.

Growing up, Scott Strand knew that his father and his uncle, who farmed together, worried about the effect of agricultural chemicals on the environment. The farm Strand was raised on was between Ada and Twin Valley, where his family grew sugar beets and feed grains, and also raised some cattle and hogs. He graduated from Ada High School at age 16 and then enrolled in Harvard University. He subsequently attended law school at the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in 1982.

After law school, Strand returned to Minnesota and joined the state Attorney General’s office, where he rose to the position of deputy counsel. He represented the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, but also did other work, including serving on the team that represented the state in litigation against Big Tobacco. After that, he joined Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, but for the past several years has had a solo practice in St. Paul.
–Finance and Commerce 

USDA documents climate change impact
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, released “The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems” at the climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 The report provides an accessible summary of findings contained in a U.S. scientific assessment project commissioned by the USGCRP and released in May 2008. New information has been added to provide additional detail on the original findings. 

Based on a wealth of source and review literature, the report concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so.
–USDA news release 

Nutrients upset predator-prey stream balance
Human activity is increasing the supply of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to stream systems all over the world.  The conventional wisdom—bolstered by earlier research—has held that these additional nutrients cause an increase in production all along the food chain, from the tiniest organisms up to the largest predators.  A long-term, ecosystem-scale study by a team of University of Georgia researchers, however, has thrown this assumption into question.  

The researchers—a team from the UGA Odum School of Ecology and department of entomology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—found , unexpectedly, that while nutrient enrichment did indeed cause a steady increase in the production of organisms lower on the food chain, organisms at the top of the food chain did not benefit.  

Their study, “Long-term nutrient enrichment decouples predator and prey production,” published  in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the National Science Foundation.  It documents the effects of long-term nutrient enrichment of a headwater stream in a forested area at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in North Carolina.  For the first two years of the study, the results were as expected: the production of both prey (the organisms low on the food chain) and predators (in this case salamanders and macroinvertebrates) increased.  But with continued addition of nutrients, things began to change.  While the prey continued to increase at the same rate, the production of predators leveled off, signifying a ‘decoupling’ of the typical relationship between predators and prey. 

Maintaining patterns of energy flow between predators and prey is a critical aspect of healthy ecosystems. “What we found was a dead end in the food chain,” said Amy Rosemond, assistant professor at the Odum School, and one of the lead researchers.  “This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of trophic decoupling, or break in the food chain, between the levels of prey and predator on this scale.  This kind of disruption of the food web wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen before now.” 
–University of Georgia news release 

Environmental groups threaten to sue Perdue
A pair of environmental groups said they plan to sue Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore chicken grower for alleged water pollution violations. The Assateague Coastkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance filed notice of their intent to seek legal action in 60 days against the Salisbury-based poultry company and the owners of a farm near Berlin that raises 80,000 birds under contract to Perdue. 

The groups contend that a drainage ditch feeding into the Pocomoke River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, is being polluted with chicken manure washing off the farm. They released aerial photographs taken since late October showing what they said was an uncovered pile of manure and wood shavings. A pair of water-filled trenches lead from the pile to a grassy ditch nearby.

 The groups say water sampled from the ditch downstream of the farm in recent weeks contained high levels of bacteria associated with animal waste, nutrients and arsenic, a toxic metal. Alan and Kristin Hudson, the farm owners named in the groups’ notice, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. But Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said the environmental groups’ news release was “full of errors and misstatements.” He said the pile in their pictures is not manure because the Hudsons told Perdue they hadn’t removed any manure from their chicken houses in the past 20 weeks.
–The Baltimore Sun

‘Toxic Water’ series examines drinking water

December 17, 2009

The latest installment in the New York Times’ “Toxic Water” series is a massive review of results from  chemical testing on drinking water in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The article by reporter Charles Duhigg concludes that the 35-year-old federal Safe Drinking Water Act is “so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.”

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States. And hundreds of those unregulated chemicals have been associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases, even in small concentrations, according to the Times.

The Times analysis of government reports on the testing concludes that “more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease.” To read the Times report, click here. To review test results the Times examined in Minnesota, click here.

Soil, water conservation on the farm honored

December 14, 2009

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then click on the links to read the works in their entirety where they originally were published.

Fillmore Co. farmers honored for conservation
Dan and Sherry Hanson of Fillmore County were named the state’s Outstanding Conservationist at the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ annual meeting in Duluth. 

The couple also was named the MASWCD Area 7 winner. They operate a 150-cow cow-calf operation and farm more than 600 acres, raising hay, no-till corn and soybeans. They have implemented numerous conservation practices, including tree plantings, fall chisel plowing, minimum tillage, installing terraces and grassed waterways, and following a nutrient management plan. 

Dan and Sherry also are among 700-plus volunteers in southeastern Minnesota who participating in a nitrate monitoring project. They submit a water sample from their well twice a year to be tested by the SWCD for nitrate. The survey will provide baseline data to detect future trends in nitrate levels in that region of the state.
–The Farmer 

Melting glaciers reduce Bolivian water supply
When the tap across from her mud-walled home dried up in September,  Celia Cruz stopped making soups and scaled back washing for her family of five. She began daily pilgrimages to better-off neighborhoods, hoping to find water there. 

Though she has lived here for a decade and her husband, a construction worker, makes a decent wage, money cannot buy water.

“I’m thinking of moving back to the countryside; what else can I do?” said Ms. Cruz, 33, wearing traditional braids and a long tiered skirt as she surveyed a courtyard dotted with piglets, bags of potatoes and an ancient red Datsun. “Two years ago this was never a problem. But if there’s not water, you can’t live.” 

The glaciers that have long provided water and electricity to this part of Bolivia are melting and disappearing, victims of global warming, most scientists say.
–The New York Times 

Invasive Asian carp not found
Several days of workers netting fish revealed no Asian carp in the Calumet Sag Channel, the task force marshaled against the invasive species said.

The news provided a qualified measure of relief for a spot where evidence of carp genetic material had been found by testing weeks ago. “We’ve just bought some much-needed time on the clock to take the next step toward longer-term, sustainable solutions,” said Cameron Davis, a Great Lakes adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and President Barack Obama’s administration.

The announcement from the group of environmental, fisheries and municipal agencies came amid threats of lawsuits to close access between area rivers and canals and the Great Lakes and public consideration of more drastic steps to halt the species’ northward advance on the lakes. It comes on the heels of other puzzling non-appearances of the often ubiquitous fish. A single Asian carp was found downstream in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal after days of preventive rotenone poisoning killed thousands of other fish in waters where carp are known to exist.
–The Chicago Tribune 

California water plan lacks funding
When lawmakers celebrated the end of California’s water squabbles last month, they left unanswered an issue certain to bedevil their hard-fought compromise: money. 

Permanent funding for the signature policy initiatives in the deal— from a panel created to govern the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to new efforts to crack down on water theft — have yet to be identified. But one likely source is fees levied against water districts, which could lead to higher rates for users. 

There also have been whispers that lawmakers — sensitive to “pork” claims and the state’s dismal debt picture— might try to shrink the $11.14 billion bond approved as part of the deal, a bid to help it win voter support next November.
–The Mercury News

Dakota County to transfer Spring Lake land to DNR
Hunters of waterfowl have long flocked to the islands in the Mississippi River at Spring Lake Park Reserve near Hastings, drawn by mallards, wood ducks, teal and Canada geese. 

And in an unusual arrangement for a Dakota County park — where hunting, trapping and the like are typically prohibited except for a few times a year — that was just fine. It was tradition, after all. 

Now, a plan to pass the county-owned islands, some shoreline and a bundle of tax-forfeited property to the Minnesota DNR to create the 733-acre Spring Lake Islands Wildlife Management Area will guarantee hunters and trappers access in perpetuity.
–The Star Tribune 

Dairy pollution sparks New Mexico ‘manure war’
The picture on many milk cartons shows cows  grazing on a pasture next to a country barn and a silo — but the reality is very different.

More and more milk comes from confined animal feeding operations, where large herds live in feedlots, waiting their thrice daily trip to the milking barn. And a factory farm with 2,000 cows produces as much sewage as a small city, yet there’s no treatment plant. 

Across the country, big dairies are coming under increased criticism for polluting the air and the water. In New Mexico, they’re in the midst of a manure war.
–Southern California Public Radio 

EPA oversight draws flak in Florida
The EPA’s decision to set water pollution limits in Florida is quickly becoming a political issue — and given the potential effect on big business and big agriculture, one that is attracting a litany of special interests.

 Michael Sole, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary, briefed the Cabinet on Tuesday. All members, in particular Attorney General Bill McCollum who called the EPA’s actions “outrageous,” appear ready to go to court to challenge the federal government if they don’t like the number set in January. 

The forces aligned against the EPA — led by Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, who expressed skepticism in global warming yesterday — are making presentations with heightened rhetoric about a standard that the federal government hasn’t even set yet. Likewise, the environmental groups that settled the lawsuit with the EPA continue to parade the same series of enlarged algae bloom photos to prove their point.
–tampabay.com

Judge halts Alaskan timber sale
A federal judge has halted a timber sale in a roadless area of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest that had been greenlighted by the Obama administration earlier this year. 

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled that the Forest Service must re-evaluate the sale due to changing economic conditions that have greatly reduced the revenue the proposed sale would bring. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in July had approved the Orion North sale, the first logging allowed in an area covered by the 2001 roadless rule since the secretary took personal responsibility for such decisions earlier this year. Environmental groups had filed a lawsuit in March challenging the proposed sale, which would allow Pacific Log and Lumber to harvest about 4.4 million board feet of timber.
–The New York Times

Climate change, Asian carp and biofuels

December 7, 2009

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

Copenhagen climate conference begins
A much-anticipated global meeting of nearly 200 nations — all seeking what has so far been elusive common ground on the issue of climate change — got under way with an impassioned airing of what leaders here called the political and moral imperatives at hand. 

 “The clock has ticked down to zero,” said the United Nations’ climate chief, Yvo de Boer. “After two years of negotiation, the time has come to deliver.” 

From now until Dec. 18, delegates will try to hammer out some of the most vexing details involved in the pursuit of a global climate accord. Among these are broad cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — particularly from big polluters like the United States and China — and a commitment from wealthy nations to deliver what could ultimately be hundreds of billions of dollars in financing to poor countries, who argue that they are ill equipped to deal with a problem they did little to create.
–The New York Times

 Leaked emails mushroom into ‘climate-gate’
It began with an anonymous Internet posting, and a link to a wonky set of e-mails and files. Stolen, apparently, from a research center in Britain, the files showed the leaders of climate-change science discussing flaws in their own data, and seemingly scheming to muzzle their critics. 

Now it has mushroomed into what is being called “Climate-gate,” a scandal that has done what many slide shows and public-service ads could not: focus public attention on the science of a warming planet.

Except now, much of that attention is focused on the science’s flaws. Leaked just before international climate talks begin in Copenhagen — the culmination of years of work by scientists to raise alarms about greenhouse-gas emissions — the e-mails have cast those scientists in a political light and given new energy to others who think the issue of climate change is all overblown.
–The Washington Post

World worries about climate dip, poll shows
World concern about climate change has fallen in the past two years, according to an opinion poll on Sunday, the eve of 190-nation talks in Copenhagen meant to agree a U.N. deal to fight global warming.

The Nielsen/Oxford University survey showed that 37 percent of more than 27,000 Internet users in 54 countries said they were “very concerned” about climate change, down from 41 percent in a similar poll two years ago. 

“Global concern for climate change cools off,” the Nielsen Co. said of the poll, taken in October. It linked the decline to the world economic slowdown.
–The New York Times

 Asian carp spark fight over Great Lakes
Chicago’s winters are notoriously nasty. Yet everyday from November through March, even this week when temperatures plummeted below freezing for the first time this season, dozens of fishermen brave the wind and the cold to fish for little Lake Michigan perch. 

“I’m out here five days a week,” says John Calderon of Chicago’s South Side. “I’m out here all winter. I can take the cold, you know. I’m out here when there’s ice here; we have to break through it just to get ’em.” 

Calderon says the lake perch “are good eating. And I freeze ’em, and actually we eat them in the summer.” 

But Calderon and his fishing buddies on this downtown pier worry that their tasty perch could disappear if the dreaded Asian carp, an invasive species, get into Lake Michigan.
–National Public Radio

 India borrows for massive Ganges clean-up
The World Bank will provide India a loan of 1 billion dollars for a proposed clean up of the Ganges. The river, sacred for the Hindu population of India, is one of the most polluted in the world, and flows for about 2500 kilometers collecting the waste of chemical industry products, agricultural pesticides and sewage. 

Speaking in New Delhi, the Director of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, said that the cleaning and sanitation project is included in the wider initiative “Mission Clean Ganga” launched by the National Ganges Basin Authority (Ngrba). By 2020 it plans to put an end to the discharge of untreated waste into the Ganges. The project should cover the entire network of tributaries of the river: this plan will include the construction of wastewater treatment centre, upgrading of drainage channels and other measures to improve water quality.
–AsiaNews.it  

Drought still threatens California water supply
Operators of the sprawling state system that supplies water to 25 million Californians from Butte County to San Diego issued their lowest-ever estimate on the amount of water they will be able to deliver.

 Officials predicted they will be able to offer only 5 percent of the total volume of water requested by California cities and farms next year. That’s the smallest water allocation the agency has released since its creation in 1967. 

The estimate, based on current water conditions, is only preliminary and is almost certain to rise as the rainy season wears on. Still, officials expect a multiyear drought, low reservoirs and environmental restrictions on water pumping to keep supplies well below average in 2010.
–San Francisco Chronicle 

GAO studies biofuels’ impact on water
Growing U.S. production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel could increase water pollution, a government report warned. 

Ethanol refineries discharge chemicals and salts that can contaminate drinking water and endanger fish and other aquatic life, according to a Government Accounting Office report . 

Biodiesel refineries release pollutants such as glycerin, which disrupts the microbial cleaning processes used in wastewater treatment, the report noted. 

The full report can be viewed here.
–The Los Angeles Times

 Herbicides clear milfoil on Lake Minnetonka
Two years into a five-year test of herbicides to control Eurasian water milfoil on Lake Minnetonka, results are so encouraging that more shoreline property owners are asking for the chemical treatment in their bays.

 After seeing the weed fade away this year on Grays Bay and Phelps Bay, residents of Gideons Bay and St. Albans Bay are trying to raise money for milfoil treatments next summer.

“There’s a ton of interest,” said Dick Osgood, executive director of the Lake Minnetonka Association, which started the weed control program on Grays Bay, Phelps Bay and Carman Bay in 2008, with the approval of the state Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.
–The Star Tribune 

No-wake zone debated at Red Wing
A request by a handful of property owners along the Mississippi River to extend the no wake zone near Red Wing several miles north to Lock and Dam No. 3 was met with skepticism and disapproval by local boaters and business owners. 

Many at the Red Wing Harbor Commission meeting said they understood the property owners’ concerns about excessive wakes, because large wakes eat away at shorelines. But, they said, instituting a no wake zone would eradicate tourism dollars boaters bring to Red Wing.
–Pierce County Herald 

Wisconsin considers groundwater protection
Brian A. Wolf boasted about the shimmering water and the trophy bass he used to catch from Long Lake in central Wisconsin. 

But since 2005, the lake has undergone a remarkable transformation: It’s essentially gone.

“It’s as if someone pulled the plug in a bathtub,” said Wolf, a property owner on the lake. “This lake is dead.” 

Wolf and his neighbors blame irrigation on nearby fields as part of the reason for the disappearance of their lake. 

Today, its 50 acres is filled with prairie grasses and small pools of water. Long Lake is a seepage lake that has relied on free-flowing water below the ground and precipitation to keep it sustained.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Maryland to expand oyster sanctuary
Maryland plans to dramatically increase the area of the Chesapeake Bay that is closed to oyster harvests, Gov. Martin O’Malley said, offering an expanded foothold to an iconic species that has dropped to 1 percent of its peak population.

 O’Malley (D), speaking at an Annapolis oyster factory-turned-museum, said the state would ban harvesting on 24 percent of its most bountiful oyster grounds, up from 9 percent now. The off-limits would total 8,640 acres.
–The Washington Post 

Groundwater pollution persists in Bhopal
Twenty-five years after a toxic gas cloud from a pesticide factory killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India, groundwater at the accident site — a drinking water supply for 15 communities — remains contaminated, according to a report released by an advocacy group and a medical clinic. 

The U.K.-based Bhopal Medical Appeal and the Sambhavna Clinic say water contamination is worsening as chemicals leach through soil into the aquifer. 

“A huge proportion of the factory site is full of very toxic waste,” said Colin Toogood, the report’s author.
–The New York Times

Irrigation increases in U.S. and in Minnesota

December 1, 2009

Irrigation of farms has increased in Minnesota and across the United States over the last five years, and the pumping of groundwater for irrigation has increased faster. 

That’s according to a new survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and water appropriations data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

 Between 2003 and 2008, the total farmland irrigated in the United States increased 4.6 percent – from 52.5 million acres to 54.9 million acres, the USDA reported this week. The total amount of water from all sources used in agricultural irrigation across the country increased 5.2 percent – from 86.8 million acre-feet to 91.2 acre-feet. 

 But the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey found that the pumping of groundwater for irrigation increased 12 percent – from 43.5 million acre-feet to 48.5 million acre-feet over those five years. 

An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons. So the amount of groundwater pumped for irrigation last year was just under 12 trillion gallons. 

In Minnesota, the total amount of water used in irrigation in 2008 for all purposes – farmland, golf courses, cemeteries and other uses — was slightly less than 117 billion gallons, up 10.5 percent from 2003. Of that total, about 103 billion was groundwater, according to the DNR records.

The increase in groundwater use for irrigation in Minnesota over the five years was 10.7 percent.