The Freshwater Society blog publishes a digest of important regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the articles in their entirety where they originally were published.
Newsletter available electronically
A new Freshwater Society newsletter is available. Check it out on our website. The 12-page newsletter can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can page through it in electronic-magazine form.
It includes articles on:
• U.S. Geological Survey research linking a big decline in the water level in White Bear Lake to groundwater pumping.
• A free Freshwater app now available for smartphones.
• A column by Gene Merriam urging consumers to demand more-sustainable food.
Clean Water Act lecture set June 25
Forty years ago this autumn, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Richard Nixon’s veto and enacted the Clean Water Act. The act dramatically reduced pollution from industry and sewage treatment plants that must obtain federal permits to discharge their wastes. But the legislation was much weaker in dealing with today’s biggest water-quality challenge: Polluted runoff from multiple, diffuse sources, especially from agriculture.
G. Tracy Mehan III, an environmental consultant who was the top water-quality official in the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, will deliver a free, public lecture in St. Paul on the Clean Water Act’s successes, political obstacles to strengthening the law and avenues that can lead to progress.
The lecture is sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences. It will be at 7 p.m. in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. The lecture is titled The Clean Water Act After 40 Years: What Has It Accomplished? How Do We Fulfill Its Promise?
Learn more and register to attend.
Ag Department names ‘Certainty’ committee
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced the membership of an advisory committee that will help develop the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program.
The new program is the result of an agreement between Gov. Mark Dayton and federal officials, with the goal of enhancing Minnesota’s water quality by accelerating adoption of on-farm water quality practices. The committee will provide recommendations to MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson.
• Douglas Albin, farmer and chairman of Yellow Medicine County Corn Growers. • Dennis Berglund, CEO and general manager, Control Crop Consulting.
• Nathan Collins, president, Swift County Farm Bureau and Murdock City Council member.
• Elizabeth Croteau-Kallstad, executive director, Cannon River Watershed Partnership.
• Dean Fairchild, assistant vice president, Mosaic Company.
• Dennis Fuchs, district administrator, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kirby Hettver, farmer and member of Chippewa County Corn and Soybean Growers.
• Jim Kleinschmit, rural communities Program director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
• Bob Lefebvre, executive director, Minnesota Milk Producers Association.
• Mike Myser, mayor of Prior Lake.
• Doug Peterson, president, Minnesota Farmers Union.
• James Riddle, supervisor, Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District.
• Kris Sigford, water quality director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
• Tony Thompson, farmer and member of North Heron Lake Game Producers Association.
• Bill Zurn, farmer and past president of Minnesota Soybean Growers.
–Minnesota Agriculture Department News Release
Oklahoma enacts water conservation
When looking at the numbers in their water plans, many states and cities fret about how to cover projected gaps between demand and supply. With the governor’s signature on May 21, Oklahoma’s political leadership has placed a big bet on conservation.
The Water for 2060 Act, introduced by House Speaker Kris Steele, sets a goal that the state will consume no more freshwater in the year 2060 than is currently used, even as the population is expected to grow by 28 percent to 4.8 million people.
–Circle of Blue
Class-action Atrazine deal announced
Swiss chemicals company Syngenta announced a proposed $US 105 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by communities in six Midwestern U.S. states who claimed that atrazine — one of the most widely used herbicides in the nation — had contaminated their drinking water.
The plaintiffs, representing 16 communities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, asked for money to cover the cost of installing treatment systems to filter out the weed-killing chemical, which has been used since 1959 in the United States, primarily for corn, sorghum, and sugar cane.
Money from the settlement fund will be available to any community water system in the U.S. that shows a measurable level of atrazine in its supply. It is estimated that close to 2,000 such systems, mostly in the Midwest, will be eligible.
–Circle of Blue
Cities, environmentalists seek action on farms
Minnesota farms send far more sediment into the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers than do the state’s cities. But what to do about it?
That question resurfaced May 29, when environmental, city, business and farm interests called on state regulators to make farmers do a better job of reducing that runoff. Otherwise, they said, communities across much of Minnesota, and the taxpayers who live there, could be hit with more than $1 billion in added infrastructure-related expenses to cut their own.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Crop insurance subsidies cost billions
Federal subsidies for crop insurance cost U.S. taxpayers $11 billion last year, according to a new analysis of government records by the Environmental Working Group. Across the country, more than 10,000 individual farming operations got subsidies worth between $100,000 and more than $1 million apiece.
In Minnesota, federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums totaled more than $526 million, and farmers paid about $318 million in premiums, according to the Environmental Working Group.
MPCA warns of toxic blue-green algae
When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again reminding people some types of algae can harm pets, livestock and even people.
Algae are microscopic aquatic plants and are a natural part of any aquatic ecosystem. Under the right conditions, some forms of algae, particularly a type called “blue-green algae,” can pose harmful health risks. People or animals may become sick if exposed to these blooms. In extreme cases, dogs and other animals have died after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.
Most algae are harmless. However blue-green algae, when sunlight and warmth cause them to “bloom” in dense populations, can produce toxins and other chemicals. There are many types of blue-green algae. They are found throughout Minnesota, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes. Often blown toward downwind shorelines, it is in these blooms that humans and animals most often come in contact with blue-green algae, and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.
–MPCA News Release
Viruses found in unfiltered Wis. Water
A new study of 14 Wisconsin communities that do not disinfect their water revealed the presence of human viruses in drinking water in nearly one-quarter of all samples taken.
The results suggest that people in municipalities that don’t treat their water systems may be exposed to waterborne viruses and potential health risks, the study concluded.
The authors calculated that water that isn’t disinfected was responsible for 6% to 22% of gastrointestinal illnesses reported during the study period. At one time during the study, when norovirus was commonly found in tap water, the researchers attributed up to 63% of the cause of illness to dirty drinking water in children younger than 5.
The likely virus source was leaking wastewater sewers, the study concluded.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Minnesota Waters members absorbed
Minnesota Waters, a lakes and rivers organization that ended operations, is being absorbed by Conservation Minnesota, another nonprofit group.
“Their members and network and their brand are going to be part of Conservation Minnesota going forward,” said Paul Austin, executive director of Conservation Minnesota. No Minnesota Waters staff will join Conservation Minnesota, he said.
Some Minnesota Waters work is being assumed by other organizations, such as the Freshwater Society. Other functions will continue under Conservation Minnesota, which will contact the new membership to establish how best to serve it and to protect its interests, Austin said.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press
Minnehaha Creek clean-up set July 8
Volunteers are being recruited from across the Twin Cities to clean up Minnehaha Creek at a free, family-friendly event.
On Sunday, July 8, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is teaming up with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s “Canoes for a Cause” campaign to host the 6th annual Minnehaha Creek Clean-up at Lake Hiawatha at 46th Street and 28th Avenue South in Minneapolis. The goal this year is to collect two tons of trash. For more information, visit www.minnehahacreek.org.