Posts Tagged ‘agricultural pollution’

UN calculates ag pollution’s worldwide cost

March 19, 2012

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

Save these dates:

  •  March 29. The Freshwater hosts a conference on precision conservation, the science and philosophy of putting conservation practices into place at spots on the landscape where are most effective and provide the most return on investment. Learn more.
  • April 12. The Freshwater Society’s Ice Out/Loon In party and fund-raiser celebrates spring. Get info at www.freshwater.org. The event will be from 5:30 to 8;30 p.m. at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach. There will be music, food, a silent auction and – where else can you find this? – a loon-calling contest.

UN report: Ag pollution costs billions worldwide 
Water pollution from agriculture is costing billions of dollars a year in developed countries and is expected to increase in China and India as farmers race to increase food production, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

“Pollution from farm pesticides and fertilizers is often diffuse, making it hard to pin down exactly where it’s coming from,” Kevin Parris, author of a report from the Paris-based organization, said in an interview in Marseille. “In some big agricultural countries in Europe, like parts of France, Spain and the U.K., the situation is deteriorating.”

In some regions of China, pollution of waterways from agriculture may already have reached the point where it may trigger health problems in people, he said.

The OECD report is part of a series of studies published to coincide with the World Water Forum in Marseille. Ministers, industry representatives and non-government organizations are discussing resource management, waste, health risks and climate change at the meeting. Pollution from farming is gaining prominence as the global population increases, raising demand for food and putting strain on water resources.
–Bloomberg

EPA sued over Mississippi R. pollution
A number of environmental groups, led by the Gulf Restoration Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed two lawsuits to force the Environmental Protection Agency to set and enforce water quality standards for the Mississippi River. The lawsuits, filed in New Orleans and New York, target nutrient pollution from farm fields and sewage treatment plants. The pollution contributes to the massive “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

Read a Reuters report on the two suits. Read a Des Moines Register article focusing on Iowa and the Midwest. Read the court filings.

California nitrate pollution worsens 
Nitrate contamination of groundwater in some of the state’s most intensely farmed regions has grown worse in recent decades and will continue to spread, threatening the drinking water supplies  of more than 250,000 people, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by UC Davis scientists, underscores the complexity of dealing with nitrate pollution, which is largely the result of nitrogen leaching into aquifers from fertilizers and manure applied to cropland.

High nitrate levels have been linked to cancer and reproductive disorders and can be lethal to infants. Examining groundwater data from the southern San Joaquin and Salinas valleys, the authors concluded that even if all farming operations ceased, nitrates would remain in water supplies and continue to spread for decades.
–The Los Angeles Times

Conference March 18 and 19 on aquatic invasives 
A two-day conference in St. Paul will present state and national speakers discussing the threat of aquatic invasive species – both plants and animals. The conference, sponsored by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and a number of partners, will be held Monday and Tuesday, March 19 and 20, at the Kelly Inn, near the state Capitol.

The first day will focus on aquatic invasive plants such as flowering rush and curly leaf pondweed, include an update on AIS initiatives during the 2012 Minnesota legislative session and an appearance by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has introduced federal legislation to curb the spread of Asian carp. The second day will focus on aquatic invasive animals such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.  Learn more and view an agenda.

EPA review discounts fracking complaints
Federal environmental regulators say well water testing at 11 homes in a northeastern Pennsylvania village where a gas driller was accused of polluting the aquifer failed to show elevated levels of contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency is sampling well water at dozens of homes in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

The agency said  it received initial test results for 11 homes. Regulators say water samples from six of the 11 homes showed sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria, but at safe levels. Arsenic was found in the well water of two homes but at low levels.
–The Associated Press

 Climate-driven flooding imperils millions 
About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research.

If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.

By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found, with roughly half of the nation’s at-risk population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying limestone shelf that constitutes much of that state. But Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk.
–The New York Times

Ogallala restrictions worry Texas farmers
J. O. Dawdy, who has been a farmer for 36 years, is so worried about getting enough groundwater that he is considering a lawsuit to protect his right to it.

As sleet pounded his West Texas farmhouse one recent afternoon, Mr. Dawdy and three other farmers said that new regulations — which limit the amount of water they can withdraw from the Ogallala Aquifer and require that new wells have meters to measure use — could have crippling effects on their livelihoods.

“We view it as a real property-rights violation,” said Mr. Dawdy, who grows cotton. If the restrictions had been in place last year during the drought, he said, his land would not have produced a crop.

Water is a contentious issue across Texas, but tensions have been especially high in a 16-county groundwater conservation district stretching from south of Lubbock into the Panhandle, an area considered part of America’s “breadbasket.” There, farmers reliant on the slowly diminishing Ogallala are fighting to maintain their right to pump unrestricted amounts of water.
–The Texas Tribune

Study evaluates all-renewable power future 
If you’ve ever driven past the wind farms in southern Minnesota or seen a house with solar panels, maybe you’ve wondered how much of the state’s total electricity demand wind and solar power could support.

According to a study released March 13, the answer is 100 percent. All of Minnesota’s electricity generation could be met by a combination of wind and solar energy, as long as it’s combined with big energy storage and grid improvements that dramatically reduce demand, the study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research says.

In the end, electricity would cost about 3 cents more per kilowatt hour than today’s statewide average of about 10.6 cents for residential customers, the study by the Takoma Park, Md.-based think tank concluded.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Lowly eelpout may be in decline 
The eelpout or burbot, that beady-eyed freshwater cod widely known as the “ish of fish” for its unsightly appearance, doesn’t get a lot of attention, but fisheries managers in Minnesota and North Dakota say the species is in decline.

“It’s almost more of an anecdotal thing,” said Tom Heinrich, large lake specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, Minn. “They’re not all that vulnerable to gillnets, which are our primary lake assessment gear. Most of the information is based on what you see on the ice. People just aren’t catching nearly the ’pout they used to.”
 –Grand Forks Herald

MPCA seeks citizen water quality monitors
Do you live near a lake or stream in Minnesota, or visit one regularly? If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency needs your help!

Join more than 1,500 Minnesotans who track the health of their favorite lake or stream through the Citizen Lake or Citizen Stream Monitoring Programs.

These volunteers measure water clarity in their lake or stream weekly throughout the summer months, using simple equipment provided by the MPCA. Water clarity, or transparency, is an important indicator of the health of a lake or stream. The MPCA uses water clarity data to track water quality trends and make decisions on watershed protection and restoration. For some lakes and streams, data collected by volunteers is the only data available, making this work very valuable.

To become a volunteer or learn more about the program, visit the MPCA’s website, or  call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota). Read a 2009 Freshwater Society article about the lake and stream monitoring programs.
–MPCA News Release

Sewage effluent cools Google in Ga. 
The data center has become the coal-fired power plant of the tech industry – the most visible symbol of the online world’s environmental impact. And in recent years, Apple, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants have undertaken efforts, voluntarily and under pressure from groups like Greenpeace, to slash their massive electricity consumption and secure power from renewable energy sources.

Now Google has opened a new front on a less-noticed impact of data centers – water consumption. Like power plants, data centers, with their acres of servers, suck up millions of gallons of water a year for cooling (as an alternative to using electricity-hogging mechanical chillers).

Google said it had switched to using recycled water at its Douglas County, Ga., data center rather than continue to tap drinking water as it had when the facility opened in 2007.

“But we soon realized that the water we used didn’t need to be clean enough to drink,” Jim Brown, Google’s data center facilities manager, wrote in a blog post. “So we talked to the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority (known locally as the WSA) about setting up a system that uses reuse water – also known as gray or recycled water – in our cooling infrastructure. With this system in place, we’re able to use recycled water for 100% of our cooling needs.”
–Forbes

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October 10, 2011

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

Read Facets articles on-line
Asian carp. The future of U.S. and world agriculture. A Gene Merriam column on conservation and crop insurance. Two new books on lakes. Don’t miss the latest issue of “Facets of Freshwater,” the Freshwater Society’s newsletter. Features, which you can read on-line here,  include:

  • A q-and-a interview with Tim Schlagenhaft, the Minnesota DNR’s point person in the campaign against Asian carp.
  • A column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam urging that the federal  Farm Bill be changed to make conservation compliance a requirement for  farmers getting subsidized crop insurance.
  • An article on MN FarmWise,  the farmer-to-farmer mentoring program that Freshwater and the National  Park Service are building to encourage farmers to employ proven  conservation practices to reduce soil erosion and runoff.
  • A preview of th Nov. 10 lecture that Fred Kirschenmann will deliver on water and the future of U.S. and world agriculture.

Read a web-only article on a University of Minnesota doctoral student’s research on how water moves within the many bays of Lake Minnetonka. The research holds potential to allow data from water-quality measurements taken at a few places in the lake to be extrapolated to the entire lake.

Farmer accused of killing pelican chicks
On May 17, Craig Staloch just snapped, his lawyer says.

Within the space of a few hours, he smashed thousands of American White pelican chicks and eggs — all of the offspring in one of the state’s largest colonies — even though a wildlife officer had told him the previous day that they were protected by federal law.

Making his first appearance in federal court, Staloch, a farmer from Faribault County, entered no plea to a criminal misdemeanor charge filed for what conservation officials say is one of the most extreme acts of wildlife destruction they’ve ever encountered.

“He flipped out,” said Staloch’s attorney, Jason Kohlmeyer. “He got frustrated and went to town.”

The birds had damaged about seven acres of land he was renting on the shores of Minnesota Lake, Staloch said after the hearing. Over the past three years they’ve cost him $20,000 in expenses and lost revenue, he said. When he asked for help, state wildlife specialists suggested a fence to protect his crops, Kohlmeyer said.

“But that’s not effective,” he said. “The damn birds fly.”
–The Star Tribune

Cormorant control bill introduced
 A new bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. John Kline and Collin Peterson would give states greater latitude to manage the size of migrating flocks of cormorants.

The birds are protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act but Kline and Peterson say an overpopulation of cormorants has caused damage in their districts, displacing other species and fouling the air and water with waste.

Under the current law, states must submit plans to control the population to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval. Under Kline and Peterson’s bill, governors would have authority to manage the bird populations, with that authority subject to review every five years.
–Minnesota Public Radio

DNR tries zebra mussel pesticide
 Favorable weather conditions allowed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to treat a 10-acre section of Rose Lake on Oct. 6 for an isolated infestation of zebra mussels in the Otter Tail County lake.

The treatment, using copper sulfate, is the first of three pesticide treatments occurring this fall to kill a small population of juvenile zebra mussels discovered in the lake in late September. DNR biologists believe the invasive mussels were introduced when a boat lift was placed in the 1,200-acre lake this summer.

The DNR hired a licensed aquatic pesticide contractor to apply the treatment, which is commonly used to treat snails that cause swimmers itch. The DNR is paying $14,000 for the three treatments, which take about two hours to complete.

“We know copper sulfate will kill zebra mussels, but we won’t know for sure until next summer if the treatment was successful,” said Nathan Olson, DNR invasive species specialist. “We will be monitoring the site closely.”
–DNR News Release

Senjem to speak on non-point pollution
 Norm Senjem, who recently retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where he directed the agency’s effort to measure and reduce the sediment and phosphorus flowing into Lake Pepin, will be the featured speaker Wednesday, Oct. 12, at
a Sip of Science. The happy-hour-style lecture series is sponsored by the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics at the University of Minnesota.

Senjem will speak at 5:30 p.m. at the Aster Café, 125 SE Main Street, Minneapolis.

A news release from the National Center For Earth-Surface Dynamics says Senjem will argue that voluntary measures are no longer enough to address non-point pollution in Minnesota.

Mineral leases delayed 6 months
 Minnesota officials unexpectedly postponed prospecting for copper and other minerals on private lands near Ely, giving cabin owners and local residents six months to try to change state law allowing the exploration.

Even though the state has the power to sell the leases that would permit drilling, road building and other activities because it controls the mineral rights to those properties, Gov. Mark Dayton said that with the state on the brink of a new era of mining it’s critical to “get it right.”

“Those minerals are not going to go anywhere,” he said. A delay, he said, will allow the state “to regain the public trust.”
About 75 people attended the special meeting by the state’s executive council, made up of Dayton and the state’s other top elected officials. Property owners who have been fighting the sale since April were granted a last chance to persuade the council to reject or at least postpone the 50-year leases on their land. They said they wanted the opportunity to go to the Legislature to change a century-old law that they said is skewed in favor of the mining companies.

“That law was made by and for the mining companies,” said Ron Brodigan, who had mineral leases sold on about 120 of the 200 acres he owns near Isabella.
–The Star Tribune

DNR seeks local input in managing groundwater
 The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is trying to improve the way it manages the state’s underground water supply.
Cities, industries and farms are all using more water. State scientists have found evidence that pumping too much water from underground is damaging lakes, streams and wetlands, particularly during summer, said Andrew Streitz, a hydrologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“We’re a water rich state, and I think for the first time we’re bumping up against limits to what we thought of as a limitless resource,” said Streitz, who studies the interaction between groundwater and surface water.

To help preserve a precious natural resource, the DNR plans to test a new water management model that would give local officials a greater role in conserving water.
–Minnesota Public Radio

BWCA lottery ends
 Visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness no longer will have to deal with a lottery to get a permit to enter the 1-million-acre preserve in northern Minnesota.

The U.S. Forest Service is dropping the long-used lottery system next year, and will offer permits on a first-come, first-served basis instead.

“Because of current technology and improvements to our reservation system, the lottery is no longer necessary,” Jim Sanders, Superior National Forest supervisor, said in a letter to BWCA visitors.

The agency had used a lottery from Dec. 1 to Jan. 15 to help distribute permits, especially for high-demand entry points and dates. About 9,000 people applied for permits during the lottery period. When it ended, permits were distributed on a first-come basis.

“There’s so very few dates where there isn’t some availability, and very few entry points with that high level of demand, that it just doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of anyone to keep the lottery,” said Kris Reichenbach, a Superior National Forest spokeswoman.
–The Star Tribune

Court rules for mountaintop mining
 A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in tightening oversight of permits used by coal companies in a process known as mountaintop removal mining.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the federal Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act when it issued tougher environmental guidelines related to fill material dumped into streams after the tops of mountains are blasted off to extract underlying coal seams. The National Mining Association sued the EPA last year and argued that the agency couldn’t issue the new guidance without formal rulemaking.

The dispute is one of several in which the mining industry has argued that more stringent environmental regulations are hampering the ability of coal companies to operate and maintain mining jobs. The judge has yet to hear arguments on the second part of the mining association’s lawsuit which involves the specific water-quality guidelines used by the EPA.

Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the mining association, said that more than 70 mining permits in Appalachia that had been on hold will be freed up as a result of the judge’s decision.
–The Wall Street Journal

MPCA renews groundwater testing
 Responding to recent monitoring results that showed increased perfluorochemical (PFC) levels in the groundwater at the 3M Woodbury dump site, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has conducted a new round of sampling of private wells in residential areas of Cottage Grove and Woodbury near the site.

Testing results indicate none of the wells tested had levels of PFCs that exceed state drinking-water standards. However, the MPCA continues to work with 3M to determine the reason for the increase and determine if changes in the site cleanup plans are necessary.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the agency moved quickly to sample private wells to determine whether the water from the wells is meeting state drinking-water standards for PFCs.

“We contacted homeowners for permission and fast-tracked the sampling and lab analysis. This week we called residents back to let them know that the wells that were tested were below the health-based drinking-water levels for PFCs,” Aasen said.
–MPCA News Release

TPT to cover Great Lakes conference
Twin Cities Public Television will provide live and delayed coverage of a major U.S.-Canada conference on the future of the Great Lakes. The conference will be held in Detroit, Oct. 12 through 14.For information on the conference and scheduling details, go to www.tpt.org/greatlakes.

UN conference focuses on water
 Successful water projects can serve as templates around the world and help to stimulate the adoption of green economies, a conference run by the United Nations inter-agency group focused on water issues has heard.

The three-day UN-Water conference in Zaragoza, Spain, discussed examples of successful water projects as well as how to adequate manage the world’s limited water resources.

Experts predict that the amount of water needed by humans could exceed the amount available by as much as 40 per cent by 2030, making water management a priority in the sustainability agenda. Water is also closely linked to the green economy because it is interwoven with sustainable development issues such as health, food security, energy and poverty.

The conference served as a preparation process for next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development,
known as Rio+20.
–United Nations News Release

Fluoride debate resurfaces
Consumers hearing that some U.S. communities will no longer add fluoride to their drinking water, such as Florida’s Pinellas County, may wonder whether this cavity fighter is safe.

The short answer: Most health professionals say yes, as long as people don’t ingest too much of it.

Studies in the 1930s found tooth decay was less severe in areas with more fluoride in drinking water, prompting U.S. communities to add it to their water.

Yet the Obama administration is moving to lower its recommended amount in drinking water as newer research shows high levels can cause tooth and bone damage.

The National Academies’ National Research Council found in 2006 that children are at risk of losing enamel and developing pits and brown stains on their teeth if the fluoride in their water exceeds the maximum level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It said this “severe fluorosis” can cause tooth decay.
–USA Today

Report urges upgrading U.S. water system
Want to create nearly 1.9 million American jobs and add $265 billion to the economy? Upgrade our water and wastewater infrastructure. That’s the message of a new report released by Green For  All, in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. The Rockefeller Foundation generously provided funding for the project.

Every year, sewage overflows dump 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems – enough to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep. But investment in our nation’s infrastructure to handle stormwater and wastewater has lagged, falling by one-third since its 1975 peak.

The report, Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, looks at an investment of $188.4 billion in water infrastructure – the amount the EPA indicates would be required to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. That investment would inject a quarter of a trillion dollars into the economy, create nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs in related sectors and result in 568,000 additional jobs from increased spending.
–Green For  All News Release

Environmentalists wary of Great Lakes pact
U.S. and Canadian negotiators are putting the finishing touches on the bi-national Great Lakes water quality agreement even as conservation groups continue to grumble that they are being kept in the dark about the details of a document designed to help both countries manage the world’s largest freshwater system.

The agreement was first passed in the early 1970s in response to outrage over chronic pollution problems facing the lakes, and it was subsequently updated in the ’70s and ’80s. Now the governments are getting set to release a 21st century version of the plan after acknowledging two years ago that new problems such as invasive species and fresh chemical contaminants were not adequately addressed in the existing agreement.

The governments have been soliciting public input, but the problem for a big coalition of conservation groups is the public has not been allowed to see details of the draft plan.

Government leaders say it has to be that way.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Montana settles clean-water suit
 A federal judge has approved a far-reaching settlement giving Montana until 2014 to clean up polluted streams and lakes in 28 watersheds across the state, capping nearly 15 years of legal battles, officials said.

The deal covers more than 17,000 miles of rivers and streams and 461,000 surface acres of lakes, requiring them to meet water-quality standards set for uses such as drinking, swimming and fishing, under the federal Clean Water Act.

The settlement, signed by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, addresses hundreds of types of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and heavy metals such as mercury.

The deal stems from a 1997 lawsuit that said the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality had violated the Clean Water Act by permitting contaminants to be released into the state’s already degraded waters.

In 2003, Molloy sided with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other environmental groups, ordering Montana to develop pollution control plans for many waterways by 2012.
–Reuters

Turning poop into power
 Maryland chicken farms produce a substantial amount of phosphorous-rich chicken manure, which contributes to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. One solution to the problem: Turn the poop into power.

A new grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will bring $850,000 to Eastern Shore chicken farmers to install technologically advanced systems to convert waste into green energy.

“We’re trying to create a network of people who have experience (with) these technologies to provide assistance to farmers,” said Amanda Bassow, director of the Chesapeake Program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is administering the USDA grant.

Disposal of chicken farm waste is a pressing issue in the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay where, according the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 26 percent of the phosphorus load entering the bay comes from animal waste.
–Capital News Service

DNR hiring conservation officers
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting applications until Oct. 14 for the position of conservation officer.

The DNR’s Division of Enforcement anticipates hiring up to 26 conservation officers for academies to be held in the spring of 2012 and fall of 2012.

Conservation officers provide public safety, and resource and recreation protection response to all field operations for which the DNR Division of Enforcement is held responsible.

Applicants must possess a valid Minnesota Peace Officer’s License, or be eligible to be licensed by the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board prior to the time conditional offers are made; or complete basic police training and be certified as a full-time peace officer in a state or federal law enforcement agency with which Minnesota has reciprocity, and pass the POST Board reciprocity exam by the time conditional job offers are made.
–Minnesota DNR News Release

Hole reported in Arctic ozone
 Intense cold in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic last winter activated ozone-depleting chemicals and produced the first significant ozone hole ever recorded over the high northern regions, scientists reported in the journal Nature.

While the extent of the ozone depletion is considered temporary, and well below the depletion that occurs seasonally over the Antarctic, atmospheric scientists described it as a striking example of how sudden anomalies can occur as a result of human activity that occurred years ago. At its maximum extent in February, the northern ozone hole reached southward into Russia and Mongolia.

Emissions of chlorinated fluorocarbons, or CFCs, once found in aerosol sprays, and other ozone-depleting substances like the soil fumigant methyl bromide produced the first ozone hole over the Antarctic, which was identified in 1985. Emissions of those compounds were banned under the Montreal Protocol, which has been signed by 191 countries.
–The New York Times

Engineering Planet Earth?
 With political action on curbing greenhouse gases stalled, a bipartisan panel of scientists, former government officials and national security experts is recommending that the government begin researching a radical fix: directly manipulating the Earth’s climate to lower the temperature.

Members said they hoped that such extreme engineering techniques, which include scattering particles in the air to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes or stationing orbiting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight, would never be needed.

But in its report, the panel said it is time to begin researching and testing such ideas in case “the climate system reaches a ‘tipping point’ and swift remedial action is required.”

The 18-member panel was convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research organization based in Washington founded by four senators — Democrats and Republicans — to offer policy advice to the government. In interviews, some of the panel members said they hoped that the mere discussion of such drastic steps would jolt the public and policy makers into meaningful action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which they called the highest priority.

The idea of engineering the planet is “fundamentally shocking,” David Keith, an energy expert at Harvard and the University of Calgary and a member of the panel, said. “It should be shocking.”
–The New York Times

Canada to test chemical safety
The Conservative government is set to target a new batch of chemicals used in common consumer products — including toothpaste and body wash — to determine if they’re safe for people and the environment.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the renewal of the government’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) with a boost of more than $500 million over the next five years.

Substances commonly used in plastic containers, clothing, cleaning products, electronics and batteries are among the chemicals to be reviewed to determine whether they need better regulation or other action, including being banned.

During the first phase of the plan, the federal government banned bisphenol A in baby bottles — an international first that began with a listing of toxicity of the hormone-disrupting chemical.
–The Montreal Gazette

Panel to explore invasives on Sept. 16

September 12, 2011

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

Panel on invasives set Sept. 16
Minnesota Waters will sponsor a panel discussion on two of Minnesota’s most troublesome invasive species – zebra mussels and Asian carp – at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16.

The event, which will be held at the Gray Freshwater Center, 2500 Shadywood Road, Excelsior, is free and open to the public.

The panel will include experts from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center in La Crosse, Wis., and from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Daniel Molloy, a retired State University of New York at Albany scientist who discovered a naturally occurring strain of bacteria that kills zebra and quagga mussels also will take part in the discussion. The Douglas County Lakes Association is seeking state funding for research on a commercial pesticide based based on the bacteria. Minnesota Waters is sponsoring a five-day visit by Molloy to Minnesota.

View a video of a presentation by Molloy.

Council disagrees on zebra mussel research
Members of the council charged with distributing Legacy Amendment funds for the outdoors disagreed whether a proposal to research bacteria that can kill zebra mussels should be considered for funding.

The Douglas County Lakes Association asked the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for $350,000 to research the possibility that a product called Zequanox, made of a dead form of a soil bacteria, could be used in a lake setting to control zebra mussels, an invasive species. Zebra mussels have taken over in dozens of lakes and rivers in Minnesota.

Several members of the council said it wouldn’t be appropriate to use Legacy money to fund research.

“Our constitutional mandate is to fund on-the-ground projects that are going to accomplish things. Research is not part of that,” said David Hartwell, the council’s chairman.

Other members suggested the company that’s trying to bring Zequanox to market, Marrone Bio Innovations, find private investors to finance the research.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Freshwater-Park Service win mentoring grant
Minnesota FarmWise, an innovative program to encourage conservation and protect clean water in the Minnesota River Valley, has won a $15,000 challenge grant in the Minnesota Idea Open.

The Freshwater Society and the National Park Service will use the grant to form a farmer-to-farmer mentoring program to encourage practices aimed at reducing soil erosion and the runoff of fertilizers and pesticides into the streams and rivers that lead to the Mississippi River.

View a video about the mentoring program. Read the Minnesota Idea Open announcement of the grant.

Dayton calls Asian carp summit
Gov. Mark Dayton has called a meeting for Monday (Sept. 12) on the Asian carp, with an invitation list that stretches from Sen. Amy Klobuchar to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Canadian Consulate.

Dayton is trying to solve a basic obstacle to stopping the disruptive invasive species: Everyone and no one is in charge.

The meeting is designed to tell the state’s congressional delegation, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and numerous federal agencies about Minnesota’s plans to deal with the carp before it’s too late.

The carp are making their way up the Mississippi River from Missouri. While an enormous effort is focused on keeping them from entering the Great Lakes from the Illinois River through a canal in Chicago, no one has figured out how to protect Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The carp are not in Minnesota yet — in quantity — but individual fish are found from time to time, and recent DNA testing has shown that at least some are likely present in the St. Croix River.
–The Star Tribune

Sea Grant gets $400,000 to fight invasives
Everyone knows Smokey Bear’s reminder that only you can prevent forest fires, and now Minnesota Sea Grant wants to add zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and fish-killing VHS virus to your instinctive guilt list.

The University of Minnesota Duluth-based Sea Grant program now has an extra $400,000 to hammer home the message.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Minnesota Sea Grant the money as part of the 2011 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding approved by Congress and President Obama. The Sea Grant money is earmarked to slow the rate at which people spread invasive species through everyday activities like fishing, boating or tossing an unwanted pet fish into a pond.

The new money is on top of $1.55 million Sea Grant received from the Great Lakes initiative last year.
–The Duluth News Tribune

Goodhue OKs sand mining moratorium
Goodhue County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal that will temporarily block a controversial kind of sand mining in the southeastern Minnesota county.

About 200 people filled a public hearing room in Red Wing for a meeting that lasted nearly three hours and included public comments from 20 people in support of the moratorium. No one spoke in opposition.

Commissioner Jim Bryant said the moratorium will give county officials time to assemble an advisory board to study the potential health, environmental and financial impacts of sand mining around the county.

“Is this really a good fit for us here?” Bryant said. “Maybe for some. Maybe in some areas but maybe not in other areas.”

Goodhue County is particularly strategic for its deposits of “frac” sand, round grains of sand that are used in fracture mining. It is highly sought after for its size and strength. Frac sand has perfectly round grains that look like brown sugar crystals.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Wisconsin report inconclusive on sand mining
There is little conclusive information on possible negative health effects of a pollutant linked to Wisconsin’s burgeoning sand mining industry, the Department of Natural Resources said in a new report.

The DNR made no formal recommendations, but environmentalists, citizens’ groups and others called for regulation while business groups urged a hands-off approach.

Crystalline silica comes from many sources, but worries about it as a source of ambient air pollution has grown with a boom in sand mining in western Wisconsin.

The sand is coveted by the petroleum industry, which is using it with water and chemicals under pressure to extract oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach deposits. Exposure to crystalline silica in enclosed settings can be a human carcinogen and is known to cause silicosis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs.

During mining and processing, tiny bits of silica are kicked up in the air. One question examined in the report is whether crystalline silica poses health risks for people living around such facilities.

“A recurring theme in the literature review and survey is that very little conclusive information exists regarding sources, controls or levels of silica present in ambient air,” the report concludes.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Track loon migrations on your computer
Loon migratory movements from current and previous studies using satellite transmitters can be followed online at the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center web site.

Several common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest are sporting satellite transmitters in order for researchers to study the migration of these fish-eating water birds through the Great Lakes toward their southern winter homes. By using satellite tracking devices implanted in the loons from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Michigan Upper Peninsula, USGS scientists expect to learn information about avian botulism essential for managers to develop loon conservation strategies.

 
“This study will also help managers better understand how loons fare as they head to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts,” said USGS scientist Kevin Kenow of UMESC in La Crosse, Wisc. “This is the second year of the study. Ten loons radiomarked in 2010 provided insight into use of the Great Lakes during fall and spring migration and revealed wintering sites. Another 21 loons were radiomarked this past July over a broader area of the Upper Midwest.”
–USGS News Release

Illinois denies permit for mega-dairy
State regulators announced that they have denied a permit related to a proposal to build the largest dairy in the state near Galena, saying they were worried the facility would pollute groundwater in the area.

The action by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency means the dairy sponsors have to make changes to correct deficiencies or submit a new plan, IEPA spokeswoman Maggie Carson said.

 
California dairyman A.J. Bos has proposed putting up to 5,500 head of cattle in a concentrated animal feeding operation at Tradition Dairy, near the small town of Nora, about 30 miles east of Galena in northwestern Illinois.
–The Chicago Tribune

Mississippi levies mostly held in flood of 2011
James Parker steps onto a sandy ledge to get a clearer view of where the Mississippi River almost cut Presidents Island in two, tearing out a half-mile-wide chunk of land and leaving water and flocks of geese on a place where cotton formerly grew.

Parker, crew chief for the Memphis and Shelby County Port Commission, says he’ll never forget the first time he saw this testament to the raw power of the Mississippi.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought it was going to cut all the way through (the island).”

Ever since the historic flood of 2011 receded, officials up and down the Mississippi have identified places where the mighty river sought out new channels and made initial efforts to change course during the high water this spring.

The Corps of Engineers’ $13 billion flood-control system along the river largely held, preventing an estimated $62 billion in damage.
–The Memphis Commercial Appeal

Building owners look to re-use water
Building owners and managers are discovering a great untapped resource: the water that flows out of—and off—homes and commercial structures.

Some wastewater from buildings is reused after treatment at municipal plants, but much of it ends up flowing back into the environment. And buildings rarely are equipped to capture rainwater. A slew of technologies hitting the market, though, are enabling more homes and businesses to reuse much of their wastewater, without it ever leaving the site, and to put the rain to use as well.

That saves building owners money by allowing them to purchase less water from municipal sources. And it benefits communities by conserving water.

The techniques range from a simple sand filtration system for the home costing only a few hundred dollars to a mini water-treatment plant for commercial buildings that costs as much as $1 million. What they have in common is a goal of recycling everything from sink water to rain runoff, and reusing it for nonpotable purposes such as toilet flushing and lawn watering.
–The Wall Street Journal

Vote to support conservation mentoring

August 29, 2011

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

FarmWise conservation program needs your vote
A farmer-to-farmer mentoring project aimed at promoting conservation efforts in the Minnesota River Valley is one of three finalists in online voting that will award a $15,000 grant.

The FarmWise project is a partnership between the Freshwater Society and the National Park Service. Its goal is to identify the most vulnerable areas in the Minnesota River Valley, and work through existing community relationships to mentor, advise and implement farmer-proven and farmer-approved water-friendly practices that protect these critical, high-priority areas.

Go to the MN Idea Open to view a video on the proposal and to cast your vote.

Court rejects bid to close Chicago locks
A federal appeals panel rejected the request of five Great Lakes states to close Chicago-area shipping locks. But the panel warned that the issue could be revisited if ongoing efforts to stop the advance of Asian carp stall.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals follows a district court decision in December concluding that the invasive species did not appear to be an imminent threat and that closing the locks still might not keep them from reaching Lake Michigan.

Cal-Sag Channel and the Chicago River to limit the amount of water leaving Lake Michigan when engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River at the turn of the century. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District control the locks to limit flooding during heavy rains and to allow cargo ships and boats to pass.

In July 2010, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin sued the federal government to force a temporary closure of the locks until other carp-control methods could be put in place. Critics, however, alleged that the effort was “politically motivated” and could devastate the regional shipping industry and put residents who live in flood-prone areas at risk.
–The Chicago Tribune

Oil sands pipeline gets OK
The State Department issued its final environmental impact statement for a controversial oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas, affirming earlier findings that its construction and operation will have “limited adverse environmental impacts.”

The assessment moves the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline closer to fruition, though State Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science Kerri-Ann Jones emphasized the analysis “is one piece of the information that will be considered” in making a final decision on the permit by the end of the year.

The department will have to conduct a 90-day review of whether the project is in the “national interest” before deciding whether to allow the pipeline to go through.

Still, the conclusion of the 2 1/2-year-long review is significant because the primary objection raised against the pipeline is its potential environmental impact — during construction and in case of ruptures during operation — on wildlife, land and drinking water supplies.

In addition, the proposed pipeline, which could transport as much as 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s “tar sands” or “oil sands” fields to refineries in the Gulf Coast, has sparked an outcry from environmentalists in both countries on the grounds that the extraction of oil will increase emissions linked to climate change.
–The Washington Post

Warming spurs bass populations
Minnesota’s walleye anglers might want to invest in some bass-fishing equipment.
Rising temperatures in recent years have boosted bass populations in many Minnesota lakes, say fisheries researchers with the Department of Natural Resources.

And if the climate change continues, northern and central Minnesota’s lakes may well continue to tip toward warm-water species such as smallmouth and largemouth bass.

“Our weather station data from around the state shows we have had significant warming trends,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries research manager. “It’s been most noticeable in the last decade. We’re seeing earlier ice-outs and longer growing seasons,” he said.
“It makes sense that with species like bass, their rate of production would go up,” Pereira said. “They metabolize more efficiently and quickly at warmer temperatures.”
–The Star Tribune

Grasslands under the plow
A group advocating the preservation of America’s grasslands worries that rising crop prices are causing farmers to plow under native South Dakota grass to grow more grain.

Besides the fear of losing native prairie and other grasses, the advocates say they are frustrated by their inability to learn how much grass in the state has been plowed under in recent years.
About 250 participants from 17 states met last week at America’s Grasslands Conference in Sioux Falls and identified threats to grasslands, and began to shape an agenda to preserve it. The conference drew people from state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups and colleges.

The event, organized by South Dakota State University, was sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, along with the Sun Grant Initiative and other grass proponents.
–The Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Invasive species in Yellowstone: Lake trout
The first “Judas fish” have been released.
As the Biblically inspired name suggests, the fish — surgically altered lake trout, implanted last week with tiny radio transmitters on a gently rocking open boat by a team of scientists here — are intended to betray. The goal: annihilation.

“Finding where they spawn would be the golden egg,” said Bob Gresswell, a research biologist at the United States Geological Survey, and leader of the Judas team, a strike force in the biggest lake-trout-killing program in the nation. The idea is that the electronic chirps will lead trout hunters into the cold, deep corners of Yellowstone Lake, where the fish might be killed in volume.

“The eggs could be killed before they hatch, maybe with electricity, or suction,” Dr. Gresswell said.
–The New York Times

U.S., Canada update Great Lakes plan
With relatively little fanfare – and, conservationists argue, not enough public oversight – the U.S. and Canadian governments have spent the last two years reworking a decades-old agreement designed to coordinate management decisions for their shared Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was first passed in 1972 after public outrage over chronic phosphorus-driven pollution problems plaguing the lakes. The agreement helped foster sweeping upgrades for industrial and municipal waste treatment systems on both sides of the border.

The lakes responded quickly. Rivers stopped burning, algae blooms waned and fish populations rebounded.

The agreement was subsequently updated in the late ’70s with a goal to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters” inside the Great Lakes basin.

But while this shared blueprint to maintain and restore the health of the world’s largest freshwater system still has grand ambitions, today it is way more words than action.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Defense Dept. cuts water use 13%
In fiscal year 2010, military installations operated by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) decreased their water use per square foot of building space by 13 percent compared with a 2007 baseline — more than double the goal of a 6 percent reduction, according to the department’s annual energy management report.

The DoD was able to exceed its water conservation goals largely by installing low-flow showerheads and toilets, fixing leaky valves, and making other efficiency upgrades.Over the same time period, however, the DoD failed to meet its energy-intensity goal of a 15 percent reduction, compared to a 2003 baseline. Averaged across the department, energy intensity has fallen 11.4 percent, continuing a slow downward trend. Total energy use, however, has risen slightly since 2007, as wartime operations have increased demand.
–Circle of Blue

St. Ben’s halts bottled water sales
The College of St. Benedict is the first Minnesota college to eliminate sales of bottled water on campus, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The college is also the ninth in the nation to implement a water bottle policy.

The campus now has 31 hydration stations that will dispense tap water. The school’s office of sustainability will provide reusable bottles to a number of student and employee groups to promote the hydration stations.
–The St. Cloud Times

Vegas water pipeline costs could soar
A proposed pipeline to bring groundwater about 300 miles from Utah and eastern Nevada to Las Vegas may cost as much as five times more than current estimates under a worst-case scenario provided to officials reviewing the plan.

Pipeline opponents claim the estimated $15 billion price tag is another “black mark” against an already controversial project.
Nevada water authority officials, however, argue the study — which they were required to do as part of their application — proves the project is feasible and that the biggest potential rate increase for water users is about $30 per month.

The study by Las Vegas-based Hobbs, Ong and Associates projects the pipeline could cost more than $7 billion to build. There would be an additional $8 billion in interest payments if the pipeline was funded with 60-year bonds.
–The Associated Press

EPA offers $6 million for Great Lakes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is setting aside approximately $6 million for federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to implement restoration projects in federally-protected areas, on tribal lands and in Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. EPA will fund individual projects up to $1 million. To qualify for funding, each proposed project must provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people.

“These projects will help to restore the Great Lakes and put Americans back to work,” said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager and Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. “In a sense, we will be using these funds to create a small-scale 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps.”

Funded projects will advance the goals and objectives of the GLRI Action Plan, developed by EPA with 15 other federal agencies in 2010. Projects must provide immediate, direct ecological benefits; be located in areas identified as federal priorities such as national lakeshores or areas of concern; include a detailed budget, and produce measurable results. EPA will award funding for selected projects by the end of September.
–EPA News Release

Interest grows in toilet-to-tap
This summer, Texas’ drought of the century is an uncomfortable reminder that often there just isn’t enough water to go around. But the 40 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures and minuscule rainfall may also be boosting the case for a new freshwater source being developed in Big Spring, Texas, and surrounding cities.

With a waste-water-to-drinking-water treatment plant now under construction, Big Spring will soon join the growing list of cities that use recycled sewage water for drinking water – a practice that the squeamish call “toilet to tap.”

The trend is expanding as climbing temperatures and dry weather across the West force environmentalists, politicians, and citizens to find newer, better solutions to freshwater resources.
–The Christian Science Monitor

40,000 Chinese dams at risk
More than a quarter of Chinese cities are at risk from tens of thousands of run-down reservoirs, prompting the government to speed up efforts to make repairs, state media said.

More than 40,000 reservoirs around the country have been in use longer than their design life and are poorly maintained due to a lack of funds over the past few decades, the state-run Global Times reported.

As a result, more than 25 percent of Chinese cities and vast rural areas are at threat from potential devastating floods if dams break, it said, citing the state-run China Economic Weekly magazine.
–AFP

World water sustainability; feedlot politics

July 25, 2011

Is the world running short of water?
Water, water, everywhere, but not enough to drink — at least not where it’s needed. That’s the dilemma that Indiana University geochemist Chen Zhu and colleagues explore in the current issue of Elements, a peer-reviewed publication sponsored by 16 geological societies.

Zhu serves as guest editor of the special issue on global water sustainability, along with Eric H. Oelkers of the University of Toulouse in France and Janet Hering of EAWAG, a Swiss research institute. In the lead article, “Water: Is There a Global Crisis?” they examine what seems to be a paradox:

 The Earth’s renewable water resources are 10 times as much as required by the demands of the current population. Yet an estimated 1 billion people lack safe drinking water, and poor water quality and management are responsible for more than 1.5 million deaths per year. While there is excess water in some parts of the globe, other areas face severe shortages or water that is ruined by pollution.

 “Is there really a water crisis? In a sense yes; our current water policy is unstable and unsustainable,” the editors write. “Yet, in contrast to non-renewable resources such as petroleum, we will not run out of water. The solution to this global water crisis is improved management of this valuable resource.”
 –Indiana University News Release

 Environment bill exempts big feedlots
Read a fine blog post by the Land Stewardship Project’s Brian DeVore on a Minnesota budget bill that eliminates a state permitting requirement for large livestock feedlots. 

Changes to federal regulations during the last Bush administration allowed operators of large feedlots to avoid applying for a Clean Water Act National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit if they certify that they will not discharge pollutants to public waters. However, until now Minnesota law still required big feedlots to apply for and obtain the federal permit. The environmental spending bill approved last week dropped that requirement.

In his blog, DeVore criticizes both the law change affecting about 1,000 feedlots and the legislative practices that led to enactment of the change without public input.

 Park Rapids well hits nitrate limit
The water supply in the city of Park Rapids is contaminated with nitrates, and many suspect the source is the fertilizer used on local farm fields.

Park Rapids has had elevated nitrate levels in its water for years. But last April was the first time a city well exceeded 10 parts per million, the threshold for what’s considered safe. The well was shut down.

City administrator Bill Smith says residents aren’t panicking, they are concerned. Nitrate contamination can cause health problems. It’s especially dangerous for infants, who can get something called blue baby syndrome — when nitrates inhibit a baby’s ability to use oxygen.

Smith says some blame local farmers who put tons of nitrogen-based fertilizer on their fields. That includes the R.D. Offutt Company, or RDO — the largest potato grower in the U.S., and the community’s largest employer.
–Minnesota Public Radio 

Government’s role in the Asian carp debacle
If you say “Arkansas fish farms” and “Asian carp” in the same sentence, you can almost hear the boos and hisses. They’re the ones who let the fish escape into the wild, right?

Maybe not, although that’s the story that people hear over and over. It’s one of many myths about Asian carp that persist. It’s true that a fish farmer was the first to bring three species of Asian carp into the U.S., but from there, the carp ended up in the hands of government agencies that spawned them in research ponds, stocked them in sewage lagoons as an alternative to chemicals and experimented with canning bighead as a cheaper substitute for tuna.

 Heads of some of the state and federal agencies that raised the carp admit that they were lax in the 1970s and early 1980s, an era when no one was terribly concerned about invasive species, and that the fish are as likely to have escaped from government ponds as those of fish farmers.

 Farmers who have raised bighead carp since the 1980s say they were encouraged by government agencies to do so. Now that their carp crop was essentially banned last December, they say they feel they’re being unfairly punished for someone else’s misdeeds.
–The Detroit Free Press (One of a six-part Free Press series)

 Tests indicate Asian carp penetrate Chicago barrier
Even as the federal government insists its electric fish barrier is working just fine, evidence of Asian carp above that barrier continues to roll in.

 With no fanfare, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted on its website news that nine water samples taken above the barrier in recent weeks have tested positive for the giant, jumping fish. The federal government is spending tens of millions of dollars to keep them out of the Great Lakes.

 Seven of those positive “environmental” DNA tests – taken between May 10 and June 27 – came from Lake Calumet south of downtown Chicago, a body of water that has a direct connection to Lake Michigan. 

The other two positive samples came from an area near downtown and an area north of downtown on the North Branch of the Chicago River.

 Lake Calumet also is the site of the only confirmed find of an Asian carp in waters directly connected to Lake Michigan. Last summer a commercial fisherman hired by the State of Illinois to hunt for the fugitive fish pulled out a 19-pound bighead carp.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Forests remove a third of global carbon emissions
Forests play a more significant role in removing carbon from the atmosphere than first reported —  absorbing one-third of global carbon emissions annually, a new U.S. Forest Service study says.
 
“Forests provide us with abundant clean air,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This study shows the important role global forests play in keeping the air clean and it also broadens our understanding of how climate change relates to forest management in today’s world.”

Forests absorb carbon like a giant sponge into what scientists call a carbon sink. Oceans serve as the only other natural source for absorption of significant amounts of carbon. Until these new findings, many experts said forests played a less important role in removing carbon from the air we breathe.

 This report indicates otherwise.

 The study, conducted by the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and a team of scientists from around the world, was recently published in the journal Science online, at the Science Express website, an online publication of the nonprofit American Association for the Advancement of Science.
–U.S. Forest Service News Release

Ecolab buys water sustainability firm
Ecolab, the St. Paul-based cleaning giant, is deploying its hefty cash for its biggest purchase ever: an Illinois-based company that makes chemicals used in water treatment, pollution reduction and the oil and gas industry, for about $5.4 billion.

 The deal to acquire Nalco Holding Co. of Naperville immediately gives Ecolab a strong position in the increasingly important market of water sustainability, now an insignificant part of Ecolab’s $6.1 billion business.

 Nalco also will expand Ecolab’s presence in emerging markets such as India and China. When the deal closes, the combined company will have more than $10 billion in revenue, making it one of the world’s leading companies in cleaning and water management.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Coalition helps Washington State river adapt
For 10,000 years the Nisqually Indians have relied on chinook salmon for their very existence, but soon those roles are expected to reverse.

 Based on current warming trends, climate scientists anticipate that in the next 100 years the Nisqually River will become shallower and much warmer. Annual snowpack will decline on average by half. The glacier that feeds the river, already shrunken considerably, will continue to recede.

 Play the scene forward and picture a natural system run amok as retreating ice loosens rock that will clog the river, worsening flooding in winter, and a decline in snow and ice drastically diminishes the summer runoff that helps keep the river under a salmon-friendly 60 degrees.

 To prepare for these and other potentially devastating changes, an unusual coalition of tribal government leaders, private partners and federal and local agencies are working to help the watershed and its inhabitants adapt. They are reserving land farther in from wetlands so that when the sea rises, the marsh will have room to move as well; they are promoting hundreds of rain gardens to absorb artificially warmed runoff from paved spaces and keep it away from the river; and they are installing logjams intended to cause the river to hollow out its own bottom and create cooler pools for fish.
–The New York Times

Environment spending mixes cuts, compromises
The environment bill negotiated between Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers includes some budget cuts and some compromise on policy issues.

 The Chamber of Commerce is satisfied with the changes, but environmental groups say the law weakens protections of natural resources and goes against voters’ wishes for Legacy Amendment money.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s general fund is cut by 40 percent over the biennium. That’s a smaller cut than the 66 percent that Republican legislators had initially proposed. Still, it prompts environmental leaders like Steve Morse of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership to charge negotiators with stepping over the constitutional line against substituting Legacy Amendment money for existing expenditures.

 “When overall state funding is going up, the environment is getting cut, and that’s contrary to what voters directed legislators to do just two and a half years ago with the Legacy Amendment,” Morse said.
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Southeastern U.S. drought worsens
Streamflow and groundwater conditions in southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama continued to worsen during July. Waterways in many of the regions rivers are setting new record lows with gauges on the Flint, Suwannee, Ochlocknee, Alapaha, and Apalachicola rivers recording the lowest water levels in their history due to lower than normal rainfall. Groundwater levels were below normal and set new records in much of the southern Georgia, with some wells going dry.

 To determine the impact of the drought on water resources and ecology of southwestern Georgia and adjacent parts of Florida and Alabama, almost two dozen researchers from three U.S. Geological Survey water science centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia will conduct field studies in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Aucilla-Suwannee-Ochlockonee river basins.

 “This is the first effort of its kind ever completed during the peak of the summer irrigation season”, said Brian McCallum, assistant director of the USGS Georgia Water Science Center. “This effort will help us see hydrologic and ecological conditions at their most stressed condition.”

 USGS field crews will visit more than 200 stream sites and 400 private and public supply wells to assess streamflow decline and drops in groundwater levels. Additionally, field crews will collect water-quality information that will help in the determination of the drought’s impact on ecological conditions in the region. Later in the summer, they will visit the same stream sites to assess populations of fish and mussels affected by drought conditions. The work is being completed as part of the USGS WaterSmart initiative, a program to assess sustainability of water supplies in the ACF basin.
–USGS News Release

 Loss of large animals hurts ecosystems
The loss of large animals is wreaking havoc on Earth’s ecosystems, according to a scientific review published in Science,, causing food chains to fall into disarray, clearing the way for invasive species, and even triggering the transmission of infectious diseases. The decline and disappearance of these large animals, due in large part to human factors such as hunting and habitat loss, has such strong and wide-ranging effects that the review’s authors say it may well be “humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature.”

The researchers reviewed data from recent studies investigating the loss of so called “apex consumers,” large predators and megaherbivores, from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems around the world.

 Whether on land or at sea, the researchers found, the result was the same: Remove the apex consumer and the whole ecosystem suffers, as the initial loss sets off a cascade of changes all the way down the food chain. “Predators have a huge structuring influence,” ecologist Stuart Sandin, one of the researchers, told LiveScience. “When you remove them you change the biology, which is typically profound and complex. And in many cases it’s not necessarily predictable.”
–Discover

Forest Service denies groundwater for Pa. ‘fracking’
Fortune seekers first pulled mineral riches from the floor of the Allegheny National Forest lands more than 100 years ago using the technology of the time — explosives, pipe and towering wooden oil derricks.

 Today’s natural-gas hunters are welcome to drill down and inject millions of gallons of water and sand to fracture, or, “frack,” wells in the deep, natural gas-laden Marcellus Shale on that same public land — but they are going to have to bring their own water with them.

 That is the stance the U.S. Forest Service has struck as the lucrative Marcellus Shale drilling wave spreads across the state and into the historic gas and oil fields of the vast Allegheny National Forest, which sprawls across a large swath of northwestern Pennsylvania.

 The position — announced by Forest Supervisor Leanne Marten to a Shell Oil Co. affiliate amid planning for three new Marcellus wells in the national forest — has reignited the long-running legal dispute over how much control the Forest Service may have over the development of the mineral resources that lie below the 513,325-acre Allegheny National Forest’s surface.
–Erie Times-News

Flooding may increase ‘dead zone’

June 6, 2011

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

Flooding may increase this year’s ‘dead zone’
As the surging waters of the Mississippi pass downstream, they leave behind flooded towns and inundated lives and carry forward a brew of farm chemicals and waste that this year — given record flooding — is expected to result in the largest dead zone ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

 Dead zones have been occurring in the gulf since the 1970s, and studies show that the main culprits are nitrogen and phosphorus from crop fertilizers and animal manure in river runoff. They settle in at the mouth of the gulf and fertilize algae, which prospers and eventually starves other living things of oxygen.

 Government studies have traced a majority of those chemicals in the runoff to nine farming states, and yet today, decades after the dead zones began forming, there is still little political common ground on how to abate this perennial problem. Scientists who study dead zones predict that the affected area will increase significantly this year, breaking records for size and damage.

 For years, environmentalists and advocates for a cleaner gulf have been calling for federal action in the form of regulation. Since 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency has been encouraging all states to place hard and fast numerical limits on the amount of those chemicals allowed in local waterways. Yet of the nine key farm states that feed the dead zone, only two, Illinois and Indiana, have acted, and only to cover lakes, not the rivers or streams that merge into the Mississippi.
–The New York Times

Philadelphia begins $2 billion stormwater effort
Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia have embarked on what environmental officials say is the largest project in the U.S. to reduce stormwater pollution through eco-friendly measures, such as porous asphalt and rooftop gardens.

 The state and city, the country’s fifth largest with 1.5 million people, signed a “Green City, Clean Waters” plan, kicking off a 25-year, $2 billion effort to modify infrastructure to reduce the amount of rainwater tainted with road oil, litter and raw sewage flowing into rivers and streams.

 Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and national environmental groups said the initiative should serve as a blueprint for cities and towns nationwide. The changes are expected to reduce by 5 billion to 8 billion gallons the amount of sewer overflow going into the city’s waterways each year, including the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. That represents an 80 percent to 90 percent reduction.

“Philadelphia is setting the national model for how to clean up troubled waterways, and how to do it right,” said Lawrence Levine of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of several environmental advocacy groups that helped the city develop the plan.
–The Associated Press

 Food consumes vast quantities of water
“We’re using tomorrow’s water to meet today’s food demand,” warned Sandra Postel, National Geographic Freshwater Fellow, helping to provoke a meaningful discussion on water as it relates to food at the Aspen Environmental Forum. Agriculture was a central theme as it consumes a disproportionate share of global water resources.

Jon Foley from the University of Minnesota painted a picture of our inefficiency. “One liter of water is needed to irrigate one calorie food, but that changes by factor of 100 for the most inefficient practices.” It is clear that water efficiency improvements for agriculture must play a large role.

 One challenge is to gain an accurate understanding of the issue because allocation of water resources is not easily visible. Postel explained the concept of “virtual water” to paint a clearer picture. 

Water is a direct and indirect component of everything we use, make and eat. The average American consumes 2,000 gallons of water per day and more than half is incorporated into our diet. Grain represents the trading currency for water in the same way that oil is a trading currency for energy.
–National Geographic News Watch

 Buy some Patagonia shoes, support Freshwater
The Freshwater Society will benefit from Patagonia’s Our Common Waters conservation campaign, aimed at balancing human water consumption with the needs of animals and plants.

Patagonia, an outdoor clothing gear chain,  will donate $10 to Freshwater for every pair of  Patagonia shoes sold at its St. Paul store through the end of June..

The store is at 1648 Grand Avenue, St. Paul.  A Freshwater representative will greet customers and provide information about the Freshwater Society at the store from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 18.

Patagonia, based in Ventura, Calif., annually donates at least 1 percent of its sales receipts to environmental groups.

Workshops set on conservation and GIS
Are you a GIS – geographic information systems – specialist? Do you work for an environmental organization that needs to better target scarce resources to areas where they will do the most good?

 Learn how use terrain analysis tools such as LiDAR to plan and place conservation activities where they are most needed.

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the University of Minnesota have extend edthe registration deadline for workshops June 15 in Moorhead and June 20 in Marshall. 

 The workshops are designed for GIS technicians-specialists from organizations that decide where to locate land conservation practices, such as easements or best management practices. For detailed information on the workshops and to register, go to:
http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/training/EcoRankingFlyer.pdf

The training sessions are coordinated by Ann Lewandowski  of the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center.  Contact her at 612-624-6765 or alewand@umn.edu.
–News Release

Are wild horses an invasive species?
Animal rights groups are pressing a case in federal court maintaining that wild horses roamed the West about 1.5 million years ago and didn’t disappear until as recently as 7,600 years ago. More important, they say, a growing stockpile of DNA evidence shows conclusively that today’s horses are genetically linked to those ancient ancestors.

 The new way of thinking, if accepted, could affect hundreds millions of acres in the West where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management divides livestock grazing allotments based partly on the belief that the horses are no more native to those lands than are the cattle brought to North America centuries ago.

 American history textbooks teach that the wild horses roaming Western plains were first brought by European explorers and settlers. But that theory is being challenged at archaeological digs and university labs as horse protection advocates battle the U.S. government over roundups of thousands of mustangs they say have not only a legal right but a native claim to the rangeland.

Rachel Fazio, a lawyer for Defense of Animals and other plaintiffs, told a 9th Circuit appellate panel in San Francisco earlier this year that the horses are “an integral part of the environment,” adding, “as much as the BLM would like to see them as not, they are actually a native species. They are tied to this land. There would not be a horse but for North America. Every single evolutionary  iteration of the horse is found here and only here.”
–The Los Angeles Times

China plans $62 billion river diversion
North China is dying.

A chronic drought is ravaging farmland. The Gobi Desert is inching south. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water. The rapid growth of megacities — 22 million people in Beijing and 12 million in Tianjin alone — has drained underground aquifers that took millenniums to fill.

Not atypically, the Chinese government has a grand and expensive solution: Divert at least six trillion gallons of water each year hundreds of miles from the other great Chinese river, the Yangtze, to slake the thirst of the north China plain and its 440 million people.

 The engineering feat, called the South-North Water Diversion Project, is China’s most ambitious attempt to subjugate nature. It would be like channeling water from the Mississippi River to meet the drinking needs of Boston, New York and Washington.
–The New York Times

New York suit seeks ‘fracking’ review
A top New York State official filed a lawsuit against the federal government to force an assessment of the environmental risks posed by drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin, arguing that a regulatory commission should not issue final rules governing the drilling until a study is completed.

The suit, filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn by Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, involves the Delaware River Basin Commission, a regional regulatory agency. Made up of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers,   it is preparing to issue regulations intended to bring some uniformity to the rules applied to a controversial type of gas extraction that combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking.

 The method involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground under high pressure to free pockets of gas from dense rock formations. The agency estimates that there could one day be more than 10,000 wells in the Delaware River Basin, a 13,500-square-mile expanse that includes a portion of the New York City watershed and reaches into parts of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Green, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan Counties.
–The New York Times

Beware of 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 reminds people that 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.  

An animal that has ingested toxins from an algae bloom can show a variety of symptoms, ranging from skin irritation, vomiting, severe disorders involving the circulatory, nervous and digestive systems, and severe skin lesions.  In worst cases, the animal may suffer convulsions and die.

 Humans are not affected very often, probably because the unpleasant appearance and odors of a blue-green algal bloom tend to keep people out of the water.  But human health effects can include irritation of skin, eyes and nasal passages, and nausea and vomiting. 

For information about harmful algae blooms, go to www.pca.state.mn.us/water/clmp-toxicalgae.html or call 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA News Release

Bridge work closes part of Minnehaha Creek
A stretch of Minnehaha Creek in Edina will be closed to canoeists and kayakers from until mid-July to make way for a bridge improvement project.  For safety reasons, the creek will be closed to canoeists and kayakers between the Browndale Dam and the landing at 58th Street in Pamela Park.  Signs along along  the creek inform people about the project.

Check the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District website for updates. 
–Minnehaha Creek Watershed District news release

Celebrate summer, the Mississippi River and clean water

Dancers — some in kayaks on the Mississippi River, some on rooftops near the historic Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis – will celebrate summer at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 25.

 This event will be one of 45 Global Water Dances performed across six continents on June 25.  This year’s performances focuses on global water issues and access to clean and safe drinking water. Partners in the project include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the university of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, the Mill City Museum, the Guthrie, KBEM, Twin Cities T’ai-Chi Ch’uan Studio, and Earth Spirit Environments Inc.

Hamline University School of Education’s Center for Global Environmental Education provides public information about the care and health of the river. For information click here.

Measuring groundwater from spaceScientists have been using small variations in the Earth’s  gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater, one of the planet’s main sources of fresh water.

They found problems in places as disparate as North Africa, northern India, northeastern China and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley in California, heartland of that state’s $30 billion agriculture industry.

Jay S. Famiglietti, director of the University of California’s Center for Hydrologic Modeling here, said the center’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, known as Grace, relies on the interplay of two nine-year-old twin satellites that monitor each other while orbiting the Earth, thereby producing some of the most precise data ever on the planet’s gravitational variations. The results are redefining the field of hydrology, which itself has grown more critical as climate change and population growth draw down the world’s fresh water supplies.
–The New York Times

Water prosecutions dip; EPA readies Florida rules

November 1, 2010

EPA water prosecutions decline again
Criminal enforcement of federal water-pollution laws has continued a more than decadelong slide under the Obama administration, despite pledged improvements, according to U.S. EPA data.

The government reported 32 new Clean Water Act convictions during the fiscal year that ended in September, down from 42 in 2009. The number of criminal water pollution cases initiated by the agency fell from 28 last year to 21 this year.

Both figures have dropped nearly 60 percent since the late 1990s, their highest points in the past 20 years.

The numbers indicate that the Obama administration so far has been unable to reverse a trend that started under President George W. Bush, when EPA criminal enforcement activity dropped in conjunction with a 27 percent cut to U.S. EPA’s overall budget, said William Andreen, an environmental law professor at the University of Alabama.
–The New York Times

 EPA readies Florida water standards
Florida is bracing for the federal government to impose tough new pollution limits on its rivers and lakes. Depending on the point of view, the new rules will clobber an already weak economy — or bring a welcome end to fish kills, algae blooms and contaminated water supplies.

The rules, which could be released any day, have triggered rancorous debate, pitting, for example, a U.S. senator against a confrontational environmentalist who specializes in lawsuits.

The first-of-their kind regulations, drafted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  will set “numeric” pollution limits for streams and lakes based on their type and location — not necessarily on each body of water’s individual characteristics.

The state of Florida, in contrast, has long relied on customized limits derived from lake-by-lake and river-by-river analyses — an approach criticized by environmentalists as far too slow and cumbersome.

The pollution targeted by these limits consists of various nitrogen and phosphorus compounds that act as liquid fertilizer in nature. Such compounds are found in treated sewage, stormwater runoff, farm discharges and many manufacturers’ wastewater.
–The Orlando Sentinel 

 U of M rates high for sustainability
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is one of only three schools in the nation that has received all “A’s” in the College Sustainability Report Card scores. This is the fifth consecutive year the U of M has improved its marks and the first time the university has received A’s in all nine categories.

 The College Sustainability Report Card surveyed 322 schools this year.

 In 2004, the Board of Regents established the Policy on Sustainability and Energy Efficiency, which has fostered the integration of sustainability into research, education, outreach and campus operations.

 This is the fifth annual Report Card issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, a Cambridge, Mass.-based non-profit organization engaged in research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.

The university’s sustainability profile can be found on the GreenReportCard.org web site.
–University of Minnesota news release

 Draft USDA report calls for farmers to do more
Seeming to contradict assertions by farmers that they’re doing their share to protect the Chesapeake Bay, a new federal report finds major shortcomings in what crop growers are doing across the six-state region to keep from polluting the troubled estuary.

 While farmers have made “good progress” in reducing the amount of soil and fertilizer washing off their fields into the bay and its rivers, more pollution controls are needed on about 81 percent of all the croplands, says the draft report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And nearly half of the region’s 4.3 million acres of croplands are “critically undertreated” to keep pollutants from running or seeping into nearby ditches and streams.

The 161-page federal report — the most comprehensive analysis of farm conservation practices in the bay region to date — relies on computer modeling and hundreds of soil and other samples taken across the region, plus a survey of farmers. It has not been officially released, but an Internet link to a “review draft” was distributed to news media and to environmental groups.

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service released a statement saying that the draft report, though still under review, “suggests that conservation practices in the Chesapeake Bay are working but “more work remains to be done.”
–The Baltimore Sun

Texas farmers, ranchers worry about water rights
The rule of capture has been just as much a part of Texas lore as cowboys and cattle.

Under that concept, landowners have had the right to pump an unlimited amount of water from beneath their land.

 But rancher J.K. “Rooter” Brite Jr. is worried — worried that the courts, legislators or groundwater districts might take that water right away.

Brite, 58, isn’t opposed to all regulation — he doesn’t approve of water marketers like billionaire Boone Pickens sucking aquifers dry, and he believes that groundwater districts can provide some protection from the oil and gas industry — but he said strict groundwater-use regulations could cripple his ranching operation during a drought. 

“If that right doesn’t belong to me, and I do benefit because I know it’s in reserve, then what incentive do I have to care for this land?” Brite said as he drove his pickup through tall stands of native grasses on his 3,400-acre ranch outside Bowie.
–The Fort  Worth Star Telegram

Grocery chains push sustainable farming
Veteran west-side farmer John Diener has always felt confident in his ability to grow quality tomatoes, almonds and wheat — but to some, that may not be good enough. 

Responding to consumer sentiments, grocery-chain buyers are pushing Diener and other farmers to show they practice “sustainable” agriculture — a popular if still fuzzy concept. 

While similar to organic farming, its focus is broader: In contrast to conventional farming, sustainable agriculture puts greater emphasis on practices that have long-term benefits. For example, instead of using harsh chemicals, some farmers rely on parasitic insects to battle bad bugs. Or they use renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. Others work on improving the standard of living for farmworkers, ensuring a more productive and stable labor force.

The goal of sustainability is to reduce farming’s impact on the environment while ensuring a future for agriculture.

 Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced on Oct. 14 a global plan to train 1 million farmers and workers on crop selection and sustainable-farming practices, including using water, pesticides and fertilizers more efficiently.–The Fresno Bee 

U.S. Navy tests algae-powered gunboat
It looked like a pretty ordinary day on the water at the US naval base in Norfolk, Virginia: a few short bursts of speed, a nice tail wind, some test manoeuvres against an enemy boat. 

But the 49ft gunboat had algae-based fuel in the tank in a test hailed by the navy as a milestone in its creation of a new, energy-saving strike force. 

The experimental boat, intended for use in rivers and marshes and eventually destined for oil installations in the Middle East, operated on a 50/50 mix of algae-based fuel and diesel. “It ran just fine,” said Rear Admiral Philip Cullom, who directs the navy’s sustainability division. 

The tests are part of a broader drive within the navy to run 50% of its fleet on a mix of renewable fuels and nuclear power by 2020. The navy currently meets about 16% of its energy and fuel needs from nuclear power, with the rest from conventional sources.
–The Guardian

 China’s dams change live on the Mekong
The Mekong River sparkles in the early morning sun as Somwang Prommin, a stocky fisherman wearing a worn-out black T-shirt and shorts, starts the motor of his boat. As the tiny craft glides on the river’s calm surface in the northeastern Thai district of Chiang Khong, Somwang points to a nearby riverbank. Three days ago, he says, the water levels there were 3 meters (10 feet) higher.

 The Mekong, which translates roughly as “mother of the waters” in the Thai language, has become unpredictable since China started building hydropower dams and blasting the rapids upstream, says Somwang, 36, who’s been fishing for a living since he was 8.

 In August 2008, there were devastating floods that reduced his catches and income, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its December 2010 issue. Early this year, he witnessed the most severe drought in his life.

 Tens of millions of residents are experiencing similar currents of change along the 4,800-kilometer-long (2,980-mile- long) Mekong, which flows through six countries — Southeast Asia’s longest river.
–Bloomberg Markets Magazine

Report: Ag research needs sustainability focus

July 6, 2010

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

Research Council urges focus on agricultural sustainability 
Government policies and agricultural research are too focused on increasing crop production and should be directed toward softening the impact of farming on the land and water, researchers say.

Farms have increased production by 158 percent over the past 60 years, but that has come with a cost to water quality and water supplies, and agriculture also is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

 “Our finding was that there is too much emphasis on productivity, mainly of industrial ingredients,” said one of the 15 members of the study panel, Cornelia Flora, a sociologist at Iowa State University who specializes in agricultural and rural issues.

The report said that most public agricultural research funding is targeted toward improving farm productivity and reducing costs. Just one-third goes toward other aspects of farming practices, such as the environmental impact. Federal and state research programs “should aggressively fund” studies of farming systems that making farming “robust and resilient over time,” the report said.

The researchers also said that federal farm subsidies encourage farmers to maximize yields and plant the same crops year after year and that more study is needed to determine what impact alternative policies could have on farming practices.
–The Des Moines Register

 Sulfide mining review under way again
Four months after an environmental analysis of a proposed copper-nickel mining project in northeastern Minnesota was slammed by a federal agency, a revamped study is finally moving ahead.

Anxious environmentalists and many concerned residents hope this one turns out to be a lot more comprehensive.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction, and we are really counting on it being a thorough analysis,” said Betsy Daub, policy director for the advocacy group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “It’s what Minnesota’s waters deserve.”

At issue is whether a type of mining proposed by PolyMet Mining, which has led to widespread pollution elsewhere, can be done safely near one of Minnesota’s most vulnerable areas — the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a vast system of federally protected and interconnected lakes and rivers. 

Nearby, two other ambitious sulfide-mining proposals also are in the works, offering the prospect of more intensive activity near the wilderness border.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Arsenic in groundwater epidemic in Bangladesh
Hanufa Bibi stoops in a worn sari and mismatched flip-flops to work the hand pump on her backyard well. Spurts of clear water wash grains of rice from her hands, but she can never get them clean.

Thick black warts tattoo her palms and fingers, the result of drinking arsenic-laced well water for years. It’s a legacy that new research has linked to 1 in 5 deaths among those exposed in Bangladesh — an impoverished country where up to half of its 150 million people have guzzled tainted groundwater.

 The World Health Organization has called it “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history,” as countless new wells continue to be dug here daily without testing the water for toxins.

 “The magnitude of the arsenic problem is 50 times worse than Chernobyl,” said Richard Wilson, president of the nonprofit Arsenic Foundation and a physics professor emeritus at Harvard University who was not involved in the study.
–The Associated Press

EPA proposes crackdown on nitrogen pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed tough pollution caps for the Chesapeake Bay, requiring Maryland and other mid-Atlantic states to do more to clean up the troubled estuary than previously thought necessary.

The pollution limits proposed by the EPA would force the six states and the District of Columbia to roughly double the pace at which they’ve been removing nitrogen, one of the two nutrients fouling the bay. Maryland, for instance, would have to curtail nitrogen by 15 percent over the next seven years — a regimen likely to require costly upgrades to sewage treatment plants, expensive retrofits of storm drains in urban and suburban areas, and major new curbs on runoff of fertilizer and chicken manure from Eastern Shore farms.

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said the draft pollution-reduction targets would not be easy for the states to achieve. But they represent federal scientists’ best estimates of what’s needed to restore fish-sustaining oxygen to the waters of North America’s largest estuary. Dead zones form every summer in the Chesapeake from algae blooms that are fed by sewage plants, farm and urban and suburban runoff and air pollution.
–The Baltimore Sun 

FDA inches toward regulating drugs fed to livestock
Federal food regulators took a tentative step toward banning a common use of penicillin and tetracycline in the water and feed given cattle, chickens and pigs in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.

 But the Food and Drug Administration has tried without success for more than three decades to ban such uses. In the past, Congress has stepped in at the urging of agricultural interests and stopped the agency from acting.

 In the battle between public health and agriculture, the guys with the cowboy hats generally win.

The F.D.A. released a policy document stating that agricultural uses of antibiotics should be limited to assuring animal health, and that veterinarians should be involved in the drugs’ uses.
–The New York Times

Turn in a polluter – on line
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently launched its new online Complaint Tracker system. Citizens with environmental complaints can now fill out an online form available via the MPCA web site and click to send it directly to a MPCA inspector. 

 The MPCA receives about 1,000 environmental complaints from citizens each year. Complaints range from seeing a neighbor illegally dumping garbage to spotting a puzzling oily sheen on a lake. 

 “The MPCA relies on citizens to notify us of potential environmental problems, whether it’s someone dumping a mystery substance into a river or someone running a business without appropriate environmental safeguards and permits,” said Katie Koelfgen, supervisor, MPCA Air Quality Compliance and Enforcement Unit. “Speed and efficiency are important when it comes to protecting the environment. Once the MPCA knows about the problem and investigates, we’re able to take action quickly before further environmental damage is done. ” 

 While citizens can still rely on the phone to report a complaint, the new online system eliminates the need for messages, phone tag or repeated phone calls for more information. MPCA inspectors find the Complaint Tracker system to be user-friendly and efficient, allowing them to follow up on complaints more quickly. The phone numbers for complaints are 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA news release

DNR sampling well water in Benton County
Water samples from about 100 wells in Benton County are being collected and analyzed for general and trace chemistry during the next two months by hydrogeologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The data is being collected for the Benton County Geologic Atlas, a cooperative effort involving staff from the Minnesota Geological Survey, DNR Waters Division and Benton County. Samples are also being tested to learn how long the water has been underground.

 DNR Waters staff will be contacting Benton county residents to request permission for well sampling, which involves collecting a water sample and measuring the depth to water in each well. The selection of wells for sampling will be based on geology, location, well depth and well construction. Water sampled will come from wells drawing water from aquifers at varying depths. Owners of wells that are sampled will receive a report of the laboratory results for their well.
–DNR News Release

No federal permit required for U.P. mine
A member of Congress says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided that Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. doesn’t need a federal permit to build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak, whose district includes the section of Marquette County where the mine would be located, announced the decision. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment with EPA’s regional office in Chicago. 

The federal permit was the last regulatory hurdle for Kennecott Eagle, which already has state permits to build and operate the mine.

 Opponents of the project contend the mine would pollute groundwater and rivers in the remote area near Lake Superior. Kennecott says it will protect the environment.
–The Associated Press 

Penn State climate scientist cleared of misconduct
An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.

 An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.

 Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.
–The New York Times

USDA: Progress on erosion; more needed

June 21, 2010

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

 USDA: Progress on pollution and erosion; more needs to be done
A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says farmers in the Upper Mississippi River Basin have made good progress in reducing sediment, nutrient, and pesticide losses from farm fields through conservation practices. But more work is needed to reduce nonpoint agricultural sources of pollution to acceptable levels, according to the draft report.

The report’s executive summary states:

  • Use of soil erosion control practices is widespread, with most acres receiving some form of erosion control treatment. Nevertheless, about 15 percent of the cultivated cropland acres still have excessive sediment loss from fields and require additional erosion control practices.
  •  Complete and consistent use of nutrient management (proper rate, form, timing, and method of application) is generally lacking throughout the region. About 62 percent of the cultivated cropland acres require additional nutrient management to reduce the loss of nitrogen or phosphorus from fields. 
  • The most critical conservation concern in the region is loss of nitrogen through leaching. About 51 percent of cropped acres require additional nutrient management to address excessive levels of nitrogen loss in subsurface flow pathways, including tile drainage systems. About 36 percent of cropped acres need treatment only for nitrogen loss in subsurface flow. 
  • About 15 percent of the acres are critically under-treated in terms of conservation practices. 
  • Nutrient loss from fields is within acceptable limits when soil erosion control practices are paired with management of rate, form, timing, and method of nutrient application that maximizes the availability of nutrients for crop growth while minimizing environmental losses. A suite of practices that includes both soil erosion control and consistent nutrient management is required to simultaneously address soil erosion and nitrogen leaching loss. 
  • Treatment of erosion alone can exacerbate the nitrogen leaching problem because reducing surface water increases infiltration and, therefore, movement of soluble nitrogen into subsurface flow pathways. Soil erosion control practices are effective in reducing the loss of nitrogen in surface runoff, but for some acres the re-routing of surface water runoff to subsurface flow along with incomplete nutrient management results in a small net increase in total nitrogen loss from the field. 

The full draft report is available here.

Wisconsin poised to adopt phosphorus limits
Wisconsin farmers would face phosphorus run-off limits for the first time and wastewater treatment plants would have to follow tighter discharge standards on the oxygen-depleting nutrient under a sweeping rules package state environmental officials are poised to adopt.

The rules represent more than a decade’s worth of work by the Department of Natural Resources to curtail phosphorus pollution in state waters. They address a wide range of pollution sources, from farm fields to wastewater plants to developers. The Natural Resources Board, which sets DNR policy, is scheduled to vote on them.

Bruce Baker, the head of the DNR’s Water Division, said phosphorus regulation has been one of the agency’s weak points since the early 1980s. Now research has advanced enough to provide a scientific basis for new standards, he said.
–The Associated Press  

North-flowing phosphorus threatens Lake Winnipeg
A commercial fishing industry that has prospered for 120 years on Lake Winnipeg, the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake, is threatened by pollution, much of it flowing north in the Red River from Minnesota and North Dakota. 

The main culprit is phosphorus from both human-made and natural sources, and scientists say there are no easy solutions to the problem. State and international borders make it more complicated as farmers, fishermen and scientists alike try to save the lake.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Half a world away from the Gulf, oil spills are commonplace
BODO, Nigeria — Big oil spills are no longer news in this vast, tropical land. The Niger Delta, where the wealth underground is out of all proportion with the poverty on the surface, has endured the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years by some estimates. The oil pours out nearly every week, and some swamps are long since lifeless.

Perhaps no place on earth has been as battered by oil, experts say, leaving residents here astonished at the nonstop attention paid to the gusher half a world away in the Gulf of Mexico. It was only a few weeks ago, they say, that a burst pipe belonging to Royal Dutch Shell in the mangroves was finally shut after flowing for two months: now nothing living moves in a black-and-brown world once teeming with shrimp and crab.
–The New York Times  

EPA’s proposed Florida water standards draw fire
The Hillsboro Canal slices through the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee and heads east through the houses and strip malls of Parkland, Boca Roton and Deerfield Beach. Empty plastic bottles, candy wrappers and other trash litter the banks. An occasional wading bird pokes for food in the black water.

The canal is among hundreds of streams, canals, lakes and rivers that face tough and controversial new pollution standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules are intended primarily to keep algae from choking the springs, lakes and rivers of North and Central Florida, but the EPA has included all the state’s waterways, with special criteria for South Florida’s canals.

Environmental groups, who sued to force EPA to impose the limits, say the restrictions are necessary to protect water bodies from fertilizer and other pollutants washing off lawns, farms and industrial operations.

Dozens of powerful opponents have lined up against the proposal, with paper, citrus and power companies expressing concern about costs. The Florida Department of Agriculture estimates it would cost more than $1 billion a year to implement.
–The Sun-Sentinel

Colorado River water runs a deficit
Colorado River water consumed yearly for agriculture and by the 30 million Westerners who rely on it now exceeds the total annual flow.

A growing awareness of that limited flow is leading to increased scrutiny of urban development — especially projects that require diverting more water to the east side of the Continental Divide.

“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.”

Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river.
–The Denver Post

California not ready to say drought is ended
Late spring storms smothered the Sierra in snow. The state’s biggest reservoir is nearly full. Precipitation across much of California has been above average. By standard measures, California’s three-year drought is over.

“From a hydrologic standpoint, for most of California, it is gone,” said state hydrologist Maury Roos, who has monitored the ups and downs of the state’s water for 50 years.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t lifting his drought declaration. Los Angeles isn’t ending its watering restrictions and Southern California’s major water wholesaler isn’t reversing delivery cuts. Despite months of rain and snow and rising levels in the state’s major reservoirs, water managers aren’t ready to celebrate or make the drought’s end official.
–The Los Angeles Times 

 Faucet snails afflict Crow Wing River
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will designate the Crow Wing River in Hubbard, Wadena, Todd, Cass and Morrison counties as “infested waters” later this month because the faucet snail (Bithynia tentaculata) has been found there. The snail is linked to waterfowl deaths at Lake Winnibigoshish and the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. 

The faucet snail was first noticed in nearby Upper and Lower Twin lakes and the Shell River in Wadena County last fall. The Twin lakes and the Shell River are connected to the Crow Wing River, so the recent detection of the faucet snails is not a surprise.

New regulations will take effect along the river to help stop movement of the faucet snail to other waters. Once designated “infested water,” state law prohibits the transport of water from the Crow Wing River without a permit.  It also prohibits anglers or commercial bait harvesters from harvesting bait from these waters without a permit.
–Minnesota DNR news release

Ethanol producer eyes 1,700-mile pipeline
Poet, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, and Oklahoma-based Magellan Midstream Partners LP want to build the nation’s first pipeline to transport corn ethanol from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Both companies say the project would create more than 50,000 construction jobs during the installation of the ethanol pipeline, which could be complete as soon as 2014.

About 1,100 permanent jobs would be generated by the joint venture following completion of the pipeline, which could position the United States as an exporter of ethanol.

Stretching from South Dakota to New Jersey, the proposed 1,700-mile, $3.5 billion project would extend into southern Minnesota and snake through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before terminating in Linden, N.J.
–Finance & Commerce 

EPA questions Monsanto dam in Idaho
Federal regulators are concerned that a dam built by Monsanto Co. earlier this year to trap phosphate mine runoff may be stopping more than just pollution.

They say the dam has also halted millions of gallons of water in Sheep Creek that would otherwise help fill the Blackfoot River.

The Environmental Protection Agency now wants the maker of Roundup herbicide to begin a costly treatment to remove selenium and heavy metals, then discharge clean water downstream, instead of capturing it in a 50-million-gallon lake behind the dam and using it for dust control on its mining roads.

The situation shows the predicament that companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto and the government face in Idaho’s rich-but-polluted phosphate mining country not far from Yellowtone National Park: They must work to contain naturally occurring poisons unearthed during a century of digging, while protecting water supplies in an agricultural state hit hard by drought over the last decade.
–The Associated Press

U.S.-Canada panel warns of threats to groundwater
 The Great Lakes Science Advisory Board issued a bi-national assessment of threats to groundwater in the Great Lakes basin.

The report, prepared for the International Joint Commission, notes groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is similar in volume to Lake Michigan and provides a source of drinking water for millions of basin residents.

“Yet this major component of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem receives inadequate attention in policies designed to protect Great Lakes water quality,” officials said. A PDF of the full report is available.
–UPI.com

 St. Paul to get new water meters
That dusty, aging water meter in your basement? It’s getting replaced.

St. Paul Regional Water Services is embarking on a nearly $20 million program to replace every water meter in St. Paul, Maplewood, West St. Paul, Mendota Heights, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale. That’s 94,000 meters in all, over the next three years, beginning this fall.

The new meters will be high-tech compared with the current devices. They will allow workers to remotely check water use by driving past meter locations but never actually going onto private property.

Important details, such as when a work crew will come into your basement to do the work, and how much your rates will go up as a result, have yet to be determined. The water agency is still sorting through bids on the project, and its top executive will propose an annual budget and water rates next month.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

‘Dead zones’ expand; ag-water conference set

March 15, 2010

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of important regiona, national and international articles about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read the works in their entirety where they originally were published.

Ocean ‘dead zones’ spreading
Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth’s oceans, particularly off the United States’ Pacific Northwest coast, could be another sign of fundamental changes linked to global climate change, scientists say.

 They warn that the oceans’ complex undersea ecosystems and fragile food chains could be disrupted.

In some spots off Washington state and Oregon, the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.

 Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean. These areas — in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans — appear to be spreading, however, covering more square miles, creeping toward the surface and in some places, such as the Pacific Northwest, encroaching on the continental shelf within sight of the coastline.
–McClatchy Newspapers

Minnesota summit set on ag and water quality
The Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League of America — in partnership with the Freshwater Society — has scheduled  the 2010 Wetlands Summit, Agriculture and Water Summit 2010: Keeping Water on the Land for Conservation and Production.

The conference will be Saturday, March 27, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at Normandale Community College in Bloomington.

The goal of the conference is to connect farmers, researchers, conservationists, students, and anyone interested in working together to protect  water resources while ensuring productive farms.

The morning session will feature Bruce Wilson and Gary Sands from the University of Minnesota Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering discussing the history of agricultural drainage in Minnesota and current strategies for conserving water in the soil and reducing the flow of nitrogen to surface waters. A panel discussion will feature Warren Formo from the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Coalition; Tim Larson from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Tony Thompson, a corn, soybean and native plant farmer from Windom; and Martin Jaus, an organic milk producer.

The keynote speech will be given by Jon Foley, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment titled The Other Inconvenient Truth: A Global Challenge for Agriculture and the Environment” addressing the challenges of feeding our growing world population while protecting the land and water resources necessary to sustain the planet.

Aging water mains fail across the U.S.
One recent morning, George S. Hawkins, a long-haired environmentalist who now leads one of the largest and most prominent water and sewer systems, trudged to a street corner here where water was gushing into the air. 

A cold snap had ruptured a major pipe installed the same year the light bulb was invented. Homes near the fashionable Dupont Circle neighborhood were quickly going dry, and Mr. Hawkins, who had recently taken over the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority despite having no experience running a major utility, was responsible for fixing the problem. 

As city employees searched for underground valves, a growing crowd started asking angry questions. Pipes were breaking across town, and fire hydrants weren’t working, they complained. Why couldn’t the city deliver water, one man yelled at Mr. Hawkins.

Such questions are becoming common across the nation as water and sewer systems break down.
— The New York Times

 EPA and Florida at odds over water quality
A political battle is heating up between Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over how best to clean up the state’s polluted waters.

 A lawsuit filed by environmentalists has forced the EPA to begin setting hard numeric limits on nutrient pollution in Florida waters. Those waters exceeding the limits would be considered “impaired,” triggering forced reductions on polluters.

 The environmental groups say they were forced to file the suit in July 2008 because the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had done little to halt the degradation of rivers, lakes, springs and bays. Nutrients, mostly from fertilizers and minimally treated sewage, can trigger algae blooms that are deadly to fish and unhealthy for humans.

“We say that Florida’s economy and environment are linked,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, one of the groups that filed suit. “If we can’t stop the state from degrading our waters now, they’ll just get worse.”

 State environmental officials say they agree numeric criteria are needed for nitrogen and phosphorus, the main nutrients. But they claim EPA’s numbers are too stringent and would require pollution reductions in many rivers and lakes that are in good shape.
–The Tampa Tribune

 Bill aims to halt invasive species by limiting boat ramps
How far should Minnesota go to prevent invasive species such as zebra mussels from getting into more lakes?

Should boaters get a $250 fine for accidentally moving bait bucket water from one lake to another? Should there be a moratorium on new public lake accesses? Should the penalty for transporting a lake weed be the same as poaching a deer? 

As unwanted aquatic critters such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas infest more Minnesota waters each year, the public cry to stop the spread is getting louder.

To date, the Department of Natural Resources has relied on boat inspections, stiffer laws and public information to try to slow the spread of lake pests. 

Now the problem hits upon a bigger societal question: Who gets to use Minnesota’s lakes?

“If your only solution is to ban access, you’re giving unfair access to people who own lakeshore access,” said Shawn Kellett, a member of the group Anglers for Habitat. 

Kellett is referring to new legislative proposals ordering the Minnesota DNR to stop developing new public accesses at lakes where no access currently exists. The moratorium would exist for the next five years until the agency develops better ways to control aquatic species.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Water systems sue over Atrazine
A group of public water systems in Missouri and Kansas are part of a federal lawsuit filed in Illinois by 16 water systems against the leading maker of a popular farm herbicide.

 The lawsuit seeks at least $5 million from Syngenta Crop Protection, Greensboro, N.C., and its parent, Syngenta, AG, Basel, Switzerland, in damages and to pay for the costs to treat water laced with atrazine.

Cameron, Mo., northeast of Kansas City; and Concordia, Mo., east of Kansas City; Miami County Rural Water District No. 2, Spring Hill, Kan., just southwest of Kansas City; and the city of Carbondale, Kan., about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City, are among the group of cities and water districts in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illiniois, Indiana and Ohio involved. 

The group’s attorney is seeking to make the lawsuit a class-action suit on behalf of other cities and water systems. 

Syngenta is a major manufacturer of the herbicide atrazine, short for 2-chloro-4-ethylamino-6-isopropyl amino-s-triazine.
–The KC Tribune  

Climate change stressing  birds
Changes in the global climate are imposing additional stress on hundreds of species of migratory birds in the United States that are already threatened by other environmental factors, according to a new Interior Department report. 

The latest version of the department’s annual State of the Birds Report shows that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or suffering from population decline. 

For the first time, the report adds climate change to other factors threatening bird populations, including destruction of habitat, hunting, pesticides, invasive species and loss of wetlands.
–The New York Times 

Judge blocks St. Croix bridge
For the second time, a U.S. district judge in Minneapolis has blocked plans for a St. Croix River bridge south of Stillwater. 

Chief Judge Michael Davis ruled in favor of the Sierra Club in its lawsuit to prevent construction of the bridge. 

“It’s not a win for us. It’s a win for the river,” said St. Croix Valley Sierra Club spokesman Jim Rickard. 

In a 93-page decision, Davis found that the National Park Service’s approval of the bridge plans violated federal law.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

International scientists to review climate change research
A group of top scientists from around the world will review the research and management practices of the United Nations climate change panel so that it can try to avoid the kinds of errors that have brought its work into question in recent months, officials said.

 Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, said that the InterAcademy Council, a consortium of the world’s most prestigious scientific societies, would name scientists to take a thorough look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

 The panel has come under sharp attack after revelations of several mistakes in its most recent report, published in 2007, including a poorly sourced and exaggerated account of how quickly the Himalayan glaciers are melting.

 Scientists and officials say that the panel’s finding that the earth is warming — probably as a result of human activity — remains indisputable. But critics have used the errors to raise doubts about the credibility of the entire 3,000-page study.
–The New York Times 

Huge ethanol producer to cut water use 22%
Poet, the world’s largest producer of ethanol, says it can do the world one better and embarked on an ambitious initiative called Ingreenuity that first seeks to reduce its water consumption by 22 percent.

 The company wants to squeeze water use at its 26 processing plants by a billion gallons – and wants to reach that goal by 2014.

“We’ve had a 20 percent increase in ethanol yields since our inception, but we’re not done yet. We’re not satisfied,” Poet President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Broin told employees at the company’s Sioux Falls headquarters. “This is how we’re going to define our sustainability as we go forward. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do – it’s the right thing for our planet, and it’s the right thing for future generations.” 

If successful, Ingreenuity would reduce Poet’s water use per gallon of ethanol produced from the current average of 3 gallons to 2.33, or a 22 percent reduction. When it started producing ethanol in 1987, Poet used 17 gallons of water to create 1 gallon of ethanol.
–The Argus Leader

Anoka County aquifers could drop
There’s a fervor to Jamie Schurbon’s voice as he warns of a coming crisis few can see. 

If Metropolitan Council population projections come true, increased water use in urban parts of the metro area will lead to significantly lowered aquifer levels, to the detriment of lakes, ponds and even some shallower private wells. 

Schurbon, a water resource specialist with the Anoka Conservation District, hopes information being gathered now will give water a more prominent place at the table as development resumes in the county after being interrupted by the recession.
–The Star Tribune 

Judge blasts North Dakota water pipeline
A federal judge has issued a harsh rebuke to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, ordering the agency to conduct more studies on the potential environmental impact of a project to divert water from the Missouri River to a large swath of North Dakota. 

 The Northwest Area Water Supply Project would carry water from Lake Sakakawea, a Missouri River reservoir in central North Dakota, to the city of Minot, N.D., where it would be distributed to 10 counties. Most of the planned 45-mile pipeline has already been finished. 

In her opinion in Manitoba v. Salazar, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Canadian province, which claimed in a 2002 lawsuit that the agency failed to take the necessary “hard look” at the project’s environmental impact as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
–The New York Times

 Sierra Club’s Edgar Wabum dies at 103
Edgar Wayburn, a physician who joined the Sierra Club to take a burro trip and then went on to become a major figure in the conservation movement, leading campaigns that preserved more than 100 million wild acres, died at his home in San Francisco. He was 103.

 In announcing his death, Sierra Club called Dr. Wayburn “the 20th-century John Muir,” referring to its founder, who preserved the Yosemite Valley.

When President Bill Clinton awarded Dr. Wayburn the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, he said Dr. Wayburn had “saved more of our wilderness than any other person alive.”

Dr. Wayburn had central roles in protecting 104 million acres of Alaskan wilderness; establishing and enlarging Redwood National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore in California; and starting the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in and around San Francisco.
–The New York Times

 Iron, fluoride threaten India’s aquifers
Ground water in more than a third of Indian districts is not fit for drinking. The government, in reply to a parliamentary question, admitted that iron levels in ground water are higher than those prescribed in 254 districts while fluoride levels have breached the safe level in 224 districts.

The alarming situation could bring trouble for the government, which has promised to provide drinking water to all habitations by 2012 under the millennium development goals.

While ground water is not the only source of drinking water that government utilises, it is one of the key supplies and the dependence on ground water has been increasing over years.

The government, in its reply, said salinity had risen beyond tolerance levels in 162 districts while arsenic levels were found higher than permissible limits in 34 districts.
–The Times of India