Posts Tagged ‘bottled water’

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

Advertisements

Health costs of fossil fuels; irrigation’s demand

October 25, 2009

The cost — in terms of health care — of fossil fuels. A looming battle in California over desalination. The demands irrigators make on the Colorado River’s waters. Check out these articles and more, then follow the links to read them in their entirety where they originally were published.

Fossil fuels add billions in health costs
Burning fossil fuels costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, the National Academy of Sciences reported in a study.

The damages are caused almost equally by coal and oil, according to the study, which was ordered by Congress. The study set out to measure the costs not incorporated into the price of a kilowatt-hour or a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

The estimates by the academy do not include damages from global warming, which has been linked to the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. The authors said the extent of such damage, and the timing, were too uncertain to estimate.
–The New York Times

Water shortages put target on irrigators
Along its final miles, the Colorado River snakes through a dizzying series of dams, canals, siphons and ditches, diverted to hundreds of users in Arizona and California until barely a trickle remains.

What flows through this watery Grand Central Station could fill the needs of all the homes and offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and much of Southern California.

But it doesn’t.

The water, more than a billion gallons a day, irrigates vast fields of wheat, alfalfa, cotton, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, melons and a produce aisle of other fruits and vegetables, feeding an industry tilled from the desert more than a century ago.

In Arizona, the crops yield about 1 percent of the state’s annual economic output, yet the fields soak up 70 percent of the water supply. That outsize allotment has painted a target on the farms as urban water managers search for the next bucket of water to meet future demands.
–The Arizona Republic

Desalination plan focus of fight over growth
Nothing about the Marin Municipal Water District storage yard and the run-down wooden pier protruding into San Francisco Bay give any hint of what they are: the site of what may become one of the fiercest water battles in Northern California in decades.

It is, on the surface, a set piece: an emotional struggle over a large planned water project facing strong environmental opposition. But at a more basic level, it is a contest over the ever-volatile issue of growth in Marin County.

The district is proposing to use both the yard and the Marin Rod & Gun Club pier as locations for a desalination plant that would suck up saltwater and initially could produce about five million gallons of water a day for its 190,000 customers, an increase of 6 percent in the district’s supply.
–The New York Times

Hugo Chavez calls for 3-minute showers
Leftist President Hugo Chavez called on Venezuelans to stop singing in the shower and to wash in three minutes because the oil-exporting nation is having problems supplying water and electricity.

Venezuela has suffered several serious blackouts in the past year because of rapidly growing demand and under-investment, which has been aggravated by a drop in water levels in hydroelectric dams that provide most of its energy.

Chavez announced energy-saving measures and said he would create a ministry to deal with the electricity shortages, which have affected the image of his socialist revolution before legislative elections due in 2010.
–Reuters

Corps wants Red River flood choice by Dec. 1
Fargo-Moorhead officials finally have plenty of options for flood control.

But it will test their ability to work together to quickly pick a plan by Dec. 1 that could determine the area’s safety for decades.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented an array of diversion and levee options at a meeting of the Metropolitan Flood Management Committee at the Moorhead Marriott .

With the project on a tight timetable, corps engineer Craig Evans said his agency needs to know by Dec. 1 whether it’s a diversion channel in Minnesota or North Dakota, or levees, that has local support.
–The Forum

Pollution credit trading  market planned
American Farmland Trust is teaming up with Electric Power Research Institute, the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Kieser & Associates, Hunton and Williams, the Miami Conservancy District, University of California at Santa Barbara, Ohio Farm Bureau, Hoosier Rural Electric Cooperative, and Tennessee Valley Authority to establish a water quality trading market across the Ohio River Basin, an area that spans fourteen states.

The project will focus on Ohio and seven nearby states, with the goal of improving water quality in the Ohio River Basin and reducing hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Water quality trading creates a market that pays participants for reducing the pollution they emit into watersheds. It creates a market that allows pollution sources who reduce their nutrient emissions or releases below an agreed upon baseline, to generate credits to sell to point sources required to reduce their nutrient releases. Such point sources include public utilities or manufacturing operations. Subsequently, participants are given a financial incentive to reduce their own pollution.
–AgWeb.com

Washington County preserve to grow
Land dedicated to scientific research in south Washington County grew substantially when the Trust for Public Land completed the purchase of 120 acres in Denmark Township.

The land, bought from private landowner Mike Rygh for $1.14 million, will be added to the 200-acre Lost Valley Prairie Scientific and Natural Area and will remain open to the public for walking, exploring, nature observation, educational use and scientific research.
–The Star Tribune

Coloradoans contest Nestle bottled water plan
In many ways Salida, Colo., typifies the 21st-century Rocky Mountain town. Originally founded along a railroad line in the late 1800s, it’s now geared primarily toward tourism.

Among the red brick buildings of the historic center where ranchers, miners, and railroad workers once held sway, tourists now move between coffee shops, galleries, and outfitters. During warmer months, kayakers “surf” a man-made wave in the fast-flowing Arkansas River, which marks the edge of the downtown area.

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.
–The Christian Science Monitor

Exxon hit with damages in pollution suit
A federal jury in New York City ruled Exxon Mobil Corp had polluted the city’s ground water and ordered the oil giant to pay $105 million in damages, the city said.

The city contended Exxon knew that gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether would contaminate ground water if it leaked from the underground storage tanks at its retail stations.

Exxon ignored warnings from its own scientists and engineers not to use MTBE in areas of the country that relied on ground water for drinking water, the city said.
–Reuters

Times journalist talks about ‘worsening pollution’
An estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals, parasites, bacteria or viruses, or fails to meet federal health standards. Part of the problem, says journalist Charles Duhigg, is that water-pollution laws are not being enforced.

Duhigg reports on the “worsening pollution in American waters” — and regulators’ responses to the problem — in his New York Times series, “Toxic Waters.” In researching the series, he studied thousands of water pollution records, which he obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
–National Public Radio

California considers massive water overhaul
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers are laboring over an ambitious package of policy and spending initiatives that could transform — from dam to tap — how California uses its limited water supply.

If the changes happen, most residents and businesses probably would have to pay more and consume less.

For the first time, statewide law would require farmers to pay a premium if they draw too much water. Among the dozens of potential directives is a proposal for urban customers, including those in the San Diego region, to wring at least 5 percent more in water conservation.

Longer term, the area’s water agencies might be able to compete for billions in state grants to build more storage facilities, invigorate conservation and extend alternative supplies, such as desalination.
–The San Diego Union

Atrazine, mercury and top water issues

August 24, 2009

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

Spikes in weed killer concentrations found

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

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

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

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

–The New York Times

 

Atrazine disrupts rat reproduction, study finds

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

–Environmental Health News

Learn about freshwater mussels

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The Jordan Independent
 

 Household pesticide use underestimated

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

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

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

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

–USA Today

 

Mercury taints every stream tested by USGS

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

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

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

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

–U.S. Gelogical Survey new release

 

Water issues top concerns worldwide

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

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

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

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

–Reuters

 

Minneapolis arsenic cleanup continues

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

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

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

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

–EPA news release

 

Plastic breaks down – and pollutes – in oceans

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

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

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

–Discovery News

 

Nestle gets OK  to bottle Colorado water

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

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

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

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

–The Los Angeles Times

 

Wyoming groundwater drops, report says

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

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

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

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

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

–The Casper Star-Tribune

 

Panel OKs continued moose hunt

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

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

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

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

–The Star Tribune

 

Lead poisoning provokes Chinese riot

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

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

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

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

–BBC News

 

Army Corps builds world’s largest pump

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

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

–Popular Science

 

Sensors speed water quality research

May 26, 2009

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

UM studies remote sensors for water quality
Measuring water quality in lakes and streams traditionally starts with a time-consuming trip with a bucket to get a water sample for the laboratory.

Now University of Minnesota water researchers have found a way to skip that step.

In an ongoing study of urban creeks and watersheds that is focusing this summer on Lake Pamela in Edina, the university is taking thousands of water-quality readings a day using underwater sensors that relay the data by cell phone to the U’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.

The study promises to “move environmental monitoring to the next level and improve our understanding and management of water resources,” said Deb Swackhamer, co-director of the university’s Water Resources Center.
–The Star Tribune

N. Mankato says ‘no’ to paying for aquifer study
North Mankato is the lone holdout in a Department of Natural Resources plan to have the seven largest users of an area aquifer split the costs of a study to see if it’s being depleted.

The study’s cost was about $20,000 in 2008, and it may rise.

“The costs are a little unpredictable,” said Shannon Fisher, who is a mediator for the project on behalf of the Minnesota River Board and the aquifer’s users.

The open-ended price of the study is one of the reasons North Mankato chose not to sign the agreement, City Administrator Wendell Sande said.
–The Mankato Free Press

Wireless sensors save water on golf courses
In seven years of overseeing every root and blade of grass on the grounds at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., Matt Shaffer has built a reputation on innovation and conservation. An early advocate of course playability over aesthetics, he long lived by the maxim “the drier, the better.”

But when a stifling heat wave threatened the club’s greens before the 2005 United States Amateur Championship — a record 17th U.S.G.A. championship at Merion — Shaffer turned to his old boss, Paul R. Latshaw Sr., for advice. Latshaw told him there was one way he could continue to cut down water use while keeping his turf dry and as fast as a microwave: sensors.
–The New York Times

Wisconsin utilities question water fee
A municipal water utilities lobbying group is raising concerns about new fees the governor is proposing to fund staff to oversee the implementation of the Great Lakes water compact.

A provision in Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed budget calls for the Department of Natural Resources to design new fees to impose on power companies, public water utilities and other major water users in the Great Lakes basin.

The intent is to create a fee structure that would raise the estimated $1 million needed annually to run the compact oversight and implementation program, said Eric Ebersberger, water section chief in the DNR’s Bureau of Drinking Water and Ground Water.

But a lobbying group for public utilities is urging the state Legislature to set the fees by statute so any increase would have to be subsequently approved by lawmakers.
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Stimulus funds to rebuild Red Wing dam
The lock and dam on the Mississippi River near Red Wing, Minn., the site of more than 100 barge accidents because of the hazardous current, will undergo $70 million in safety improvements over the next two years under the nation’s economic stimulus program, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

It is one of the Corps’ largest projects under the program, although a long-standing conflict with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the lack of a fish passage threatens to block some of the work.

Critics led by the Wisconsin DNR also object to the Corps’ plans to cut down trees used by perching bald eagles and to embed concrete blocks along vast stretches of shore and bottom land on the Wisconsin side of the river.
–The Star Tribune

Chemical companies win groundwater case
After five months of trial in San Francisco Superior Court, a jury cleared a handful of chemical companies of nearly all the claims brought against them by the city of Modesto, Calif., in the latest phase of a decade-old groundwater pollution case.

The jury did award Modesto about $18.3 million in damages to cover cleanup costs, but that amount could be nullified by settlements the city has already reached with other defendants.

The jury also decided that the remaining defendants, including the Dow Chemical Co., did not act with malice when they manufactured and distributed chemicals, such as perchloroethylene, to dry cleaners in Modesto. That rules out punitive damages, which could have been much larger.
–law.com

Bottled water deposit bill challenged
A coalition of bottled water companies filed suit to block an expanded bottle deposit law scheduled to take effect next month, arguing that the law, which imposes a deposit fee on bottled water sold in New York State, is unconstitutional.

The coalition includes Nestle Waters North America, the International Bottled Water Association, and industry trade group, and Keeper Springs, a small bottler owned by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and environmental advocate.

The new law requires distributors to collect a 5-cent deposit per bottle of water, which can in turn be redeemed by consumers, provisions designed to encourage New Yorkers to recycle the billions of water bottles now thrown away each year. But companies that bottle water must affix a new universal product code label to bottles sold in New York.
–The New York Times

DNR begins campaign against invasives
Memorial Day weekend, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers joined forces with other law enforcement agencies to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species from the Brainerd, Lake Mille Lacs and Prior Lake areas.

The increasing zebra mussel populations at Lake Mille Lacs and Rice Lake near Brainerd, and the new zebra mussel infestation at Prior Lake in Scott County are a particular concern.

Minnesota’s water resources are threatened by numerous aquatic invasive species such as the zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and purple loosestrife. These species could be easily spread within the state if citizens, businesses and visitors don’t take the necessary steps to contain them.

The DNR offered these suggestions:

Drain bait buckets, bilges and live wells before leaving any water access.

  • Remove aquatic plants from boats and trailers to prevent the spread of invasive species. The law requires it.
  • Drain all water from your boat when leaving waters that have been designated as infested with spiny water flea or zebra mussels.

The coordinated enforcement effort will include an increased presence at public water accesses, where officers will look closely for violators who could face fines of up to $500.
–Minnesota DNR news release

‘Water wars,’ bottled water and robo-carp

March 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drought, economic stimulus and bottled tap water

March 2, 2009

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

California drought now officially an emergency
Citing a third consecutive year of drought conditions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday declared a state of emergency and called on urban residents to cut their water usage by 20 percent.

The announcement could intensify talks in the Capitol about upgrading the state’s water infrastructure — a contentious debate that has pitted environmentalists who favor conservation against proponents of building new dams to boost supplies. Negotiations in the Legislature have stalled repeatedly in recent years over the issue of dams.
–San Jose Mercury News

Tap water in a bottle? Don’t laugh. It sells
Two teachers on their lunch break scanned a refrigerated shelf inside a Manhattan coffee shop lined with drink bottles: Naked Juice, Perrier, Smartwater, New York City tap water.

“Tap water?” said Alison Szeli, 26, picking up the clear plastic bottle with orange letters: “Tap’d NY. Purified New York City tap water.”

She studied the description: “No glaciers were harmed in making this water.” She compared prices: Smartwater cost $1.85. Tap’d NY was 35 cents less.
–The Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court clears way for coal emission rules
The Supreme Court cleared the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new regulations on emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and other pollutants from the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

Environmental groups hailed the action as a final blow to Bush administration efforts to frustrate tight regulation of the emissions, but any new Obama administration rules may draw their own court challenges.
–The New York Times

Gas drilling boom spurs water worries
On a snowy hillside in rural southwest Pennsylvania, Larry Grimm drives his truck up a steep gravel track to a hilltop reservoir surrounded by orange plastic fencing and “keep out” signs.

The pond supplies water pumped from a local creek to the natural gas wells that are springing up throughout Mount Pleasant Township, where Grimm is the municipal supervisor.
–Reuters

EPA promises new look at rules on invasives
The Obama administration’s top environmental official indicated that she will consider tougher rules to protect the Great Lakes from invasive species that hitch rides into the region aboard oceangoing vessels.

Newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said she will take a fresh look at her agency’s new policy that requires oceangoing vessels to flush their ship-steadying ballast tanks in mid-ocean to expel any unwanted organisms.
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Rising water in mine pit worries Bovey residents
Water has been rising in a huge abandoned mine pit near Bovey for about 15 years, and residents’ concerns are rising along with it. The high water is already finding its way into basements, and some residents think it could spill out of the pit some day, inundating the small town.

While there’s money available to try to fix the problem, there’s little agreement how to do that.
–Minnesota Public Radio

Firms urged to disclose ‘water footprint’
Corporations’ “water footprint” — assessing their water use and pollution — should be disclosed in SEC financial reports along with companies’ strategies for dealing with expected growth in water-related costs, according a report by Ceres and the Pacific Institute.

“Investors also have a significant interest and role” in encouraging companies “to look more closely at their potential risk exposure to water-related challenges,” according to the 60-page report issued today. Investors should be aware of potential financial, regulatory and reputational risks corporations face related to water usage and availability that could drive up costs, the report said.
–Pension & Investments

Obama budget would benefit Great Lakes
The budget President Obama revealed would send $475 million to the Midwest to clean up and restore the Great Lakes.

The money would go toward combating invasive species, runoff pollution and contaminated sediment. When he was running for president, Obama committed to making restoration of the Great Lakes a priority.
–The Daily Cardinal

Heavy metal mine cleanup could provide economic boost
One of the nation’s longest-running environmental eyesores is poised to become a critical jobs engine for the rural West under the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Together, the Interior and Agriculture departments expect to set off a hiring boom among idled industry and agricultural workers whose charge will be to clean up thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that once formed the backbone of the region’s economy, but whose greater legacy is one of toxic wastes and thousands of miles of contaminated rivers, creeks and streams.
-The New York Times

Satellite crash sets back carbon research
NASA and climate researchers are weighing their options after the crash of a new satellite designed to monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide with unprecedented accuracy. A malfunction during the rocket ride toward space sent the Orbiting Carbon Observatory plummeting into the Indian Ocean near Antarctica.

“To say that it’s extremely disappointing would be an understatement. This was a really important science mission,” said a dismayed Edward J. Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for science.
–The Washington Post

Texas governor wants to spend to meet water demand
Gov. Rick Perry says it’s time for Texas to put some money into water.

The Republican governor told the Texas Water Conservation Association on Wednesday that lawmakers should spend $260 million to help speed the building of water reservoirs.

The 2007 Texas state water plan projects that population and the demand for water will increase dramatically over the next 50 years.
–Associated Press

New type of toilet promises to save water, money
In the industrialized world, most of us (except those who have septic tanks) rely on wastewater-treatment plants to remove our excrement from the drinking-water supply, in great volumes. (Toilets can use up to 30 percent of a household’s water supply.) This paradigm is rarely questioned, and I understand why: flush toilets, sewers and wastewater-treatment plants do a fine job of separating us from our potentially toxic waste, and eliminating cholera and other waterborne diseases. Without them, cities wouldn’t work.

But the paradigm is flawed. For a start, cleaning sewage guzzles energy. Sewage treatment in Britain uses a quarter of the energy generated by the country’s largest coal-fired power station.
-The New York Times

Levees in 16 states flunk inspections
More than 100 levees in 16 states flunked maintenance inspections in the last two years and are so neglected that they could fail to stem a major flood, records from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show.

The 114 levees received “unacceptable” maintenance ratings in corps inspections, meaning their deficiencies are so severe that it can be “reasonably foreseen” that they will not perform properly in a major flood, according to the records, which were requested by USA TODAY. As a result, the corps is advising state and local levee authorities that the levees no longer qualify for federal rehabilitation aid if damaged by floodwaters.
–USA Today

DNR to combine divisions
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to create a new division focused on watershed management.

Assistant DNR commissioner Larry Kramka says in the past, conservation efforts have been more focused on problem areas. Now, the new division, which combines the Waters and Ecological Resources Divisions, will approach conservation by addressing the root causes of problems.
–Minnesota Public Radio

New Berlin, Wis., to get Lake Michigan water
Lake Michigan water may start flowing across the subcontinental divide in New Berlin by July, the first such diversion since the Great Lakes compact was approved.

New Berlin recently sent its one-time $1.5 million payment for the water to the City of Milwaukee, even though the western suburb is still waiting for the state Department of Natural Resources to approve the diversion.
–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Mathematicians model snowflakes
The random, symmetrical beauty of snowflakes has been recreated in a computer program, U.S. researchers said.

It took four years for two mathematicians from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of California, Davis, to develop the computer model’s theory and perform the computations.

“Even though we’ve artfully stripped down the model over several years so that it’s as simple and efficient as possible, it still takes us a day to grow one of these things,” Wisconsin researcher David Griffeath said in a statement.
–Reuters