Posts Tagged ‘desalinization’

Conservation and sustainability

July 27, 2009

Every week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles and research abut water and the environment. Scan the entries here, then follow the links to read the article and research in their original sources.

Report calls for irrigation conservation

California farmers could save enough water each year to fill Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir 16 times by using more efficient irrigation techniques, according to a study that is bound to be highly controversial among the state’s powerful agriculture interests.

The report, released by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy group, also recommends that the state rethink its historic water rights system and boost water prices. Both measures, in theory, would spur agricultural users to use less water at a time when climate change, urban growth and ecological restoration are expected to further cramp water supplies.

“If we want to have a healthy agriculture economy, the only real option is to figure out how to produce more food with less water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and co-author of “Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future.”

Farmers agree water supplies are stretched, but they disagree on the cause. During recent “fish vs. farm” rallies in the Central Valley, protesters decried environmental rules that have cut water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect endangered fish species.

–The San Francisco Chronicle

Federal grant program to encourage new conservation methods

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $18.4 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to fund 55 projects to develop and refine cutting-edge technologies and approaches to help farmers and ranchers conserve and sustain natural resources. Vilsack made the announcement in a speech at the Soil and Water Conservation Society annual meeting in Dearborn, Mich.

“New technology can play an important role in addressing environmental problems, and the Obama Administration is committed to developing innovative solutions to natural resource management and conservation issues facing farmers and ranchers,” Vilsack said. “These Conservation Innovation Grants will benefit both agriculture and the environment by getting 21st century ideas in the hands of our producers across the country.”

The Conservation Innovation Grant program is designed to speed the transfer and enhance use of technologies and methods that show promise in solving the nation’s top natural resource problems by targeting innovative, on-the-ground conservation. Approved projects address issues such as water quantity and quality, grazing lands, soil and forest health, and air quality.

–United States Department of Agriculture

DNR to increase lake permit fees

Thousands of Minnesotans get permits every year to clear aquatic vegetation from their beach front property, but next year, the cost of those permits could triple.

The DNR says it has no choice but to raise the fees, but some lake property owners say the change will encourage more people to ignore state law.

Most Minnesotans prefer a smooth sandy beach in front of their lake home, and a clean swimming area with no plants. You can clear a small area without a permit, but thousands of people pay the $35 fee for a permit to clear larger areas.

–Minnesota Public Radio

Los Angeles requires conservation devices

In an effort to save 1 billion gallons of water a year, all new construction and renovation projects will be required to have high-efficiency water devices under a measure approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

Beginning Dec. 1, new and upgraded residential, commercial and industrial projects will have to install fixtures that use less water — from showers and faucets to dishwashers and toilets.

For residents, the biggest impact will come with the installation of new dishwashers and toilets. New dishwashers use roughly half the water of older models, while ultra-low-flush toilets use 1.3 gallons per flush compared with the current low-flush rate of 1.6 gallons.

–The Los Angeles Daily News

Researchers take a step forward with water desalinization system

Concern over access to clean water is no longer just an issue for the developing world, as California faces its worst drought in recorded history. According to state’s Department of Water Resources, supplies in major reservoirs and many groundwater basins are well below average.

Court-ordered restrictions on water deliveries have reduced supplies from the two largest water systems, and an outdated statewide water system can’t keep up with population growth.

With these critical issues looming large, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science are working hard to help alleviate the state’s water deficit with their new mini-mobile-modular (M3) “smart” water desalination and filtration system.

In designing and constructing new desalination plants, creating and testing pilot facilities is one of the most expensive and time-consuming steps. Traditionally, small yet very expensive stationary pilot plants are constructed to determine the feasibility of using available water as a source for a large-scale desalination plant. The M3 system helps cut both costs and time.

–Imperial Valley News

Education efforts stepped up to stop zebra mussels

After a successful morning of walleye fishing, Don Pendergrass pulled his boat from Lake Mille Lacs before inspecting it for an invader – zebra mussels – that threatens the lake he loves. He removed a few weeds clinging to his trailer and drained lake water from his live well as conservation officers Luke Croatt and Scott Fitzgerald looked on.

The officers’ presence this sunny day is part of the state’s beefed-up enforcement and education effort to try to prevent the further spread of zebra mussels and other invasive species that threaten to permanently alter the ecosystems of Minnesota’s treasured 12,000 lakes — and possibly undercut its $4.7 billion sports fishing industry and the 1.4 million anglers who treasure it.

But some critics say a much tougher approach is needed. The stakes are too high, they argue, and the unfettered movement of boats among Minnesota lakes may have to stop. They point to California, where boats must be inspected before they are allowed on Lake Tahoe, and to Michigan, where programs similar to Minnesota’s have failed to stop the spread of zebra mussels.

–The Star Tribune

Grant to create sustainability center at University of Maine

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Maine and University of Southern Maine a $20 million dollar grant to create a so-called Center for Sustainability Solutions.  The program, which will be based at UMaine in Orono, will create research projects and academic courses focused on how to transition to a more sustainable society, according to UMaine’s Website.

The project is expected to create as many as 300 jobs for researchers and others, and will launch a variety of education initiatives at all grade levels in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

–The Maine Public Broadcasting Network

U.S. and China to develop clean energy research center

The United States and China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, announced plans for a joint clean energy research center Wednesday, raising hopes of better cooperation in what is becoming an increasingly competitive industry.

With initial financing of $15 million and headquarters in both countries, the center will focus on clean coal, building efficiency, and clean vehicles, said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. As a research clearinghouse for scientists, it can also highlight potential U.S.-Chinese cooperation in an industry that Washington says could create thousands of jobs.

–The Associated Press

$3.3 million storage tank cleanup under way in South Carolina

South Carolina will use $3.3 million in federal stimulus money to assess and clean up 66 of its approximately 3,000 confirmed underground petroleum storage tank leaks that threaten groundwater and could threaten drinking water.

Underground storage tanks are a leading polluter of groundwater, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. The most common contaminant in such tanks is benzene, a cancer-causing component of petroleum, according to Bill Truman of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

They are generally located at current or former gas stations but can be found at trucking facilities and manufacturing sites, any place that stores petroleum products, Truman said.

–Greenville Online

Wal-Mart to begin green labeling on products

Shoppers expect the tags on Wal-Mart items to have rock-bottom prices. In the future they may also have information about the product’s carbon footprint, the gallons of water used to create it, and the air pollution left in its wake.

As the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores is on a mission to determine the social and environmental impact of every item it puts on its shelves. And it has recruited scholars, suppliers, and environmental groups to help it create an electronic indexing system to do that.

The idea is to create a universal rating system that scores products based on how environmentally and socially sustainable they are over the course of their lives. Consider it the green equivalent to nutrition labels.

–The New York Times

Exxon to invest in creating fuel from algae

The oil giant Exxon Mobile whose chief executive once mocked alternative energy by referring to ethanol as “moonshine,” is about to venture into biofuels.

Exxon planned to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.

The agreement could plug a major gap in the strategy of Exxon, the world’s largest and richest publicly traded oil company, which has been criticized by environmental groups for dismissing concerns about global warming in the past and its reluctance to develop renewable fuels.

–The New York Times

Infested lake waters, trash burners and lawn-mowing goats

June 1, 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.

Lake Winnibigoshish now designated “infested water”
Anglers and boaters must adhere to stricter rules on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River because the lake has been designated “infested waters” under state regulations.

The infested-waters designation was made May 7 because of an exotic species, the faucet snail, first found on the lake in 2007. The snail is a host for a trematode that has caused the die-off of hundreds of scaup and coots on Lake Winnibigoshish during the past two falls’ waterfowl migrations.

Winnie’s designation as an infested water will have broad implications.

“I think it’s a real big deal,” said Chris Kavanaugh, Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor at Grand Rapids. “It’s important we get the word out to folks so they comply with the laws that are intended to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species to other waters.”
-Duluth News Tribune

UM students work on clean water to India
A team of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students from a civil engineering class are in India to share their ideas and plans for helping bring clean water to thousands of residents living in the slums of Mumbai — the same impoverished area that provided the backdrop for the Oscar-winning movie, “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The University of Minnesota students, who collaborated with students from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, are winners of the first-ever Acara Challenge sponsored by the Minnesota-based Acara Institute, a non-profit institute that tackles global problems through sustainable business solutions.
–UM News Service

Environmental fund closes down
John Hunting, an heir to the Steelcase office furniture fortune, always knew that his foundation, the Beldon Fund, would have a limited life span.

“I felt as an environmentalist that it was imperative to spend the money now, because it would be silly to wait for the future if there wasn’t going to be a future,” Mr. Hunting said in an interview the other day. “And I also felt that if I died and there was a board running things, the money might start going to causes I wasn’t interested in funding.”

On Friday, the Beldon Fund closed its doors, having spent about $120 million over a decade strengthening environmental organizations in five states — Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin — and increasing awareness of the impact that environmental degradation has on human health.
–The New York Times

Downtown Minneapolis Trash Burn to Increase 20 Percent
Just in time for the return of outdoor baseball to Minnesota, the downtown garbage burner is planning to expand next door to the new ballpark.

A proposal making its way through Minneapolis City Hall would allow the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center to burn as much as 20 percent more trash — about 200 tons more per day — the first expansion since the burner was built in 1989. The change would occur next summer when the Minnesota Twins would be playing their first season at Target Field.

Opposition so far is limited to environmental activist Leslie Davis, who unsuccessfully sued to block construction of the stadium until the environmental impact of its location was studied. Twins and ballpark officials support the burner plans.
-Star Tribune

Minnesota to receive $107 million for Clean Water Fund
Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced that Minnesota will receive more than $107 million in funding for the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program.

The money will also come, in part, from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund that comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These funds will help jumpstart the economy and create jobs, while improving water quality.

“I believe the first responsibility of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and making sure people have clean water to drink is an important part of that,” said Klobuchar.

Funding granted for shoreline stabilization project
A grant received by the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (EOTSWCD) will go toward shoreline stabilization projects.

The funding was granted by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to pay for services provided by a Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) crew. The funding was available through the Clean Water Legacy program to assist with projects that help protect and restore water quality.
–The Fergus Falls Daily Journal

Well water could cause health problems in children
Private well water should be tested yearly, and in some cases more often, according to new guidance offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The recommendations call for annual well testing, especially for nitrate and microorganisms such as coliform bacteria, which can indicate that sewage has contaminated the well. The recommendations point out circumstances when additional testing should occur, including testing when there is a new infant in the house or if the well is subjected to structural damage.
–Science Daily

Shoreview tests permeable paving
Shoreview is betting on a new “green” concrete paving method that lets rainwater pass right through the street surface to prevent damaging runoff.

Pervious concrete — made of gravel and cement minus the sand that gives regular concrete its impenetrable density — has the porous quality of a Rice Krispies bar.

Because it will allow water to drain straight to the ground below, Shoreview will install about a mile of pervious concrete streets without storm sewers in the Woodbridge neighborhood on Lake Owasso.
–The Star Tribune

Wisconsin volunteers document life in holding ponds
Jody Barbeau wades into a shallow pond in woods less than a mile from shoppers at Mayfair Mall and commuters on congested U.S. Highway 45 – to glimpse a bustling community of other creatures.

Two mallard ducks cautiously paddle away from Barbeau, but there is no indication of aquatic life until he lifts a net out of the water.

Reddish dots on the fabric are water mites, he said.

A nearly transparent crustacean with a bulbous head is a male fairy shrimp, a relative of the lobster, said Barbeau, a biologist and volunteer pond monitor. They float belly up.

An explosion of fairy shrimp in late April and early May clogged the
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Maryland goats invasives to save turtles
A herd of goats coming to the rescue of a handful of imperiled turtles may sound like the plot of a Saturday morning children’s cartoon show, but that’s just what’s happening in the Carroll County town of Hampstead.

The State Highway Administration has enlisted the help of about 40 goats to devour invasive plant species in wetlands along the path of the soon-to-open, 4.4-mile Hampstead Bypass to protect the habitat of the bog turtle – a species listed as threatened in Maryland.

State highway officials decided to give the goats a tryout as four-legged lawn mowers rather than to attack the unwanted vegetation with mechanical mowers that might have killed the diminutive reptiles or damaged their boggy habitat on the fringe of Hampstead. The goats – leased from a local farmer who prefers to remain anonymous – have been on the job for a week, and highway officials say that so far they seem to be up to the task.
–The Baltimore Sun

Research: Environmental estrogens impact male rats
A five-generation rat study provides the clearest evidence to date that exposure to low levels of environmental estrogens can increase the risk of abnormal cell growth in the male breast.  Abnormalities which could have the potential to become cancerous developed in the mammary gland tissue of male rats that were exposed to either the soy-based phytoestrogen genistein or ethinyl estradiol – an estrogen used in birth control pills. The findings support a growing concern that exposure to low levels of estrogen in the environment might increase the risk of breast cancer.
–Environmental Health News

Legislation limits DNR oversight of Mississippi
Cities and homeowners who feared new rules would reduce their control over property and development are welcoming changes made in the critical-river-area measure signed by the governor.

Legislators said the bill, included in the Legacy Amendment law, was modified to protect homeowners and cities along a 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River, from Hastings to Dayton.

The measure allocated $500,000 over two years for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to revise rules for new development along the corridor. The DNR is to begin developing rules in January.
–The Star Tribune

Australian desalination plant under way
Sydney’s controversial desalination plant is almost 80 per cent complete and will start pumping drinking water this summer, the New South Wales  government says.

NSW Water Minister Phillip Costa says the plant, at Kurnell is Sydney’s south, will be able to provide 15 per cent of the city’s water within five years.

“It’s well and truly advanced, 70 to 80 per cent complete. Commissioning will occur by the end of the year,” he told a Sydney conference on NSW’s urban water sustainability. “We’re looking at water coming online in the summer 09-10. Once operational the plant will be capable of producing 250 million litres of water a day.”

Northeastern U.S. could face rising seas
In the debate over global warming, one thing is clear: as the planet gets warmer, sea levels will rise. But how much, where and how soon? Those questions are notoriously hard to answer.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colo., are now adding to the complexity with a new prediction. If the melting of Greenland’s ice sheets continues to accelerate, they say, sea levels will rise even more in the northeastern United States and Maritime Canada than in other areas around the world.
–The New York Times