Posts Tagged ‘economic stimulus’

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

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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