Asian water crisis, invasives and a carp-algae link

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to where they originally were published.

Changing diet stresses Asia’s water resources
The beefed-up diets of Asia’s expanding middle class could lead to chronic food shortages for the water-stressed region, scientists said at a global water conference in Sweden.

Asia’s growing economy and appetite for meat will require a radical overhaul of farmland irrigation to feed a population expected to swell to 1.4 billion by 2050, experts warned at Stockholm’s World Water Week.

The threat was highlighted in a study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimate that Asian demand for food and livestock fodder will double in 40 years.

At current crop yields, East Asia would need 47 percent more irrigated farmland and to find 70 percent more water, the study found.
–National Geographic News

Seaway brings invasives to Great Lakes
The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 to great fanfare. The system of canals connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the five Great Lakes cut a lucrative international trade route through the heartland and gave the United States a refuge and staging ground for ships and submarines in case of war with the Soviet Union.

No one expected the seaway to become the key player in a different war, the invasion of non-native aquatic species into the Great Lakes, which has dramatically altered ecosystems and costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year. About a third of the 186 invasive species in the Great Lakes are thought to have entered on oceangoing ships in the ballast water they take on for stabilization when carrying little or no cargo.
–The Washington Post

Coast Guard floats ballast proposal
The U.S. Coast Guard announced a proposed regulation designed to prevent invasive species from entering U.S. waters. The rule would require ships to treat ballast water, which is pumped into tanks when leaving port and typically dumped at the incoming port, to kill microorganisms and larvae that come along for the ride. The Coast Guard says it “will work to elevate the priority” of research to figure out how effective the measure will be.

Ships are already required to exchange their ballast water at sea to get rid of any hitchhiking species, but the effectiveness varies quite a bit, depending in part on the ship’s construction. The proposed regulation will require that ships have new technology on-board—such as filtration systems—that will reduce the number of organisms released in port to a standard set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004.

Under the proposed Coast Guard rule, new vessels launched after 2012 would need to have treatment systems that meet the IMO standard. Existing vessels will need to be retrofitted to meet that standard between 2014 and 2016, depending on the ship’s size. The cost will likely run $1.18 billion over 10 years.
–Science Magazine

Removing carp stimulated algae
Researchers experimenting with cleaning up area lakes by removing carp were thrilled this summer with their success at Chanhassen’s Lake Susan — until they began to see a surprising side-effect:

The water had become so clear that the sunlight passed through it and warmed the lake bottom, igniting an algae bloom that turned the water pea green.

When University of Minnesota researchers removed more than 3,000 carp from the lake last winter, their goal was to clean up its muddy waters. The bottom-feeding fish constantly stir up sediment by rooting through the mud looking for food.
–The Star Tribune

Environment tax revenue lags
Minnesota voters in 2008 agreed to increase the state sales tax to pay for the arts and outdoors projects.

Now the Minnesota economy is having a say on how quickly the money flows into state coffers to pay for such things.

The three-eighths of 1 percent increase to the sales tax went into effect July 1.

Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) Department executive budget officer Mike Salzwedel on told a state House committee that the 2010 receipts are expected to be down 5 percent, or $8.7 million, from projections used during the most recent legislative session. The new revenue numbers were tabulated Aug. 10.
–St. Paul Legal Ledger

Alberta-to-Superior pipeline project begins
Construction of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline is beginning in northern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Crews are beginning to clear land along the right-of-way. They also are stringing pipe — laying pipe along the right-of-way in anticipation of being welded and placed in trenches, according to Lorraine Grymala, community affairs manager for Enbridge Energy, which is building the pipeline.

The U.S. State Department approved the final permit needed for the company to begin building the pipeline between the oil tar sands region of Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wis.
–The Grand Forks Herald

Some ‘green’ buildings don’t deliver
The Federal Building in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, features an extensive use of natural light to illuminate offices and a white roof to reflect heat.

It has LEED certification, the country’s most recognized seal of approval for green buildings.

But the building is hardly a model of energy efficiency. According to an environmental assessment last year, it did not score high enough to qualify for the Energy Star label granted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which ranks buildings after looking at a year’s worth of utility bills.
–The New York Times

Researcher seeks living deep-sea fossil
For 33 years, Peter A. Rona has pursued an ancient, elusive animal, repeatedly plunging down more than two miles to the muddy seabed of the North Atlantic to search out, and if possible, pry loose his quarry.

Like Ahab, he has failed time and again. Despite access to the world’s best equipment for deep exploration, he has always come back empty-handed, the creature eluding his grip.

The animal is no white whale. And Dr. Rona is no unhinged Captain Ahab, but rather a distinguished oceanographer at Rutgers University. And he has now succeeded in making an intellectual splash with a new research report, written with a team of a dozen colleagues.
–The New York Times

EPA offers fellowships in water studies
The US Environmental Protection Agency, as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is offering graduate fellowships for master’s and doctoral level students in environmental fields that include “drinking water” and “water quality,” the EPA announced online.

According to the EPA, applications will be considered for interests in and investigations on the science of drinking water quality. Proposals in this topic focus on protecting drinking water sources, producing and distributing safe drinking water, managing health risks associated with exposure to waterborne contaminants, and promoting the safety and sustainability of water resources and water infrastructure.

EPA says applications also will be considered for interests in and investigations on the science of water quality. Proposals in this topic focus on assessing, protecting and restoring surface and groundwater quality, aquatic ecosystems, watershed management and source control management. Applicants to the water quality topic area must choose one of the subtopics: hydrogeology and surface water (focusing on pollution) or coastal and estuarine processes (focusing on pollution).

EPA said that, subject to availability of funding, the agency plans to award approximately 120 new fellowships by June 30, 2010. Master’s level students may receive support for a maximum of two years; doctoral students may be supported for a maximum of three years, usable over a period of four years. The fellowship program provides up to $37,000 per year of support per fellowship.

To read the full announcement, click here.

MPCA gets stimulus money for planning
In an effort to improve water quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $727,600 to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  A total of $39 million will be awarded nationally to states for Water Quality Management Planning grants that will keep and create jobs to help prevent water pollution and protect human health and the environment.

“The Recovery Act investments are meeting urgent needs for economic growth and protecting human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “Communities across the nation can count on green jobs to help pull them out of this downturn and ensure the long-term strength of our economy and our environment.”
–EPA News Release

Carbon-neutral desert oasis planned
The Sydney architect behind Beijing’s Water Cube has helped design what is being called the first carbon-neutral city.

Street lights triggered by pedestrian movement. Giant shade umbrellas that move with the sun. Driverless transport pods to whisk commuters around.

It could be a list of props from the Star Wars set but these unlikely gadgets will soon take their place in a real city centre, designed by the Sydney architect Chris Bosse.

Bosse and his multinational practice, LAVA, beat several hundred applicants to design the heart of the world’s first carbon-neutral, waste-free city, Masdar, in the United Arab Emirates.
–The Sydney Morning Herald