Solar power vs water, atrazine and river dams

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

Alternative energy projects soak up water
In a rural corner of Nevada reeling from the recession, a bit of salvation seemed to arrive last year. A German developer, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms here that would harness the sun to generate electricity, creating hundreds of jobs. 

But then things got messy. The company revealed that its preferred method of cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20 percent of this desert valley’s available water. 

Now Solar Millennium finds itself in the midst of a new-age version of a Western water war.
–The New York Times 

Study says atrazine impacts fish, amphibians
An analysis of more than 100 scientific studies conducted on atrazine, one of the world’s most common and controversial weed killers, reveals the chemical’s consistent ill effects on the development, behavior, immune, hormone and reproductive systems of amphibians and freshwater fish, University of South Florida researchers have concluded in a new study. 

In a study published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, USF assistant professor Jason R. Rohr and postdoctoral fellow Krista A. McCoy say the body of scientific research on the chemical shows that while atrazine typically does not directly kill amphibians and fish, there is consistent scientific evidence that it is negatively impacting their biology.  The authors conclude that these non-lethal effects must be weighed against the benefit of using the weed killer. 

Atrazine was banned in Europe in 2004, but is still widely used in the United States and 80 other nations, making it one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world.
–U.S. News & World Report 

Four Klamath River dams to be removed
In a major boost for California’s dwindling salmon stocks, a utility company has agreed to the removal of four hydroelectric dams that for decades have blocked fish migrations on one of the West Coast’s most important salmon rivers.

The dam decommissioning is vital to restoring the Klamath River, which for years has been the subject of bitter feuding among farmers, fishermen and tribal interests.

It would open historic salmon spawning and rearing grounds on the upper reaches of the river, which winds from southern Oregon through the Cascades and Coast Ranges to California’s Pacific Coast.
–The Los Angeles Times 

Xcel considers removing Minnesota River dam
A dam built for one of the state’s first hydroelectric facilities is being considered for removal.

 Xcel Energy hosted an informational meeting in Granite Falls to outline its evaluation process for the Minnesota Falls dam, located about three miles south of Granite Falls on the Minnesota River.

 Constructed in 1905, the nearly 600-foot-wide dam housed a hydroelectric facility that operated until 1961. The dam also provided a reservoir of cooling water for a Northern States Power coal-fired power plant built upstream in the 1930s.

 The dam no longer serves any purpose for the company, according to Jim Bodensteiner, senior environmental analyst and scientist with Xcel Energy
–The West Central Tribune

 Philadelphia sets $1.6 billion plan to contain storm water
Philadelphia has announced a $1.6 billion plan to transform the city over the next 20 years by embracing its storm water – instead of hustling it down sewers and into rivers as fast as possible.

The proposal, which several experts called the nation’s most ambitious, reimagines the city as an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, thousands of additional trees, porous pavement, and more. 

All would act as sponges to absorb – or at least stall – the billions of gallons of rainwater that overwhelm the city sewer system every year.
–The Philadelphia Inquirer 

India’s groundwater use raises seas
NEW DELHI: The amount of groundwater pumped out by Delhiites and others across northern India is highest in the world and is contributing as much as 5% to the total rise in sea levels.


 A new study using satellite data has found that the region — a swathe of over 2,000km from west Pakistan to Bangladesh along north India — extracts a mindboggling 54 trillion litres from the ground every year, a figure that’s likely to cause serious concern over the future of water availability.

The study, conducted by Virendra Mani Tiwari from National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, along with scientists from University of Colorado, US, found that the average depletion of groundwater level in the Indian part of the region was an alarming 10cm a year.
–The Times of India

Adelaide, Australia, faces water crisis
The water in Australia’s biggest river is running so low and is so salty that the nation’s fifth-largest city, Adelaide, is at risk of having to ship water in to its residents, politicians have warned. 

Adelaide’s water crisis follows similar problems in cities around the world, as the combination of growing population, increasing agricultural use and global warming stretches resources to the limit. Experts are warning of permanent drought in many regions. 

Salinity levels in some stretches of the Murray River already exceed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for safe drinking, and South Australia’s water authority and 11 rural townships east of Adelaide have been told to prepare for the worst. 

“Another dry year will deplete our reservoirs and the water in the Murray will become too saline to drink. We are talking about 1.3 million people, who are not far off becoming reliant on bottled water. We are talking a national emergency,” said South Australian MP David Winderlich.
–The Guardian 

New York regulates gas drilling to protect water
After months of deliberations, state environmental regulators released long-awaited rules governing natural gas production in upstate New York, including provisions to oversee drilling operations near New York City’s water supplies.

 The regulations, in a report requested last year by Gov. David A. Paterson, do not ban drilling near the watersheds, as many environmental advocates had urged. But the report sets strict rules on where wells can be drilled and requires companies to disclose the chemicals they use.

 The prospect of gas drilling in upstate New York has stirred strong opposition from a coalition of environmental groups, city politicians and residents, who fear that expansive operations of this sort could contaminate the city’s drinking water.
–The New York Times