Climate change, Asian carp and biofuels

Every 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 items in their entirety where they originally were published.

Copenhagen climate conference begins
A much-anticipated global meeting of nearly 200 nations — all seeking what has so far been elusive common ground on the issue of climate change — got under way with an impassioned airing of what leaders here called the political and moral imperatives at hand. 

 “The clock has ticked down to zero,” said the United Nations’ climate chief, Yvo de Boer. “After two years of negotiation, the time has come to deliver.” 

From now until Dec. 18, delegates will try to hammer out some of the most vexing details involved in the pursuit of a global climate accord. Among these are broad cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — particularly from big polluters like the United States and China — and a commitment from wealthy nations to deliver what could ultimately be hundreds of billions of dollars in financing to poor countries, who argue that they are ill equipped to deal with a problem they did little to create.
–The New York Times

 Leaked emails mushroom into ‘climate-gate’
It began with an anonymous Internet posting, and a link to a wonky set of e-mails and files. Stolen, apparently, from a research center in Britain, the files showed the leaders of climate-change science discussing flaws in their own data, and seemingly scheming to muzzle their critics. 

Now it has mushroomed into what is being called “Climate-gate,” a scandal that has done what many slide shows and public-service ads could not: focus public attention on the science of a warming planet.

Except now, much of that attention is focused on the science’s flaws. Leaked just before international climate talks begin in Copenhagen — the culmination of years of work by scientists to raise alarms about greenhouse-gas emissions — the e-mails have cast those scientists in a political light and given new energy to others who think the issue of climate change is all overblown.
–The Washington Post

World worries about climate dip, poll shows
World concern about climate change has fallen in the past two years, according to an opinion poll on Sunday, the eve of 190-nation talks in Copenhagen meant to agree a U.N. deal to fight global warming.

The Nielsen/Oxford University survey showed that 37 percent of more than 27,000 Internet users in 54 countries said they were “very concerned” about climate change, down from 41 percent in a similar poll two years ago. 

“Global concern for climate change cools off,” the Nielsen Co. said of the poll, taken in October. It linked the decline to the world economic slowdown.
–The New York Times

 Asian carp spark fight over Great Lakes
Chicago’s winters are notoriously nasty. Yet everyday from November through March, even this week when temperatures plummeted below freezing for the first time this season, dozens of fishermen brave the wind and the cold to fish for little Lake Michigan perch. 

“I’m out here five days a week,” says John Calderon of Chicago’s South Side. “I’m out here all winter. I can take the cold, you know. I’m out here when there’s ice here; we have to break through it just to get ’em.” 

Calderon says the lake perch “are good eating. And I freeze ’em, and actually we eat them in the summer.” 

But Calderon and his fishing buddies on this downtown pier worry that their tasty perch could disappear if the dreaded Asian carp, an invasive species, get into Lake Michigan.
–National Public Radio

 India borrows for massive Ganges clean-up
The World Bank will provide India a loan of 1 billion dollars for a proposed clean up of the Ganges. The river, sacred for the Hindu population of India, is one of the most polluted in the world, and flows for about 2500 kilometers collecting the waste of chemical industry products, agricultural pesticides and sewage. 

Speaking in New Delhi, the Director of the World Bank Robert Zoellick, said that the cleaning and sanitation project is included in the wider initiative “Mission Clean Ganga” launched by the National Ganges Basin Authority (Ngrba). By 2020 it plans to put an end to the discharge of untreated waste into the Ganges. The project should cover the entire network of tributaries of the river: this plan will include the construction of wastewater treatment centre, upgrading of drainage channels and other measures to improve water quality.

Drought still threatens California water supply
Operators of the sprawling state system that supplies water to 25 million Californians from Butte County to San Diego issued their lowest-ever estimate on the amount of water they will be able to deliver.

 Officials predicted they will be able to offer only 5 percent of the total volume of water requested by California cities and farms next year. That’s the smallest water allocation the agency has released since its creation in 1967. 

The estimate, based on current water conditions, is only preliminary and is almost certain to rise as the rainy season wears on. Still, officials expect a multiyear drought, low reservoirs and environmental restrictions on water pumping to keep supplies well below average in 2010.
–San Francisco Chronicle 

GAO studies biofuels’ impact on water
Growing U.S. production of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel could increase water pollution, a government report warned. 

Ethanol refineries discharge chemicals and salts that can contaminate drinking water and endanger fish and other aquatic life, according to a Government Accounting Office report . 

Biodiesel refineries release pollutants such as glycerin, which disrupts the microbial cleaning processes used in wastewater treatment, the report noted. 

The full report can be viewed here.
–The Los Angeles Times

 Herbicides clear milfoil on Lake Minnetonka
Two years into a five-year test of herbicides to control Eurasian water milfoil on Lake Minnetonka, results are so encouraging that more shoreline property owners are asking for the chemical treatment in their bays.

 After seeing the weed fade away this year on Grays Bay and Phelps Bay, residents of Gideons Bay and St. Albans Bay are trying to raise money for milfoil treatments next summer.

“There’s a ton of interest,” said Dick Osgood, executive director of the Lake Minnetonka Association, which started the weed control program on Grays Bay, Phelps Bay and Carman Bay in 2008, with the approval of the state Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.
–The Star Tribune 

No-wake zone debated at Red Wing
A request by a handful of property owners along the Mississippi River to extend the no wake zone near Red Wing several miles north to Lock and Dam No. 3 was met with skepticism and disapproval by local boaters and business owners. 

Many at the Red Wing Harbor Commission meeting said they understood the property owners’ concerns about excessive wakes, because large wakes eat away at shorelines. But, they said, instituting a no wake zone would eradicate tourism dollars boaters bring to Red Wing.
–Pierce County Herald 

Wisconsin considers groundwater protection
Brian A. Wolf boasted about the shimmering water and the trophy bass he used to catch from Long Lake in central Wisconsin. 

But since 2005, the lake has undergone a remarkable transformation: It’s essentially gone.

“It’s as if someone pulled the plug in a bathtub,” said Wolf, a property owner on the lake. “This lake is dead.” 

Wolf and his neighbors blame irrigation on nearby fields as part of the reason for the disappearance of their lake. 

Today, its 50 acres is filled with prairie grasses and small pools of water. Long Lake is a seepage lake that has relied on free-flowing water below the ground and precipitation to keep it sustained.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Maryland to expand oyster sanctuary
Maryland plans to dramatically increase the area of the Chesapeake Bay that is closed to oyster harvests, Gov. Martin O’Malley said, offering an expanded foothold to an iconic species that has dropped to 1 percent of its peak population.

 O’Malley (D), speaking at an Annapolis oyster factory-turned-museum, said the state would ban harvesting on 24 percent of its most bountiful oyster grounds, up from 9 percent now. The off-limits would total 8,640 acres.
–The Washington Post 

Groundwater pollution persists in Bhopal
Twenty-five years after a toxic gas cloud from a pesticide factory killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India, groundwater at the accident site — a drinking water supply for 15 communities — remains contaminated, according to a report released by an advocacy group and a medical clinic. 

The U.K.-based Bhopal Medical Appeal and the Sambhavna Clinic say water contamination is worsening as chemicals leach through soil into the aquifer. 

“A huge proportion of the factory site is full of very toxic waste,” said Colin Toogood, the report’s author.
–The New York Times