43 world nations face 'water stress'

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

43 countries face ‘water stress,” report says
Ethiopia, Haiti and Niger are facing the world’s worst water shortages, but 700 million people in 43 countries are under “water stress,” according to a new report released by the World Bank last month.

 Almost a third of all the bank’s projects in recent history have been water-related, and a total of $54 billion was spent financing them, the report said. Some, of course, have been controversial, since dams, irrigation projects, flood prevention and watershed-management projects often benefit one group at the expense of others. Also, many projects fail, once built, because the host country is not wealthy or sophisticated enough to maintain them.

 Most countries with severe water problems are also so poor that they are “not creditworthy enough to borrow their way out of water crisis,” the report noted.
–The New York Time

3M clean-up pumps vast amount of groundwater
The good news is that groundwater in Washington County is being cleaned up.

 The bad news is that the cleanup effort will consume more water — up to 9.2 million gallons a day — than Woodbury and Cottage Grove, combined, typically use on a winter day.

 The two cities are asking if there is some way to re-use the water before dumping it into the Mississippi River.

 The cleanup by 3M Co. was ordered by state officials in order to remove traces of perfluorochemicals from groundwater.

 The company is currently pumping at several sites, but its plans to dig new wells in Cottage Grove are raising concerns.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Wildlife Federation calls for closing locks
The National Wldlife Federation is the latest group to call for closing the locks that connect the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan in an effort to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

 At the national conservation meeting in Houston, members unanimously passed a resolution calling for the river to be separated from the lakes. It’s a step that has been vigorously opposed by the shipping industry, the tourism industry in Chicago and Illinois lawmakers.

“The National Wildlife Federation realizes this is a hugely important issue, not just for the Great Lakes but for all U.S. waters,” said Jordan Lubetkin of the federation’s Great Lakes office. “Invasive species are a problem that has to be tackled aggressively and immediately.”
–The Detroit News

Invasives speed uptake of PCBs in fish
New University of Michigan research finds invasive species are accelerating PCBs up the food chain.

 Recent dredging of the Saginaw River was intended to remove PCB contaminated soil. U of M fishery biologist David Jude says tests indicate the dredging worked.

 But he says walleyes are showing signs of increased PCB contamination. Jude traces the problem to two invasive species, zebra mussels and round gobies. 

“Zebra mussels filter a liter of water a day. They are removing a large amount of the algae out of that water,” says Jude, “and as a result of that they are picking up a lot higher concentration of PCBs. There are some really outrageous high concentrations of pcbs in zebra mussels in the Saginaw River.”
–Michigan Public Radio

 Fears of new Dust Bowl loom
James Wedel remembers seeing thunderheads on the horizon and thinking: “Oh good, we’re finally gonna get some rain.”

One problem: Those weren’t rain clouds.

“The wind started blowing, the dust started blowing, and you could hardly see in front of your face,” Wedel says. “Static electricity was flying around. It was hard to breathe. I tell you, it was awful scary.” 

Seventy-five years have passed since the worst of the Dust Bowl, a relentless series of dust storms that ravaged farms and livelihoods in the southern Great Plains that carried a layer of silt as far east as New York City. Today, the lessons learned during that era are more relevant than ever as impending water shortages and more severe droughts threaten broad swaths of the nation.
–USA Today

 Source of Minneapolis pollution found
State pollution officials have solved a four-year-old mystery about the source of fish contamination in Lake Calhoun.

A St. Louis Park company used a chemical formerly made by 3M, and it entered the southwest Minneapolis lake through a storm water system, said Ralph Pribble, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Although the PCA didn’t identify the company, Douglas Corp., which has five manufacturing plants in Minnesota, acknowledged Thursday that air emissions from its St. Louis Park plant may have contributed to the chemical, known as PFOS, being found in the sewer system leading to Lake Calhoun. Company spokesman Blois Olson said the company is cooperating with the investigation.
–The Star Tribune

 ‘Water battery’ captures condensation for trees
According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 billion people – or almost 1 out of 5 people in the world – are without access to safe drinking water.  And even in areas with access, 70 percent of water withdrawn from fresh groundwater sources is used for agriculture.

But using groundwater to grow crops and trees doesn’t make sense to Pieter Hoff, a Dutch inventor. Not only are traditional irrigation techniques inefficient because most of the water is lost to evaporation, Mr. Hoff says, but water can be easily captured from the atmosphere to grow just about anything.
–The New York Times

Nature Conservancy atlas focuses on ecosystems
What does it take to determine which of the world’s 9,800 bird species depend on fresh water for survival? Try devoting two months’ worth of evenings and weekends to reading the descriptions of every known avian species, which is what Timothy Boucher did. 

Being a fanatic birder, I decided this could be really fun,” recalled Boucher, a senior conservation geographer at the Nature Conservancy who has personally seen and identified 4,257 species of birds in his life. So his “life list,” as birders say, covers 43 percent of the bird species that exist.

The result of Boucher’s work — a map showing the wetlands and rivers on which 828 freshwater bird species depend — is part of the Atlas of Global Conservation, a new publication that shows how nature is faring across the globe.
–The Washington Post 

Fisherman spots polluter in the act
Ken Larson was bewildered by the white foam he spotted twice in two years in the Vermillion River in Hastings.

 “It must’ve been 18 inches thick, and all I knew was that it wasn’t natural,” said Larson, 65, an avid fisherman who walks by the river every day.

 The Hastings resident reported the mystery to city officials and the Dakota County Water Resources Department. Also stumped, they told him to keep monitoring it.

 He did, and said he later saw an employee of a West St. Paul carpet-cleaning business dumping wastewater into a storm-sewer manhole in a Hastings neighborhood. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency served the company, Dynasty Cleaning Services, with a violation notice, and last month Dynasty completed the required corrective actions.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press 

Scott County’s Credit River getting cleaner
The collapse of homebuilding in once-booming Scott County is having at least one quiet payoff:

A lot less pollution. 

It’s one leading theory, anyway, to explain why the Credit River, one of the county’s most important bodies of water, may soon be taken off the state’s list of impaired waters. 

And it would be a particular point of pride in Savage, which boasts of its environmental-mindedness while acknowledging it does contribute to pollution.
–The Star Tribune 

ConAgra vow to cut water, energy use
Over the next five years, ConAgra Foods will ratchet up its sustainability efforts by reducing waste, water use and greenhouse gas emissions companywide, the company said. 

The Omaha-based food producer, whose packaged foods brands include Healthy Choice, Marie Callendar, Orville Redenbacher popcorn and Hunt’s canned tomatoes, said that by 2015 it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and reduce water use by 15 percent from 2008 levels. 

The company said the solid waste it sends to landfills will drop by 75 percent between 2011 and 2015. It also will seek to improve supply chain waste reduction and will work with farmers to increase sustainable farming methods.
–The Omaha World-Herald