Report predicts climate impact on U.S. water

Each 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 articles in their entirety where they originally were published.

Analysis predicts climate stress on water sustainability
Climate change will have a significant impact on the sustainability of U.S. water supplies in the coming decades, according to a new analysis commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental organization.

The analysis, performed by consulting firm Tetra Tech, examined the effects of global warming on water supply and demand in the contiguous United States. The study found that more than 1,100 counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states — will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages, the analysis predicted.

The study by Tetra Tech, a consulting firm used by the federal government, electric utility and other industries, finds that some states have an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050. These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The report was not intended to predict where water shortages will occur, but rather where they are more likely to occur. The goal of the analysis was to estimate future renewable water supply compared with water demand, assuming a business-as-usual scenario of growth in demand for electricity production and domestic use, both largely driven by population growth, with other demands remaining at their present level.

In Minnesota, the analysis identified eight counties – Anoka, Clay, Crow Wing, Hennepin, McLeod, Nicollet, Sherburne and Scott – as facing high or extremely high risk from predicted population growth and climate change.
–Natural Resources Defense Council 

Tell federal officials what you think
Do you have something you would like federal officials to hear about conservation, outdoor recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors?

Here’s your chance.

Representatives of  the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Defense will conduct a public listening session in Minneapolis from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.

The listening session – to be held at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at 2128 Fourth St., S, on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus – grew out of a White House conference in April.

President Obama directed agency leaders to initiate a Great Outdoors Initiative and to travel across the country, seeking  grassroots solutions to conserve lands, waterways, historical and cultural resources, and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.  The listening session is meant to attract: tribal leaders, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, community park groups, foresters, youth groups, businesspeople, educators, state and local governments, recreation and conservation groups and others.

The listening session is free and open to the public. For information and to register, click here. 

Community Clean-Ups win governor’s award
Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality, an effort initiated by the Friends of the Minnesota Valley to keep excessive phosphorus out of lakes and rivers, is one of six winners this year of a Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention.

The clean-up campaign recruits neighborhood groups and other organizations to conduct spring and fall drives to collect and recycle leaves and other organic material that otherwise would be washed into storm sewers and then would flow – untreated – into surface waters.

The Freshwater Society is partnering with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley to promote the clean-ups statewide and to develop a tool kit instructing community groups on how to conduct and publicize the clean-ups. Information on the tool kit is available here.

Other winners of the Pollution Prevention awards are:

  • East Metro Clean ‘n’ Press of West St. Paul.  A large dry cleaners and shirt laundry, East Metro made use of heat exchangers to increase energy efficiency and offer excess heat to a neighboring business in the winter.
  • Sappi Cloquet, LLC, of  Cloquet. The firm’s Cloquet paper mill made changes in the pulping process that reduced the amounts of several sulfide compounds being emitted.
  • The City of Buffalo. Buffalo’s wastewater treatment facility uses innovative technology to serve a growing population while nearly eliminating land-application of  bio-solids. Bio-solids are instead turned into fuel for the facility, reducing natural gas consumption by 80 percent.
  • The Minnesota Department  of  Natural Resources -Alternative Energy and Energy Conservation Initiative.  The DNR recently completed several energy conservation projects, including a building at Camden State Park that uses wind and geothermal energy and a geothermal heating and cooling system for the Itasca State Park’s Douglas Lodge.
  • The City of St. Anthony. The city of St. Anthony collects filter backwash water, a waste byproduct from the city’s wastewater treatment and stormwater runoff, and uses it to sprinkle a 20-acre site that includes a municipal park and City Hall, saving 5 million gallons of pure drinking water-quality water per year.

–Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

 EPA takes new look at ‘fracking’ process
So vast is the wealth of natural gas locked into dense rock deep beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio that some geologists estimate it’s enough to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years.

But freeing it requires a powerful drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” using millions of gallons of water brewed with toxic chemicals, that some fear could pollute water above and below ground and deplete aquifers.

As gas drillers swarm to this lucrative Marcellus Shale region and blast into other shale reserves around the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at the controversial fracking technique, currently exempt from federal regulation. The $1.9 million study comes as the nation reels from the Deepwater Horizon environmental and economic disaster playing out in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil and gas industry steadfastly defends the process as having been proven safe over many years as well as necessary to keep the nation on a path to energy independence.
–The Associated Press

Rules update on shoreland, docks delayed
Long-awaited rules to protect Minnesota lakeshores and limit supersized docks are far behind schedule and have been parked in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office for several months.

The lack of action by Pawlenty has angered some legislators, who in 2007 and 2008 ordered the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to revise the rules.

“It’s obviously a purposeful delay that allows as much bad lakeshore development as possible,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis and chair of the House environment and natural resources finance committee.

Officials said the rules are complicated, and have required extra time for both the DNR and Pawlenty’s office to review.
–The Star Tribune

 Chesapeake Bay pollution suit continues
A federal judge has denied a bid by Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore chicken grower to dismiss a lawsuit accusing them of polluting a Chesapeake Bay tributary, clearing the way for trial on the potentially pioneering legal case.

Judge William M. Nickerson of the U.S. District Court in Baltimore ruled the lawsuit brought this year by the Waterkeeper Alliance could go forward, though he struck two environmental groups as plaintiffs on a technicality.

The Waterkeeper Alliance, the Assateague Coastal Trust and Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips filed suit in March alleging that harmful levels of bacteria and nutrient pollution were flowing from a drainage ditch on a Worcester County farm into a branch of the Pocomoke River. It is the first lawsuit to target Maryland’s chicken industry for water pollution, and it named not just the farmers as defendants but poultry giant Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, for whom the chickens were being raised.

Lawyers for the farmers, Alan and Kristin Hudson of Berlin, and for Perdue had petitioned the judge to dismiss the case on a variety of legal grounds, and Perdue had argued that it should be let out of the lawsuit. The company contended that it was not liable for any pollution because the Hudsons owned the farm and held the government permit to raise chickens there, not Perdue.
–The Baltimore Sun

India, Pakistan at odds over water
BANDIPORE, Kashmir — In this high Himalayan valley on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, the latest battle line between India and Pakistan has been drawn.

This time it is not the ground underfoot, which has been disputed since the bloody partition of British India in 1947, but the water hurtling from mountain glaciers to parched farmers’ fields in Pakistan’s agricultural heartland.

Indian workers here are racing to build an expensive hydroelectric dam in a remote valley near here, one of several India plans to build over the next decade to feed its rapidly growing but power-starved economy.

In Pakistan, the project raises fears that India, its archrival and the upriver nation, would have the power to manipulate the water flowing to its agriculture industry — a quarter of its economy and employer of half its population.
–The New York Times

Notre Dame gets $2.5 million to study invasives
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded $2.5 million to the University of Notre Dame and its partners to predict the next wave of invasive species likely to enter the Great Lakes and to identify cost-effective countermeasures.

Invasive species such as zebra mussels are already a large problem, costing the region more than $200 million annually by disrupting Great Lakes fisheries and damaging waterway infrastructure by clogging water intake valves. Information generated by the study will help authorities prepare for new invasions and control current non-native populations.

“We’ve got to identify the invasive species that pose the greatest environmental and economic threat here in the Great Lakes and plan for their containment,” said Felix Martinez, a program manager with NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Research . “There are many different potential invaders that could do enormous damage to the Great Lakes ecosystem and our region’s economies.”
–NOAA News Release

MPCA warns of toxic blue-green algae
When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms.  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is again reminding people that some blue-green algae can harm pets, livestock and even people.

Algae are microscopic aquatic plants that are a natural part of any aquatic ecosystem.  But some forms of algae can become harmful.  Blue-green (cyanobacterial) algal blooms may contain toxins or other noxious chemicals that can pose harmful health risks.  People or animals may become sick if exposed to these blooms.

Blue-green algae are found throughout Minnesota, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes.  Often occurring on downwind shorelines, it is in these blooms that humans and animals most often come in contact with blue-green algae and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.

There is no visual way to predict if a blue-green algal bloom contains toxins and is harmful to humans or animals, and distinguishing blue-green algae from other types may be difficult for non-experts.  But harmful blooms are sometimes said to look like pea soup, green paint or floating mats of scum. They often smell bad as well.

Humans are not affected very often, probably because the unpleasant appearance and odors of a blue-green algal bloom tend to keep people out of the water. An animal that has ingested toxins from an algal bloom can show symptoms that include skin irritation or vomiting, disorders involving the circulatory, nervous and digestive systems and skin lesions.  In worst cases, the animal may suffer convulsions and die.

For more information about harmful algae blooms, go to or call 651-296-6300 or 1-800-657-3864.
–MPCA News Release

MPCA seeks comment on Carver County lakes
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking comments on two water quality improvement reports for seven Carver County lakes west of the Twin Cities. A public comment period began July 19 and continues through Aug. 18.

The South Fork Crow River Lakes Excess Nutrients Total Maximum Daily Load Report covers Eagle, Oak and Swede Lakes. The Carver Creek Lakes Excess Nutrients Total Maximum Daily Load Report covers Goose, Hydes, Miller and Winkler Lakes. All are in primarily rural areas where agriculture is the dominant land use.

The seven lakes have been placed on the state’s impaired waters list because of excess nutrient levels, particularly phosphorus. While phosphorus is an essential nutrient for algae and plants, it is considered a pollutant when it stimulates excessive growth of algae. The TMDL studies indicated a phosphorus reduction from 42 to 97 percent will be needed to meet state water quality standards.

The Carver Creek Lakes and South Fork Crow River Lakes draft reports are available on the Web at For more information, contact Chris Zadak at 651-757-2837, 1-800-657-3864 or via e-mail at
–MPCA News Release 

MPCA seeks comment on Nine Mile Creek
The Nine Mile Creek Watershed is in an urban area, which includes portions of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Richfield. Excess chloride levels in the creek are generally highest in the winter, when road salt is applied to paved surfaces. Excess chloride is harmful to fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants living in streams.

The MPCA’s report indicates that chloride must be reduced by 62 percent for Nine Mile Creek to meet water quality standards. The report, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load study, or TMDL, quantifies pollutant levels, identifies sources of pollution and proposes ways to bring water quality back standards.

The draft report is available online at  For more information, to receive a copy of the report, or to submit comments, contact Chris Zadak by phone at 651-757-2837 or by e-mail at
–MPCA News Release

Army Corps admits missteps in Tennessee flooding
Poor communication within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and among the Corps and the National Weather Service and other agencies caused errant flood forecasts and other problems during the devastating May flooding in Tennessee, a Corps report concludes.

But the Corps’ after-action review also states that the Corps operated successfully and that its actions reduced the flood crest on the Cumberland River in Nashville by 5 feet.

The Corps’ report will be the centerpiece of a Senate hearing to look at what happened and discuss lessons that can be used to lessen future disasters.
–The Nashville Tennessean

(This post was updated on Aug. 30, 2013)