World using up groundwater, researcher says

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.

Research: World depleting its groundwater
The rate at which humans are drawing from vast underground stores of groundwater on which billions rely has doubled in recent decades, a Dutch researcher says.

Findings published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters say water is rapidly being pulled from fast-shrinking subterranean reservoirs essential to daily life and agriculture in many regions. 

So much water is being drawn from below ground that its evaporation and eventual precipitation accounts for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, the researchers said. 

Global groundwater depletion threatens potential disaster for an increasingly globalized agricultural system, Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said. 

“If you let the population grow by extending the irrigated areas using groundwater that is not being recharged, then you will run into a wall at a certain point in time, and you will have hunger and social unrest to go with it,” Bierkens says.

U of M reverses itself on showing documentary
A University of Minnesota documentary about farming, pollution and the Mississippi River is headed to the big screen after all. 

The U reversed itself and will now show the film that Karen Himle, vice president of University Relations, pulled from broadcast on Twin Cities Public Television. 

“Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story” will be shown at the Bell Museum as originally scheduled on Oct. 3. Bell Museum director Susan Weller said she now hopes that TPT will agree to reschedule the broadcast, which had been set for Oct. 5.
–The Star Tribune

 Cut down on the flow of unwanted phone books
Do you have a collection of unused phone books accumulating on a desk or the top of your refrigerator? Here’s your chance to stop the flow of Yellow Pages directories to your home.

 Conservation Minnesota is working with the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group; and three Yellow Pages publishers – Dex One, SuperMedia and Yellowbook – to Minnesotans adjust the number of directories they receive, stop delivery altogether and learn about recycling oportunities.

 To take advantage of the service, go to

Everglades restoration shows progress
Over the past two years, the multibillion-dollar effort to restore the Everglades has finally begun showing some results on the ground.

 The work has been slow and, given the ambitious goals and big money already spent, hasn’t restored much of anything yet, aside from 13,000 acres of the Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida where water levels have been raised.

 But the Strand and a handful of other projects are actually being built. Congress at long last opened its wallet. The state and federal partners managing the work are no longer squabbling.

 A National Research Council progress report on the Everglades points to all those things as signs of marked improvement at the end of a decade that had previously produced stacks of science and engineering studies, countless meetings and endless red tape.

 Still, the 276-page report makes clear that the challenges have only grown more difficult — particularly from water pollution — and the need to accelerate projects more pressing.
–The Miami Herald

MPCA offers grants for water monitoring
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced the availability of $1.5 million in grant money for lake and water monitoring projects. Grant proposals are due to the MPCA by 4 p.m. on Nov. 5.

 Water monitoring is often the first step toward protecting or improving water resources. Volunteers across Minnesota have been measuring the health of lakes and streams to see if the waters meet standards set for fishing and other uses since 2007 as part of a state program called Surface Water Assessment Grants.  To date, the program has awarded 113 grants totaling $5.84 million, leading to monitoring of 991 lake sites and 981 stream sites. 

Eligible applicants may apply through a competitive application process. Eligible applicants include counties, soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, water management organizations, nonprofits, Minnesota colleges and universities, and American Indian tribes. No matching or in-kind funds are required under this program. 

The MPCA seeks applicants with experience in project administration, water quality monitoring and data management. The agency prefers projects that involve volunteers and that gather data for determining whether lakes and streams meet state water quality standards for aquatic life and/or aquatic recreation such as fishing.

Details are also available at
–MPCA News Release

 Extreme heat puts coral reefs at risk
This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people.

From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.

 What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the situation is looking worse than in 1998.
–The New York Times

 North Dakota lake just keeps rising
It’s been called a slow-growing monster: a huge lake that has steadily expanded over the last 20 years, swallowing up thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings and at least two towns in its rising waters.

 Devils Lake keeps getting larger because it has no natural river or stream to carry away excess rain and snowmelt. Now it has climbed within 6 feet of overflowing, raising fears that some downstream communities could be washed away if the water level isn’t reduced. 

And those worries are compounded by another problem: Scientists believe the pattern of heavy rain and snow that filled the basin is likely to continue for at least another decade. 

“It’s a slow-moving torture,” said 72-year-old Joe Belford, a lifelong resident of Devils Lake and a county commissioner who spends most of his time seeking a way to control the flooding and money to pay for it.
–The Associated Press

 Drug-filled mice used against invasive snakes
Dead mice packed with drugs were recently airdropped into Guam’s dense jungle canopy—part of a new effort to kill an invasive species of snake on the U.S. Pacific island territory.

 In the U.S. government-funded project, tablets of concentrated acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, are placed in dead thumb-size mice, which are then used as bait for brown tree snakes.

 In humans, acetaminophen helps soothe aches, pains, and fevers. But when ingested by brown tree snakes, the drug disrupts the oxygen-carrying ability of the snakes’ hemoglobin blood proteins.
— National Geographic News Service

 Cut down on the flow of unwanted phone books
Do you have a collection of unused phone books accumulating on a desk or the top of your refrigerator? Here’s your chance to stop the flow of Yellow Pages directories to your home.

 Conservation Minnesota is working with the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group; and three Yellow Pages publishers – Dex One, SuperMedia and Yellowbook – to Minnesotans adjust the number of directories they receive, stop delivery altogether and learn about recycling oportunities. 

To take advantage of the service, go to 

BP officially ‘kills’ leaking oil well
U.S. officials said BP Plc killed its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico after creating another cement seal, plugging the source of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

 “The Macondo 252 well is effectively dead,” said National Incident Commander Thad Allen in a statement. BP completed its last pressure test on the plugs at 5:54 a.m. local time before declaring the well sealed, according to the statement.

The 87-day spill, triggered by an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers, tainted hundreds of miles of U.S. coastline. It also wiped out more than $70 billion of BP’s market value, brought new drilling in the Gulf to a standstill and cost Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward his job. About 400 lawsuits are pending, and the trial judge overseeing those predicted hundreds more will be filed. 

“The whole industry is terrified it could happen to them,” Peter Hitchens, an analyst for Panmure Gordon UK Ltd. in London, said in an interview. “The whole way we drill wells could actually change. They’re going to take a lot longer. They’re going to be a lot more scrutinized.”
–Bloomberg News

EPA head told to testify in Florida court
Five months ago, U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered the top bosses of two state and federal environmental agencies to show up in his Miami courtroom to explain in person how they are going to end the “glacial delay” miring efforts to clean up the Everglades.

He reaffirmed his order, rejecting a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide a substitute for Administrator Lisa Jackson, who argued that a high-ranking assistant oversaw Glades issues and that Jackson was too busy to make the Oct. 7 hearing. 

“Furthermore, the demands of the administrator’s schedule, including travel to Asia as part of an official government delegation beginning October 8, would create a hardship for her to prepare for and attend the hearing,” an EPA motion filed last month read. Gold’s response: See you in court, Ms. Jackson. 

In a nine-page order, the judge questioned the federal agency’s priorities, saying the EPA had not “demonstrated any showing of a matter of national importance, issue, or great significance to preclude” her attendance. 

In April, in a federal lawsuit first filed in 2005 by the Miccosukee Tribe and the Friends of the Everglades, Gold delivered a blistering 48-page order finding state lawmakers and water managers had crafted “incomprehensible” rules and loopholes pushing back a 2006 cleanup deadline by a decade and that the EPA erred in approving watered-down standards.
–The Miami Herald

Cut greenhouse gases – feed oregano to cows
When cows and other ruminants digest their food, methane builds up in their rumen, the largest chamber of their four-chambered stomach. Releasing that greenhouse gas — mostly by belching — accounts for 20 percent of all methane emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

 That’s a problem, because methane is a far more powerful contributor to climate change than, say, carbon dioxide, since it prevents more heat and radiation from escaping into space.

 An agricultural scientist thinks he has a solution: oregano. 

Alexander Hristov, a professor of dairy nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, says that oregano-supplemented feed can reduce a dairy cow’s methane production by up to 40 percent, while increasing its daily flow of milk by close to three pounds. (That’s a lot, he says, about 5 percent of the average U.S. cow’s production.)
–The Washington Post 

Wisconsin considers L. Michigan water request
The state Department of Natural Resources restarted its review of Waukesha’s historic application for a Great Lakes water source, a process that stalled in June after Waukesha’s newly elected mayor raised questions about the city’s proposal.

 Waukesha is the first community outside the Great Lakes drainage basin to seek a diversion of water under terms of a regional Great Lakes protection compact. In announcing its decision to reopen the review, DNR officials said that its study of the plan’s environmental impact will extend into next year.

Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank also informed city officials that their request for Lake Michigan water is not complete, and more information is needed.

Among details the department seeks are costs to Oak Creek and Racine if they are tapped to supply lake water to Waukesha and an explanation of why Waukesha wants to discharge its treated wastewater to Underwood Creek in Wauwatosa regardless of whether it buys water from Milwaukee, Oak Creek or Racine, said Bruce Baker, DNR water division administrator. 

The Great Lakes compact requires a community to return water to a lake as close as possible to where it is withdrawn, Baker said.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel