Studies predict water shortfall in Southwest

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.

Studies predict water shortfall in Southwest
The glum projections of the growing gap between demand for water in the Southwest and the dwindling supplies have never been optimistic, but two new studies— one a research report based on satellite data, and the other an analysis of rainfall, water use and the costs associated with obtaining new water — make earlier forecasts seem positively rosy.

The United States branch of the Stockholm Environment Institute, based in Somerville, Mass., just released an extended analysis of water demand and future supplies that estimates that the cumulative shortfall over the next century in the Southwest, without the adoption of adaptation strategies, will be 1.815 billion acre feet. And that’s without factoring in a climate-change-driven reduction in supply.
–The New York Times

River cities brace for spring floods
Ice is still on the rivers, but the flood fight is on.

With near-historic crests predicted for the third year in a row, people along the state’s flood-prone waterways are sandbagging, strengthening their defenses, and watching with confidence, wariness and weariness.

Fargo-Moorhead, the epicenter of recent flood fights, have both declared states of emergency. Fargo will launch a drive to fill 3 million sandbags to hold off the Red River in North Dakota.

Along the Minnesota, the Mississippi, the St. Croix, and even along tributary creeks, communities are buying sandbags, hiring levee builders, planning for volunteers and prodding residents to buy flood insurance.
–The Star Tribune

Federal aquaculture rules proposed
The federal government issued the nation’s first policy guidelines for aquaculture, opening the way for farm-raised seafood to be produced in federal waters as long as the operations do not threaten wild fish stocks or saltwater ecosystems.

 The guidelines, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offer general standards that regional fishery councils will have to meet when they propose fish farms.

 Aquaculture has been growing rapidly worldwide, and in 2009, farmed fish and shellfish surpassed wild-caught stocks as the major source of seafood worldwide.

 NOAA estimates that 84 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is now imported, and half of that is produced through aquaculture.
–The New York Times

Ex-Sens. Frederickson, Lessard join DNR
Gov. Mark Dayton announced that former GOP state Sen. Dennis Frederickson will be southern director for the Department of Natural Resources. He also announced that former Sen Bob Lessard will be a senior adviser to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. Chris Niskanen, the outdoors writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will also be communications director for the DNR. 

Frederickson served as a state Senator from 1980 – 2010. He decided against running for reelection. Lessard served in the Minnesota Senate from 1976 – 2003. He was a member of the DFL Party and the Independence Party during his time in office. 

Niskanen is a prominent outdoors writer who worked for the Pioneer Press for 17 years. 

“We went out and found the very best people we could to lead us into the future,” said Landwehr in a news release. “I’m very excited about leveraging their skill and experience to better reach out to the people of Minnesota and represent their needs and concerns.”
–Minnesota Public Radio

 Apple Valley, Burnsville agree on runoff
After years of looking for ways to deal with water pollution, Burnsville and Apple Valley have reached an agreement to create a large holding pond to collect storm runoff. 

Apple Valley will build the new Whitney pond this summer on land owned by Burnsville in Lac Lavon Park. The pond, expected to be completed by November, also will have a walking trail around it. 

“It’s a great partnership between the two cities,” said Terry Shultz, Burnsville’s director of parks, recreation and natural resources. “It will greatly improve the water quality of Keller Lake and Crystal Lake.” 

The two lakes are on the state’s list of impaired waterways, Shultz said, and the new Whitney pond will allow the cities to lower the phosphorous levels in those lakes.
–The Star Tribune

Hugo-area drainage dispute lingers
The century-old Judicial Ditch No. 2 in Hugo is the problem that refuses to die.

 A lawsuit filed against the Rice Creek Watershed District is the latest in a long line of legal conflicts over the drainage ditch, which has been making headlines for more than a decade because of flooding, farmers’ complaints and bickering between government agencies.

 The watershed district voted in December to alter a small dam in the ditch. In January, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Hugo farmer Fran Miron sued the district.

The DNR claims the district needs DNR permission to do anything that will affect the water level of nearby Rice Lake. Miron is asking the court to force the district to either maintain the ditch according to its original specifications or pay for any land that is adversely affected by failing to do so.

An attorney for the district said attempts have been made to compromise with the DNR, including offers to let the DNR take over the dam, and that the Miron claim was made once before and already addressed by the court.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 U.S. House chided on bottled water
If the Potomac River, which supplies water to the nation’s capital, had run dry, Congress might be able to explain itself. But it hasn’t.  

And that has left one group calling out the U.S. House for spending $860,000 last year on bottled water — money it says could have gone toward installing fountains of perfectly potable water. 

 A report from the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International found that between April 2009 and March 2010, House lawmakers spent an average of $2,000 per member on bottled water. 

 Climate change tracked in Wisconsin
Recent findings from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin researchers suggests the effects of climate change have been accelerating over the past 60 years and could drastically transform the state’s idyllic landscape in the future. 

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, a group of experts and scientists from across the state, released the report as the culmination of nearly three-and-a-half years of research. 

Using data from the past 60 years and as far back as the 1800s, researchers tracked ongoing trends of climate change distributed across the state to make projections as to what the climate is going to look like in 50 years, said Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Gilbert said the results of this statistical analysis were combined with global climate models that had been scaled down to better reflect the size of the state.
–The Badger Herald 

Research: Algae affect fish hormonally
Fertilizer runoff from farms can feed blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, which are deadly to pets and livestock. As if that weren’t enough to worry about, new research suggests for the first time that the blooms also could disrupt reproduction in aquatic wildlife through estrogenic effects (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es103538b).

 Until now, most studies of Microcystis aeruginosa, the most common bloom-forming cyanobacterium, have focused on the bacterium’s 80 or so microcystin toxins, says Ted Henry, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Plymouth, in the U.K. The toxins can cause massive internal bleeding and liver damage in mammals and fish.

 Henry, Emily Rogers of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and their colleagues stumbled on the estrogenic actions when they were looking for genes that turn on when fish encounter Microcystis. They hoped that these genes could serve as biomarkers for bloom events in lakes when biologists observe fish die offs. “We wanted to develop a short list of genes that would determine whether a fish had been exposed to Microcystis or not,” Henry says.
–Chemical & Engineering News