water conservation

What it takes to make a difference

The Freshwater Society is in its third year of teaming up with Michelob Golden Light on the Celebrate Your Lake Contest, and it’s been a really great way to see communities in action around the water they love.

If you haven’t heard of the contest, check out our webpage for the details – it’s a voting contest that takes place through Facebook and the winning lake receives a $50,000 conservation award to do something good for their lake.

What has been great to witness is something that we’ve seen a lot while working with lake and stream groups around the state – getting something done means knowing the people around you. Whether it’s addressing curly leaf pondweed or corralling folks to get online and vote, connectivity is what wins the race.

Each year of the contest has seen a mix of lakes from around the state compete; from large “destination” lakes that see thousands of boats a year, to smaller locally known assets that are maybe less traveled but no less appreciated, and everything in between.

In the first two years of the contest the winners were of the latter type. Albert Lea Lake and the Fairmont Chain of Lakes may not be what jumps to mind when you say the words “Minnesota Lake” but they proved that a local love for water, and knowing your neighbor, is what can translate into action.

So here’s to both communities for taking the time to make an effort to win the contest, but also for taking the time to know each other. Stay tuned for Celebrate Your Lake round three!

Continue Reading

San Diego water:  Somewhere between “unlimited” and “zero”

Regional water conservation is being applied in San Diego because they must–but is it enough? Minnesota is looking at regional water conservation because it’s smart for our long-term economic vitality and quality of life. Many Minnesota communities already have in place watering restrictions similar to what San Diego is instituting. Thankfully we don’t have to read stories like the one below (from a March 2 press release) where the city and state names are ours. Can you imagine a sentence that says, “The Minnesota State Water Resources Control Board declared an emergency water shortage last year and asked all Minnesotans to reduce water use by 20 percent” ?  I think if Minnesota were to that point we would be well beyond the simple night watering policies described below (or our common odd-even days format).

Steve Woods

 

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Despite a few impressive rain storms this winter, California’s multi-year drought is still far from over, and the need to save water remains critically important. As spring approaches and daylight hours lengthen, the allowable hours for outdoor watering will change with the start of Daylight Saving Time. Watering will be allowed only before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m., effective Sunday, March 8. Outdoor water use is the easiest place to reduce and accounts for roughly half of the average residential water bill. To meet the state’s voluntary water conservation target of a 20 percent reduction, San José water regulations remain in effect and apply to everyone in San José, regardless of which water utility is providing service. According to the Santa Clara Valley Water District, statewide and local precipitation has remained low. In the Sierras, where San José imports half of its water, the snow pack measurement in February was only 19 percent of normal levels. Locally, groundwater level in San José is about 45 feet lower than the five-year average. The California State Water Resources Control Board declared an emergency water shortage last year and asked all Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. The San José City Council also declared a water shortage emergency last year. San José’s water rules only apply to drinking water, not gray or recycled water.
Continue Reading

Phoenix curbs water use

Arid Phoenix leads the way on some water conservation measures, says a New York Times article published this week. Read about what the city is doing, and not doing, to encourage its residents to use less water.

One thing Phoenix is not doing, according to the article, is paying residents to rip up their thirsty lawns. Some other Arizona cities do, and Las Vegas may top the lawn-replacement scale with a promise to pay $1.50 a square foot  for grass replaced by landscaping appropriate for dry regions.

Continue Reading

Save money by saving water .2 cents at a time

If you are a normal household user of water, you should conserve water because it’s the right thing to do. Not to save money. But there is some modest payback, and here’s a Christian Science Monitor blog article estimating what you can save with various water-conservation changes around the house.

Continue Reading

Innovative Wisconsin phosphorus rules OK’d

The Freshwater Society blog 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.

 
EPA approves Wisconsin’s phosphorus rules
The Environmental Protection Agency approved a first-of-its-kind program to cut phosphorus levels in Wisconsin’s lakes, rivers and streams.

The goal is cleaner water, fewer weeds and algae blooms and better habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

The idea is to allow wastewater treatment plants and companies such as paper mills or dairies with pollution discharge permits to avoid or reduce pollution-control costs, which they would presumably pass on to customers, in favor of partnerships within watersheds aimed at stemming the flow of phosphorus.

Those partnerships could include grants for farmers to change their field and husbandry practices and help communities control runoff from streets.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sediment, carp threaten Pool 2
Read two articles by St. Paul Pioneer Press on threats facing the Mississippi River’s Pool 2, the stretch of river between St.

Paul and Hastings. The first of the related reports deals with the sediment filling the pool, and the second deals with Asian carp.

Minneapolis, St. Paul water use declines
During a summer as hot as this one, it may be difficult to believe that water use in Minneapolis and St. Paul has been declining steeply and steadily over a prolonged period.

Different measures are available for the two cities, but they both show the same strong trend over the past 15 to 30 years:

• In Minneapolis, consumption dropped 17.2 percent from 1998 through 2007, a time when the population was virtually unchanged. In August 2011, a dry month, the city used 31 percent less water than it did in August 2006, a wet month. And in 2011, Minneapolis residents and businesses used 378 million fewer gallons than they did the year before.

• In St. Paul, daily average water use dropped nearly 21 percent from 1980 through 2011. Peak use during that period was in the drought year of 1988.
–The Star Tribune

Cutting water use in Nebraska
Does talking about water conservation work?

It did recently in Lincoln, Neb.

Read a Lincoln Journal Star article about daily water use dropping by 10 million gallons the day after Mayor Chris Beutler urged residents to water their lawns less.

Hearing set on Shakopee sand mining
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency invites the public to an informational meeting Aug. 2 on the draft state air emissions permit for the proposed Great Plains Sands facility near Shakopee.

The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Scott County Conference Center, 205 Fourth Ave. W., in Shakopee. The meeting will start with an open house for informal discussion, followed by a formal presentation at 7:15 p.m., with time for questions and answers.

Great Plains Sands proposes to operate a mining facility to produce hydraulic fracturing sand, commonly called “frac sand” or “silica sand,” for use in the natural gas and oil industry. The facility would be located in Louisville and Sand Creek townships, along Highway 169, in Scott County, on the south side of the Twin Cities metro area.

The company would mine about 100 acres, use an additional 28 acres for processing and railcar loading, and leave 12 acres as setbacks and buffer areas. The site is zoned for rural industrial use and previous land uses include mining, hog farming, auto salvaging, and concrete mixing.

Scott County recently approved an interim-use permit for the proposed Great Plains Sands facility. The MPCA is the government unit responsible for the air emissions permit. The draft permit will be available for review and comment on the MPCA Public Notices webpage. The public comment period will run July 27 to Aug. 27.
–MPCA News Release

Audubon challenges Florida ag rules
The Florida Audubon Society took on the state’s largest sugar producers, challenging recently issued permits that allow the pollution control practices the companies use on 234,932 acres of farmland in the Everglades.

The permits were issued after the South Florida Water Management District approved the companies’ “best management practices,” procedures growers undertake to reduce pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants that flow off from their fields.

Audubon filed a petition with the district for an administrative law judge to intervene and deny the permits. The petition will be sent to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings to determine whether to appoint a judge.
–The Palm Beach Post

Chinese protest water pollution
Angry demonstrators entered a government office in the port city of Qidong, near Shanghai, and smashed computers and destroyed furniture to protest a waste discharge plant that they said would pollute the water supply.

In reaction, the local government Web site said that plans for the discharge plant, which was to be part of a paper manufacturing plant, had been abandoned.

China’s authorities face a mounting pattern of protests against pollution, and in particular, against industrial plants that locals can single out during the planning stage or in the early days of construction.
–The New York Times

Continue Reading

Vote to support conservation mentoring

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.

FarmWise conservation program needs your vote
A farmer-to-farmer mentoring project aimed at promoting conservation efforts in the Minnesota River Valley is one of three finalists in online voting that will award a $15,000 grant.

The FarmWise project is a partnership between the Freshwater Society and the National Park Service. Its goal is to identify the most vulnerable areas in the Minnesota River Valley, and work through existing community relationships to mentor, advise and implement farmer-proven and farmer-approved water-friendly practices that protect these critical, high-priority areas.

Go to the MN Idea Open to view a video on the proposal and to cast your vote.

Court rejects bid to close Chicago locks
A federal appeals panel rejected the request of five Great Lakes states to close Chicago-area shipping locks. But the panel warned that the issue could be revisited if ongoing efforts to stop the advance of Asian carp stall.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals follows a district court decision in December concluding that the invasive species did not appear to be an imminent threat and that closing the locks still might not keep them from reaching Lake Michigan.

Cal-Sag Channel and the Chicago River to limit the amount of water leaving Lake Michigan when engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River at the turn of the century. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District control the locks to limit flooding during heavy rains and to allow cargo ships and boats to pass.

In July 2010, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin sued the federal government to force a temporary closure of the locks until other carp-control methods could be put in place. Critics, however, alleged that the effort was “politically motivated” and could devastate the regional shipping industry and put residents who live in flood-prone areas at risk.
–The Chicago Tribune

Oil sands pipeline gets OK
The State Department issued its final environmental impact statement for a controversial oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas, affirming earlier findings that its construction and operation will have “limited adverse environmental impacts.”

The assessment moves the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline closer to fruition, though State Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science Kerri-Ann Jones emphasized the analysis “is one piece of the information that will be considered” in making a final decision on the permit by the end of the year.

The department will have to conduct a 90-day review of whether the project is in the “national interest” before deciding whether to allow the pipeline to go through.

Still, the conclusion of the 2 1/2-year-long review is significant because the primary objection raised against the pipeline is its potential environmental impact — during construction and in case of ruptures during operation — on wildlife, land and drinking water supplies.

In addition, the proposed pipeline, which could transport as much as 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s “tar sands” or “oil sands” fields to refineries in the Gulf Coast, has sparked an outcry from environmentalists in both countries on the grounds that the extraction of oil will increase emissions linked to climate change.
–The Washington Post

Warming spurs bass populations
Minnesota’s walleye anglers might want to invest in some bass-fishing equipment.
Rising temperatures in recent years have boosted bass populations in many Minnesota lakes, say fisheries researchers with the Department of Natural Resources.

And if the climate change continues, northern and central Minnesota’s lakes may well continue to tip toward warm-water species such as smallmouth and largemouth bass.

“Our weather station data from around the state shows we have had significant warming trends,” said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries research manager. “It’s been most noticeable in the last decade. We’re seeing earlier ice-outs and longer growing seasons,” he said.
“It makes sense that with species like bass, their rate of production would go up,” Pereira said. “They metabolize more efficiently and quickly at warmer temperatures.”
–The Star Tribune

Grasslands under the plow
A group advocating the preservation of America’s grasslands worries that rising crop prices are causing farmers to plow under native South Dakota grass to grow more grain.

Besides the fear of losing native prairie and other grasses, the advocates say they are frustrated by their inability to learn how much grass in the state has been plowed under in recent years.
About 250 participants from 17 states met last week at America’s Grasslands Conference in Sioux Falls and identified threats to grasslands, and began to shape an agenda to preserve it. The conference drew people from state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups and colleges.

The event, organized by South Dakota State University, was sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, along with the Sun Grant Initiative and other grass proponents.
–The Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Invasive species in Yellowstone: Lake trout
The first “Judas fish” have been released.
As the Biblically inspired name suggests, the fish — surgically altered lake trout, implanted last week with tiny radio transmitters on a gently rocking open boat by a team of scientists here — are intended to betray. The goal: annihilation.

“Finding where they spawn would be the golden egg,” said Bob Gresswell, a research biologist at the United States Geological Survey, and leader of the Judas team, a strike force in the biggest lake-trout-killing program in the nation. The idea is that the electronic chirps will lead trout hunters into the cold, deep corners of Yellowstone Lake, where the fish might be killed in volume.

“The eggs could be killed before they hatch, maybe with electricity, or suction,” Dr. Gresswell said.
–The New York Times

U.S., Canada update Great Lakes plan
With relatively little fanfare – and, conservationists argue, not enough public oversight – the U.S. and Canadian governments have spent the last two years reworking a decades-old agreement designed to coordinate management decisions for their shared Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was first passed in 1972 after public outrage over chronic phosphorus-driven pollution problems plaguing the lakes. The agreement helped foster sweeping upgrades for industrial and municipal waste treatment systems on both sides of the border.

The lakes responded quickly. Rivers stopped burning, algae blooms waned and fish populations rebounded.

The agreement was subsequently updated in the late ’70s with a goal to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the waters” inside the Great Lakes basin.

But while this shared blueprint to maintain and restore the health of the world’s largest freshwater system still has grand ambitions, today it is way more words than action.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Defense Dept. cuts water use 13%
In fiscal year 2010, military installations operated by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) decreased their water use per square foot of building space by 13 percent compared with a 2007 baseline — more than double the goal of a 6 percent reduction, according to the department’s annual energy management report.

The DoD was able to exceed its water conservation goals largely by installing low-flow showerheads and toilets, fixing leaky valves, and making other efficiency upgrades.Over the same time period, however, the DoD failed to meet its energy-intensity goal of a 15 percent reduction, compared to a 2003 baseline. Averaged across the department, energy intensity has fallen 11.4 percent, continuing a slow downward trend. Total energy use, however, has risen slightly since 2007, as wartime operations have increased demand.
–Circle of Blue

St. Ben’s halts bottled water sales
The College of St. Benedict is the first Minnesota college to eliminate sales of bottled water on campus, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The college is also the ninth in the nation to implement a water bottle policy.

The campus now has 31 hydration stations that will dispense tap water. The school’s office of sustainability will provide reusable bottles to a number of student and employee groups to promote the hydration stations.
–The St. Cloud Times

Vegas water pipeline costs could soar
A proposed pipeline to bring groundwater about 300 miles from Utah and eastern Nevada to Las Vegas may cost as much as five times more than current estimates under a worst-case scenario provided to officials reviewing the plan.

Pipeline opponents claim the estimated $15 billion price tag is another “black mark” against an already controversial project.
Nevada water authority officials, however, argue the study — which they were required to do as part of their application — proves the project is feasible and that the biggest potential rate increase for water users is about $30 per month.

The study by Las Vegas-based Hobbs, Ong and Associates projects the pipeline could cost more than $7 billion to build. There would be an additional $8 billion in interest payments if the pipeline was funded with 60-year bonds.
–The Associated Press

EPA offers $6 million for Great Lakes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is setting aside approximately $6 million for federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to implement restoration projects in federally-protected areas, on tribal lands and in Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. EPA will fund individual projects up to $1 million. To qualify for funding, each proposed project must provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people.

“These projects will help to restore the Great Lakes and put Americans back to work,” said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager and Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. “In a sense, we will be using these funds to create a small-scale 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps.”

Funded projects will advance the goals and objectives of the GLRI Action Plan, developed by EPA with 15 other federal agencies in 2010. Projects must provide immediate, direct ecological benefits; be located in areas identified as federal priorities such as national lakeshores or areas of concern; include a detailed budget, and produce measurable results. EPA will award funding for selected projects by the end of September.
–EPA News Release

Interest grows in toilet-to-tap
This summer, Texas’ drought of the century is an uncomfortable reminder that often there just isn’t enough water to go around. But the 40 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures and minuscule rainfall may also be boosting the case for a new freshwater source being developed in Big Spring, Texas, and surrounding cities.

With a waste-water-to-drinking-water treatment plant now under construction, Big Spring will soon join the growing list of cities that use recycled sewage water for drinking water – a practice that the squeamish call “toilet to tap.”

The trend is expanding as climbing temperatures and dry weather across the West force environmentalists, politicians, and citizens to find newer, better solutions to freshwater resources.
–The Christian Science Monitor

40,000 Chinese dams at risk
More than a quarter of Chinese cities are at risk from tens of thousands of run-down reservoirs, prompting the government to speed up efforts to make repairs, state media said.

More than 40,000 reservoirs around the country have been in use longer than their design life and are poorly maintained due to a lack of funds over the past few decades, the state-run Global Times reported.

As a result, more than 25 percent of Chinese cities and vast rural areas are at threat from potential devastating floods if dams break, it said, citing the state-run China Economic Weekly magazine.
–AFP

Continue Reading

California water deal mandates conservation

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of top news and research on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to read them in their entirety where they originally were published.

California mandates 20% cut in cities’ water use by 2020
Lawmakers capped months of discussions, weeks of tedious negotiations and years of chasing a water deal with approval of major legislation in a marathon session.

The package, which includes an $11.1-billion bond that must go before voters, would nudge California in new directions on water policy while giving something to each of the major factions that have warred over the state’s supplies.

The measure, likely to reach the governor’s desk early next week, would establish a statewide program that for the first time would measure if too much water is being pumped from underground aquifers. It mandates an overall 20% drop in the state’s per capita water use by 2020 and creates a new, politically appointed council to oversee management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the state’s water hub.
–The Los Angeles Times

 California agriculture avoids big water cuts
Cities across the state must slash water consumption by about 20 percent over the next decade under newly passed legislation aimed at reworking the aging policies and plumbing that determine water flow to 38 million Californians.

 But the California agriculture industry, which consumes an estimated three-quarters of the water used in the state, won’t have to change its practices much under the new rules. 

And that vexes many involved in the political wrangling over water in a state where global warming, population growth and crumbling infrastructure are forcing wrenching changes in the way natural resources are divvied up.
–The San Francisco Chronicle

 Pesticide concentrations drop in rivers, USGS finds
Concentrations of several major pesticides mostly declined or stayed the same in “Corn Belt” rivers and streams from 1996 to 2006, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study. 

The declines in pesticide concentrations closely followed declines in their annual applications, indicating that reducing pesticide use is an effective and reliable strategy for reducing pesticide contamination in streams.

 Declines in concentrations of the agricultural herbicides cyanazine, alachlor and metolachlor show the effectiveness of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory actions as well as the influence of new pesticide products. In addition, declines from 2000 to 2006 in concentrations of the insecticide diazinon correspond to the EPA’s national phase-out of nonagricultural uses. The USGS works closely with the EPA, which uses USGS findings on pesticide trends to track the effectiveness of changes in pesticide regulations and use.

 Scientists studied 11 herbicides and insecticides frequently detected in the Corn Belt region, which generally includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio, as well as parts of adjoining states. This area has among the highest pesticide use in the nation — mostly herbicides used for weed control in corn and soybeans. As a result, these pesticides are widespread in the region’s streams and rivers, largely resulting from runoff from cropland and urban areas.

Elevated concentrations can affect aquatic organisms in streams as well as the quality of drinking water in some high-use areas where surface water is used for municipal supply. Four of the 11 pesticides evaluated for trends were among those most often found in previous USGS studies to occur at levels of potential concern for healthy aquatic life. Atrazine, the most frequently detected, is also regulated in drinking water.

 Although trends in concentration and use almost always closely corresponded, concentrations of atrazine and metolachlor each declined in one stream more rapidly than their estimated use. According to Skip Vecchia, senior author of the report on this analysis, “The steeper decline in these instances may be caused by agricultural management practices that have reduced pesticide transport, but data on management practices are not adequate to definitively answer the question. Overall, use is the most dominant factor driving changes in concentrations.” To view the full report, click here.
–USGS news release

 3.4 million acres taken out of conservation reserve
Surveying undulating grasslands that disappear into the western Kansas horizon, retired farmer Joe Govert pointed out parcel after parcel no longer enrolled in a federal program that pays property owners not to farm environmentally sensitive land.

 The arid, wind-swept ground stripped of topsoil by Dust Bowl storms has laid undisturbed beneath a protective cover of native grasses that took two decades to re-establish under the Conservation Reserve Program. But millions of those acres are being plowed again after the 2008 Farm Bill capped the program at 32 million acres. 

More than 3.4 million acres nationwide were taken out of the program in September when the owners’ contracts expired. Most of them were in Texas, Colorado and Kansas, but hundreds of thousands of acres also came out in Montana and the Dakotas.
–The Associated Press

Federal money for Minnesota water projects increases
Minnesota stands to get a nice boost in federal cash for water infrastructure projects under a newly signed appropriations bill.  

The 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, which was signed by President Barack Obama late last week, includes $2.1 billion for wastewater and $1.39 billion for drinking water projects throughout the country.

Minnesota’s take is about $35.7 million for wastewater and $23.6 million for drinking water, which is roughly three times as much as Minnesota’s federal funding allocation was just a few years ago, noted DeAnn Stish, executive director of the Minnesota Utility Contractors Association.
–Finance and Commerce

 Malibu to phase out septic tanks
The great sewer wars of Malibu have finally drawn to a close. Sewers won.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board agreed late Thursday to ban septic systems in central and eastern Malibu, a move that would end years of fierce debate over the wastewater devices still commonly used in one of Southern California’s most picturesque and exclusive coastal communities.

New septic systems will not be permitted in Malibu and owners of existing systems will have to halt wastewater discharges within a decade.
–The Los Angeles Times

County donates land to settle water pollution case
Mower County  has agreed to donate 33.1 acres of land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources instead of paying a $31,000 penalty for alleged stormwater violations during a ditch repair project.

 The deal completes what County Coordinator Craig Oscarson described as a three-way swap.

“It’s just like all the stars aligned,” he said. “The DNR wanted it. We didn’t want it, because by keeping it we had to maintain it.”

 The agreement is between the county, the project’s contractor, Freeborn Construction Inc. of Albert Lea, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

 The fine pertains to an incident that occurred between 2005 and 2006 when the county repaired Judicial Ditch 1 in Bennington Township.
–Austin Daily Herald

Missouri research explores algae-to-fuel
Backers of algae-based biofuels tout the simplicity of their feedstock. Sunlight and water are all that’s needed to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.

 Now, some scientists are testing the notion that sunlight might be optional.

 Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are planning to grow algae for fuel in abandoned mines using light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
–The New York Times

 Climate plan proposes turning Sahara into a forest
Some talk of hoisting mirrors into space to reflect sunlight, while others want to cloud the high atmosphere with millions of tonnes of shiny sulphur dust. Now, scientists could have dreamed up the most ambitious geoengineering plan to deal with climate change yet: converting the parched Sahara desert to a lush forest. The scale of the ambition is matched only by the promised rewards – the scientists behind the plan say it could “end global warming.” 

The scheme has been thought up by Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, together with Igor Aleinov and David Rind, climate modelers at NASA. The trio have outlined their plan in a new paper published in the Journal of Climatic Change, and they modestly conclude it “probably provides the best, near-term route to complete control of greenhouse gas induced global warming”.

Under the scheme, planted fields of fast-growing trees such as eucalyptus would cover the deserts of the Sahara and Australian outback, watered by seawater treated by a string of coastal desalination plants and channelled through a vast irrigation network. The new blanket of tree cover would bring its own weather system and rainfall, while soaking up carbon dioxide from the world’s atmosphere. The team’s calculations suggest the forested deserts could draw down around 8bn tonnes of carbon a year, about the same as emitted from fossil fuels and deforestation today. Sounds expensive? The researchers say it could be more economic than planned global investment in carbon capture and storage technology.
–The Guardian

 Minnesota scrap dealers agree to limit air pollution
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has issued administrative consent orders to three Minnesota scrap metal recycling companies – Leroy Iron and Metal Division of Behr Iron, Alter Trading Corp. and Timm’s Auto Salvage.

The companies agreed to comply with EPA regulations designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer at their scrap metal recycling facilities.  The Leroy plant is at 2275 Dale Ave., Leroy;  the Alter plant is at 801 Barge Channel Road, St. Paul; and the Timm’s plant is at 936 W. 12th St., St. Charles. 

The companies have agreed, among other things, to recover ozone-depleting refrigerants from each appliance and motor vehicle air conditioner that they accept or to verify that the refrigerants have been recovered according to EPA regulations.  The companies will keep logs of the details of refrigerant recovery. 

Chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants and certain substitute refrigerants deplete the stratospheric, or “good,” ozone layer allowing dangerous amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun to strike the earth.  Production of some of these chemicals was stopped in 1995, and federal law strictly controls their use and handling.
–EPA new release

Continue Reading

Threatened fish, buffer strips and zebra mussels

Every week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles about water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the articles in their original sources.

Climate change threatens fish, USGS expert says

Entire populations of North American fish already  are being affected by several emerging diseases, a problem that threatens to increase in the future with climate change and other stresses on aquatic ecosystems, according to a noted U.S. Geological Survey researcher giving an invited talk on this subject at the Wildlife Disease Association conference in Blaine, Wash.

 “A generation ago, we couldn’t have imaged the explosive growth in disease issues facing many of our wild fish populations,” said Dr. Jim Winton, a fish disease specialist at the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center.  “Most fish health research at that time was directed toward diseases of farmed fish.”

 In contrast, said Winton, recent studies in natural aquatic systems have revealed that, in addition to being a cause of natural death, infectious and parasitic fish diseases can produce significantly greater mortality in altered habitats leading to population fluctuations, extinction of endangered fish, reduced overall health and increased susceptibility to predation.

–USGS news release

 Complaint accuses farmers of ignoring buffer rule

The Zumbro River is slow and lazy on a summer’s day as it curves along a gentle bend near Terry Klampe’s home just outside Rochester.

But all is not tranquil in Olmsted County.

 Klampe, a dentist and ardent conservationist, has filed a complaint to give the river some space in farm country.

 Farmers are thwarting the law by planting corn and soybeans to the edge of the river and its tributaries, Klampe said, violating pollution rules that require a 50-foot buffer of permanent vegetation to protect streams and lakes from soil and chemical runoff.

–The Star Tribune

Zebra mussels increase blue-green algae

As if there aren’t enough reasons to keep zebra mussels out of Minnesota lakes, add one more: toxic blue-green algae blooms.

 A recent spike in state lakes infested with the non-native mussel has scientists mindful of an emerging — and unwelcome — connection.

 In Michigan, where zebra mussels have infested more than 200 lakes, blue-green algae blooms — the kind that can make people sick and have killed animals that drink the water — are enjoying a resurgence of sorts. And instead of pinning the blame on excess nutrients that typically cause them, scientists are looking squarely at zebra mussels as a trigger.

 Every year, blue-green algae blooms occur across central and southern Minnesota, typically in shallow lakes with high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus from animal waste or vegetative decomposition. Sometimes, those blooms become toxic, causing farm animals or dogs that consume any of it to get sick or die.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 Twin Cities suburbs press water conservation

With thirsty lawns and trees in need of water, suburban residents are struggling to get their home landscapes through a dry summer while obediently adhering to water conservation restrictions.

 City after city now has adopted watering restrictions and stepped-up rates for high water usage, and some residents are shy about watering even when it’s allowed, fearing they are wasting a precious resource.

 Yet there is no water crisis in Minnesota. The Twin Cities area has more water in lakes, rivers and groundwater reserves than almost any other metro area in the country.

So, when is it OK for an environmentally conscientious citizen to water?

–The Star Tribune

 ‘Dead zone’ smaller than predicted

Scientists said that the region of oxygen-starved water in the northern Gulf of Mexico this summer was smaller than forecast, which means less disruption of shrimp, crabs and other marine species, and of the fisheries that depend on them.

But researchers found that although the so-called dead zone along the Texas and Louisiana coasts was smaller — about 3,000 square miles compared with a prediction of about 8,000 square miles — the actual volume of low-oxygen, or hypoxic, water may be higher, as the layer is deeper and thicker in some parts of the gulf than normal. And the five-year average size of the dead zone is still considered far too big, about three times a target of 2,000 square miles set for 2015 by an intergovernmental task force.

–The New York Times

 Invasive flowering rush found in 3 L. Minnetonka bays

Flowering rush, an invasive water plant, has taken root as the latest unwelcome species in Lake Minnetonka — this time probably through the actions of a gardener, not a boater, the Department of Natural Resources says.

 The DNR got word of the plant’s presence in Lake Minnetonka on June 29. In searching 10 of the lake’s 132 miles of shoreline so far, the DNR has confirmed its growth in Smith’s Bay, Brown’s Bay and Crystal Bay near Orono.

–The Star Tribune

 Scientists agree on identifying plant species

An international panel of scientists has agreed to a bar-code standard for plant DNA that will allow the precise identification of most of Earth’s 300,000 species of plants, according to a research report.

 The agreement is expected to generate a wide range of benefits, from checking the purity of herbal supplements to exposing illegal logging operations and helping to protect fragile plant ecosystems, observers said.

 “It’s the first time we have actually developed a technique that will allow people to identify plants,” said James S. Miller, vice president for science at the New York Botanical Garden, one of 25 institutions working on the agreement.

 A similar technique for animals was created in 2003 and has been used to expose mislabeled caviar, crack a food-poisoning case involving fish and determine the bird species that caused US Airways Flight 1549 to ditch into the Hudson River in January.

–The Washington Post

 Invasive kelp threatens San Francisco Bay

Chela Zabin will not soon forget when she first glimpsed the golden brown tentacle of the latest alien to settle in the fertile waters of San Francisco Bay.

Skip to next paragraph “I had that moment of ‘Oh God, this is it, it’s here,’ ” said Dr. Zabin, a biologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “I was really hoping I was wrong.”

 The tentacle in question was that of an Asian kelp, Undaria pinnatifida, a flavorful and healthful ingredient in miso soup and an aggressive, costly intruder in waters from New Zealand to Monterey Bay.

–The New York Times

 Appeals court rejects challenge on ballast rules

The Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to how Minnesota regulates ships dumping ballast water into Lake Superior.

 In its decision, the court sided with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, saying the agency’s approach, designed to keep non-native species out of the lake, met legal requirements.

 The St. Paul-based Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy sued, contending the permit system took too long to implement and isn’t strong enough.

The system requires that, by 2016, all ships treat their ballast water before dumping it into the Minnesota waters of Lake Superior. New ships must start in 2012.

–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

 L.A. June water use hits 32-year low

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported that water demand reached a 32-year low for the month of June, dropping 11% compared with the same period in 2008.

Jim McDaniel, the senior assistant general manager of DWP’s water system, said hard work by ratepayers is paying off. Though experts said June was on average 4 degrees cooler than normal, McDaniel attributed the low demand to the new water restrictions.  

“You don’t see those kinds of reductions just due to weather,” he said.

The restrictions limit the use of sprinklers to 15 minutes a day on Mondays and Thursdays. No watering is allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
— The Los Angeles Times

 Restored reef teems with oysters

Scientists say they’ve created something in a Virginia river that hasn’t been seen since the late 1800s: a vast, thriving reef of American oysters, the shellfish that helped create the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem and then nearly vanished from it.

The reef sits on the bottom of the Great Wicomico River, a bay tributary about 80 miles southeast of Washington. The scientists say they found a better way to plant oysters, creating an 87-acre colony of bivalves that teems with other marine life.

That’s a long way from bringing oysters back in all of the Chesapeake. Virginia and Maryland officials said this week that they doubted this success could be replicated widely.

But the oyster researchers said their work, published online in the journal Science, provides new hope for one of the bay’s most beleaguered species. The oyster, depleted by overfishing, pollution and disease, has fallen to less than 1 percent of its historical population.

–The Washington Post

 Pollution contaminates beaches

Raw sewage and other pollution continued to foul American beaches in 2008.

For the fourth year in a row, more than 20,000 beach closing days were reported in the USA, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, D.C.

 “Storm water and sewage runoff are the biggest sources for the contamination,” says Nancy Stoner, NRDC’s water program co-director. The report monitored beaches along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, along with those in the Great Lakes states.

–USA Today

 DNR, Trout Unlimited to restore Vermillion

Some time in the Roaring ’20s, someone tried to turn the Vermillion, or at least part of it, into a rushing river.

 It might have been a farmer or the Army Corps of Engineers, but whoever it was removed the curves from a meandering stretch east of Farmington.

The goal was increasing the speed of the prairie river’s flow to quicken drainage of the farm fields that surround it. It worked, but over the years, the water has also whisked away a lot of farm runoff, soil and silt.

 So next summer, in the name of trout habitat and water quality, the Minnesota DNR and Trout Unlimited are leading a project that will help make the rural river meander again.

–The Star Tribune

 Study links soy diet to endocrine disruption

Women who are having difficulty conceiving may want to cut back on their soy consumption after a mouse study reveals that dietary exposure to genistein, a compound found in soy foods, can reduce the odds of a successful pregnancy in multiple ways. The study examined the impact of genistein exposure on oocytes, or eggs, from adult mice and found it can impair oocyte maturation, reduce their potential to become fertilized and hamper the growth of the newly formed embryo.

 The results reveal how natural compounds like genistein may have both risks – it can act as an endocrine disruptor to affect female reproduction – and benefits – such as protecting the heart.

–Environmental Health News

 Syrian drought displaces thousands

Only a few decades ago, fish were plentiful in the Orontes river which for thousands of years has provided water to the lush Syrian plains, at the crossroads of the ancient world.

 These days the Orontes’s 12th Century norias, enormous water wheels famous for their distinctive creak, barely turn in the weak tides. Algae covers the river’s surface and the desert has been closing in.

“The river has become so polluted. The quality of our produce has suffered and there is barely enough now to feed my family,” said 80-year-old farmer Mohammad al-Hamdo.

 Syria’s worst drought in decades has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and raised calls for a coordinated water policy for the Middle East as the region faces a dryer climate and water supplies depleted by damming and water well drilling.

–Reuters

 Wisconsin groundwater funding urged

Water experts recommended to state legislators that they strengthen groundwater laws by pumping more money into monitoring, broadening protections for springs and possibly increasing the distance between high-capacity wells and sensitive surface waters.

The Legislature beefed up groundwater protections in 2004, but Ken Bradbury, a hydrogeologist with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, said during the hearing that it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the law because there has been no money for monitoring.

 The hearing was before a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly natural resource committees. The hearing was the first step in an effort to improve regulations of groundwater created in the 2004 law. State Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, one of the co-authors of the initial legislation, said the committees’ examination of groundwater issues is part of a review of the law called for in the 2004 bill.

–The Wisconsin State Journal

 USDA allocates water project funds

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White announced nearly $58 million for water conservation and water quality improvements on agricultural working lands.

 The funding was made available for 63 projects in 21 states through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. No projects in Minnesota or Wisconsin were funded.

 “We must take steps to protect and preserve our water resources, and the Obama Administration is committed to using this program to provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their land,” said White.

 The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) promotes ground and surface water conservation and improves water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities. With the services and resources of other conservation partners, AWEP allows the Federal Government to leverage investment in natural resources conservation.

–U.S. Department of Agriculture

Continue Reading

Oil slicks, estrogen in the water, and rooftop farming

Each week, the Freshwater Society publishes a digest of some of the best regional, national and international articles on water and the environment. Scan the articles here, then follow the links to the original sources.

Estrogen linked to fish kills, study suggests
Exposure to estrogen puts fish at greater risk of disease and premature death, according to a new federal study.

The U.S. Geological Survey study showed that estrogen exposure reduces a fish’s ability to produce proteins that help it ward off disease and pointed to a possible link between the occurrence of intersex fish and recent fish kills in the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

The report, published in the current issue of Fish & Shellfish Immunology, adds to a growing body of research pointing to problems with estrogen in the nation’s waterways.
–The New York Times

DNR investigates reported fishkill
A reported die-off of sturgeon in the Mississippi River south of Prescott, Wis., prompted an inconclusive search by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff.

DNR area fisheries supervisor Kevin Stauffer said a three-hour search by fisheries staff didn’t reveal any dead sturgeon in Pool 3, the stretch of river between Hastings and Red Wing.

Anglers reported the fishkill to the DNR, saying they had seen dead fish last weekend and the previous week.

Greg Schorn of Newport said he and another angler had seen 50 to 100 dead sturgeon, as well as several other dead species, while they were fishing Pool 3.
–The St. Paul Pioneer Press

Oil slick covers 80 miles of Mississippi River
Crews continued to work overnight Wednesday to corral a huge oil spill on the Mississippi River that now stretches more than 80 miles below New Orleans and threatens the fragile delta ecosystem. Government officials, meanwhile, are scrambling to bolster water supplies downriver from the spill and some anticipate possibly having to truck in water.

More than 400,000 gallons of thick industrial fuel oil spilled just upriver from the Crescent City Connection in the collision early Wednesday morning between a tanker and a barge being pulled by a tugboat. The oil spill, the largest on the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area in nearly a decade, halted shipping traffic on one of the nation’s busiest waterways.

The Coast Guard, which is investigating the incident, has released few details, but confirmed that none of the tugboat’s crew had the proper licenses to operate on the river. Neither the tug operator’s name nor the name of the river pilot aboard the tanker has been released.
–NOLA.com

Vermont cows do their thing to curb global warming
Chewing her cud on a recent sunny morning, Libby, a 1,400-pound Holstein, paused to do her part in the battle against global warming, emitting a fragrant burp.

Libby, age 6, and the 74 other dairy cows on Guy Choiniere’s farm here are at the heart of an experiment to determine whether a change in diet will help them belch less methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that has been linked to climate change.

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.
–The New York Times

New mining development in northern Minnesota poses environmental risk
The fears about copper-nickel mining start with sulfuric rock the metals are found in. When exposed to the air, these rocks can leech caustic pollutants like acid and metals.

Just west of Duluth, the St. Louis River spills through rocky channels on a final plunge to Lake Superior. Retired biology teacher Len Anderson said, not only is this area beautiful, it’s key for the Lake Superior fishery.

“It also is the nursery for many of the fish that inhabit Lake Superior,” Anderson said. “You know, over 100 river miles away from PolyMet, but this is where, I believe, the critical issue is going to come to a head.”

The issue, he said, is methyl mercury – mercury in a form that can harm fish as well as the people and animals that eat the fish.
–Minnesota Public Radio News

L.A. restricts lawn sprinkling to two days a week
It’s now illegal to water lawns in the nation’s second-largest city except on Mondays and Thursdays as Southern California deals with the effects of drought and regulatory restrictions on its distant water supplies.

The city is facing its third consecutive year of water supply shortages, according to the city Department of Water and Power, and the new sprinkler ordinance is accompanied by a pocketbook incentive for conservation.

The amount of water customers can purchase at the lowest price, known as Tier 1, will now be reduced by 15 percent. Customers who do not achieve a 15 percent reduction in usage will be charged at a higher rate for every gallon above their Tier 1 allotment.
–The Associated Press

A rooftop garden grows in Milwaukee
A year ago, Erik Lindberg rented a boom lift with a bucket and hoisted 15 cubic yards of dirt to the roof of his north side remodeling business. In the process, he planted himself firmly in the middle of a growing urban agriculture movement.

Lindberg, owner of Community Building & Restoration, turned to rooftop gardening in the belief that his actions might encourage people to grow their own food or buy locally grown produce.

And by selling the vegetables he grows to subscribers and a nearby Outpost Natural Foods store, he may have become Milwaukee’s first commercial rooftop farmer.

“It’s an experiment,” said Lindberg, 42. “Can you develop a business plan out of something like this? The answer is, I don’t know yet.”
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Three-quarters of Texas county homes at risk from climate change
A new study suggests more than 100,000 households will be displaced and more than $12 billion infrastructure losses suffered as a result of climate change raising the sea level in the Galveston area over the next 100 years.

The finding comes three days after a Texas A&M University study found that Corpus Christi’s infrastructure will also be affected by climate change.

“The Socio-Economic Impact of Sea Level Rise in the Galveston Bay Region,” commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the British Consulate-General Houston, estimates that 78 percent of households will be displaced in Galveston County. A more aggressive sea level rise could displace 93 percent of households, according to the study.
–Houston Business Journal

Federal charges filed in Louisiana wastewater case
Louisiana Land and Water Co. owner Jeff Pruett was arrested by federal marshals after being indicted on 17 felony counts of violating federal pollution laws.

Pruett is president and chief executive officer of Louisiana Land & Water Co., the principal officer of LWC Management Co. and operates more than 30 water and wastewater treatment systems in northeastern Louisiana.

The charges involve violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act — commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act — at more than a half-dozen of the systems owned or operated by Pruett.
–The News Star

Invasive species legislation runs into a roadblock: pet owners
Water managers dispatched two experts to Washington recently to back a bill targeting an Everglades problem that seems to get bigger every year. The latest, largest evidence emerged in mid-May: a Burmese python stretching 16½ feet.

It is the longest yet of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the exotic constrictors the South Florida Water Management District has pulled off its lands and levees in the past few years. More sobering: The female was pregnant, carrying a clutch of 59 eggs — more proof the giant snakes are breeding in the wild.

“These are not little snakes running around. These are massive, dangerous animals,” said district spokesman Randy Smith.
–Richmond Times-Dispatch

U.S. restricts California water use to protect salmon
Federal regulators levied sweeping new rules on Delta water deliveries to prevent the thirst of California’s farms and cities from rendering extinct several salmon runs, steelhead, green sturgeon and a Pacific Northwest population of killer whales.

The suite of regulations would ensure more cold water is available for spawning fish, and that water operators make it easier for fish to swim from upstream spawning grounds through San Francisco Bay and back again.

The National Marine Fisheries Service estimated the new regulations would cut water supplies from the Delta beginning next year by about 5 percent to 7 percent, or roughly 330,000 acre-feet a year, enough water for a city of about 2 million people. Most of the water loss is due to measures to help steelhead migrate down the San Joaquin River, officials said.

The hit to Delta water supplies comes on top of rules put in place in December to prevent Delta pumps from driving another fish, Delta smelt, to extinction.
–San Jose Mercury News

Lawmakers seek restrictions on oil drilling tactic
U.S. lawmakers expect to introduce legislation that would reverse a Bush era law exempting a controversial drilling practice from federal oversight, possibly driving up costs and curtailing the development of vast amounts of unconventional energy.

Democratic Representatives Diana DeGette of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York plan a bill that would repeal a measure in a 2005 law that excluded the method of hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“This is a very serious issue. If it is not addressed, large numbers of people are very likely to suffer,” Hinchey told Reuters. “Their water will be contaminated. Their houses will no longer be livable.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” injects a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas. The practice is used to stimulate production in old wells, but is now also used to tap oil and gas trapped in shale beds across North America.
–Reuters

Wisconsin ballast water rules delayed
Wisconsin DNR Secretary Matt Frank says shipping industry concerns about technology are holding up a state plan to make oceangoing Great Lakes ships clean-up their ballast water.

Fishing groups and environmentalists are urging the DNR to finish work on a proposed permit plan aimed at stopping ships with contaminated ballast water from using Wisconsin ports. The Great Lakes ships that come from other nations are thought to bring in invasive species.  Frank says his agency still plans to move ahead with the  permit. But he says some shipping companies say the clean-up technology isn’t quite ready.

Frank says he’s pleased that New York’s ballast water rules were recently upheld, but adds the best thing would be if the federal government passed tougher ballast water requirements. He says the DNR will make a decision sometime this year.
–Wisconsin Public Radio

China reports water pollution reduction
China cut its water pollution and emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide last year as it stepped up efforts to make its economic growth cleaner, state media said.

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, dropped by 4.42 percent in 2008 from a year earlier, while sulphur dioxide emissions were down 5.95 percent, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China has promised to cut the two key pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010, and is also looking to reduce its energy intensity, or the amount of energy used to create each unit of gross domestic product.
–Reuters

Vacant homes pose mosquito risk
Neglected and foreclosed, abandoned homes add one more obstacle to control mosquitoes, said Clark County Health Department official Doug Bentfield.



Though numbers are sporadic, the number of abandoned properties that need to be sprayed with chemicals to kill the bug’s larvae have increased, he said.



“This is costing the county money,” Bentfield said.



Most problems arise when owners leave items that collect water outside such as pools, bird baths and old tires. Even the children’s pools become a breeding ground for the mosquitoes if neglected.
–The News and Tribune

IBM researching better arsenic filter
Many people in the world lack access to clean drinking water. In places including Bangladesh, millions must drink water containing arsenic, which can cause neurological problems, organ failure, and death. Making robust water filters that can remove salt and arsenic without requiring a lot of energy has been a challenge. Researchers at IBM are developing a material used to make computer chips for more-efficient removal of salt and toxic chemicals from drinking water.

Polymer-membrane water filters have been in use since the 1970s “with no big materials innovation in a long time,” says Robert Allen, senior manager of chemistry at IBM’s Almaden Research Center, in San Jose, CA. There are problems with traditional membrane filters. The chlorine used to kill pathogens in water degrades them. They’re susceptible to fouling, or clogging up, when the water forced through them in a desalination process called reverse osmosis contains oil or proteins.

The IBM researchers have made a new membrane material that resists these problems while also screening out arsenic.
–MIT Technology Review

Continue Reading

Declining aquifers, superfund sites and dust storms

Each week, the Freshwater Society posts links to some of the best regional, national and international coverage of water and the environment. Follow the links to the publications where the articles originally appeared, and let us know your reaction to the research and policy issues they report.

Superfund program chronically underfunded
The Superfund program to clean up the nation’s most contaminated industrial sites was established nearly 30 years ago on the principle that those responsible for toxic pollution should pay for it.

So why is the government spending $600 million in stimulus money to work on sites like the defunct arsenic-fouled Vineland Chemical Company plant here in South Jersey?
–The New York Times

Wisconsin plans tough rules on invasives
Wisconsin officials advanced a major package of regulations designed to control the movement of invasive plants, fish and animals.

The Natural Resources Board voted, 7-0, on rules designed to fight non-native invaders that pose environmental and economic peril.

After the vote, the Department of Natural Resources said the measure – five years in the making – represents the first time a state has developed a comprehensive rule to fight the spread of invasive species.
–The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democrats debate softer climate rule
House Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are negotiating among themselves on whether to scale back legislation that would impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, with some conservatives and moderates calling for electric utilities to be given free pollution allowances and for more modest cuts in the targets for reducing emissions.
–The Washington Post

Dust storms increase in the West
Nestled in the San Juan Mountains at 9,300 feet, and surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks, Silverton, Colo., seems an unlikely place for a dust storm, especially with two feet of snow on the ground. So Chris Landry was alarmed on the afternoon of April 3 when he spotted a brown haze on the horizon; an hour later, a howling wind had engulfed the town in a full-fledged dust storm, turning everything from the sky to the snow a rusty red.

“It was almost surreal,” recalled Landry, executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies. The landscape looked like Mars after the storm passed, he said: “You could feel the dust, you could taste the dust.”
–The Washington Post

Louisiana aquifer steadily declining
Some areas in north Louisiana have lost one-third of their drinking water supplied exclusively by the Sparta aquifer.

For nearly 50 years, water levels in the Sparta aquifer have been declining by about two feet per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sixteen parishes in north Louisiana depend either entirely or partially on the Sparta aquifer for their potable water, but the groundwater source is being used faster than it can be replenished.
–Shreveport Times

Energy tax credit gives billions to paper companies
Paper companies in Minnesota and across the nation have figured out how to make billions off of an alternative energy tax credit that Congress devised two years ago. Their answer: burn diesel.

This rather paradoxical twist has already ignited a debate between the paper industry and environmental groups and lawmakers on both sides of the argument in what some industry watchers and analysts are claiming is a presage of fights to come as Congress tries to detail new climate and energy legislation this session.
–Minnpost.com

Research questions sustainability of Colorado River uses
The Colorado River is a critical source of water for seven Western states, each of which gets an annual allotment according to a system that has sparked conflict and controversy for decades. But in an era of climate change, even greater difficulties loom.

The scope of those potential problems is detailed in a study being published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography report that under various forecasts of the effects of warming temperatures on runoff into the Colorado, scheduled future water deliveries to the seven states are not sustainable.
–The New York Times

Gas drillers must account for water use, court rules
Energy companies drilling natural gas from underground coal seams must obtain water well permits or replace the water they use if other water supplies are affected, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled.

Groundwater pumped out during coal-bed methane drilling is not just a waste product, the court said, ruling on a lawsuit by landowners who say their water supplies are threatened by companies using groundwater to free natural gas in coal seams.
–The Associated Press

Illinois investigation of tainted water begun
Gov. Pat Quinn is demanding answers from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency about why residents of south suburban Crestwood weren’t notified that the village had pumped drinking water contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals for more than two decades.

In response to a Tribune investigation that revealed the village’s secret use of a polluted well, Quinn directed his senior staff to conduct a thorough review of the EPA’s actions in Crestwood. Among other things, the governor wants to know why the agency didn’t invoke a 2005 law requiring the state to issue a notification when residents could be exposed to soil or groundwater pollution.
–The Chicago Tribune

California begins $4 million conservation effort
Californians should take shorter showers, wash only full loads of laundry and use a broom instead of a hose to clean their driveways.

Those are some of the steps the state is promoting as part of a $4 million statewide public education campaign.
–The Associated Press

EPA to stiffen reporting requirements
The federal government will once again require companies to fully disclose the toxic chemicals they release into the air, onto land and into water.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced it was reversing a decision by the Bush administration in 2006 that reduced reporting of toxic pollution for more than 3,500 facilities nationwide.
–The Associated Press

Continue Reading