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Weekend Report

Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14, 2010

Despite rain, California still fighting over water

California has been deluged with rain and snow this winter, but its epic tug-of-war over water rages on, this time in the form of a plan by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to divert more water to the state's farmers. Feinstein has infuriated environmental activists, fishing groups and even fellow California Democrats by drafting federal legislation that would ease Endangered Species Act restrictions to allow more water to be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for growers in the state's Central Valley. California is the No. 1 farm state in the United States and its Central Valley is one of the country's most important agricultural regions. California farmers produce more than half the fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. The senator has not released details of her proposed measure, which may be attached as an amendment to a federal jobs bill. But she said it would grant farmers in the state's agricultural heartland up to 40 percent of their federal water allocation for two years. Cutbacks were forced by water shortages stemming from a three-year statewide drought and delta pumping restrictions imposed to protect imperiled salmon and smelt populations. Reuters_ 2/12/10

Federal judge does an about-face and upholds California water limits

A topsy-turvy week in a federal courtroom in Fresno, Calif., has led to the imposition of water flow restrictions to aid endangered delta smelt in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. Judge Oliver Wanger of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled against irrigators and farmers yesterday in their request for a restraining order to open water pumps on the south end of the delta to maximum capacity. Dead smelt have been salvaged this week at the pumps, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to order the flow restrictions to go into effect this morning under a standing federal biological opinion. The restraining order would have blocked those limits from taking effect for 14 days. New York Times_ 2/11/10

NOAA reorganizes with eye toward assessing effects of climate change

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a new climate service today, a reorganization effort aimed at improving long-range assessments of climate change, sea-level rise and severe weather. The effort is aimed at providing long-term forecasts to assist fisheries managers, farmers, state governments, renewable energy developers, water managers and others. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke likened the new climate shop to the 140-year-old National Weather Service, recounting how weather forecasting helped citizens prepare for the blizzard that slammed the mid-Atlantic region last weekend. The NOAA initiative would bring together existing climate science, currently spread through various branches at the agency. Thomas Karl, currently director of the National Climatic Data Center, would serve as transitional director of the climate service, which would also have six regional directors. New York Times_ 2/8/10

Maine experts advise against ditching meds in the trash; they wind up in drinking water

According to a survey by the state's environmental agency, small amounts of discarded drugs were found at three landfills in the state, confirming that pharmaceuticals thrown into household trash end up in water that drains through waste. Although most of Maine does not draw drinking water from rivers where landfill water is present, other states do. Lawmakers in Maine are trying to create a bill that would require drug manufacturers to develop and pay for a program to collect unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs from residents and dispose of them. Scientists and environmentalists have discovered that small amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in drinking water through human excretion in sewers or by pouring leftover medication down the drain. Research has revealed that pharmaceuticals sometimes harm fish and that human cells can fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs. Red Orbit_ 2/8/10

New Jersey legislature revives controversial bill to delay water quality rules

The Legislature has revived a bill vetoed by former Gov. Jon Corzine to delay an anti-sprawl, water quality management rule that gives state environmental officials more control over extending sewer and septic service. The measure would prevent the already delayed water management regulation, adopted in 2008 by the Department of Environmental Protection, from taking effect until April 2011. That rule would allow the DEP to restrict the extension of septic systems and sewer lines, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas, wetlands and rare species habitats. The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said the delay is designed to let developers introduce sprawl projects, win approvals and become exempt from environmental protection rules. The Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition said the rule will stop development even in areas designated in the state master plan for commercial and residential expansion. Newark Star-Ledger_ 2/8/10

Around the U.S.

Water main break means it could be days before South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, drinking water is safe

South Milwaukee officials say it might be days before residents can safely drink tap water after a water main break Friday morning caused a citywide pressure drop. Officials warned residents that they shouldn't use tap water because it could be contaminated. Boiling the water won't make it safe, officials said in a news release. The problem occurred when the main feeder pipe from South Milwaukee's water plant broke about 8:30 a.m., city officials said during a news conference. Water pressure throughout the city dropped almost immediately. South Milwaukee officials are concerned that E. coli bacteria could get into the city's water supply. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel_ 2/5/10

Bottled Water

Orland, California approves Crystal Geyser bottling plant; Opponents may appeal

In the wake of Monday's Orland City Council approval of the proposed Crystal Geyser sparkling water bottling plant, project opponents haven't decided whether they will file an environmental lawsuit. The project was approved by the Orland Technical Advisory Committee in December, and then appealed by two separate groups. The 5-0 vote Monday by the City Council upheld the previous project approval and denied the appeals. Trish Saint-Evens, a member of Save Our Water Resources, said she believes the city attorney did not interpret California Environmental Quality Act rules appropriately. Saint-Evens said her group will meet next week to discuss a suit. The property has long been zoned heavy industrial, said Orland's attorney Tom Andrews during a follow-up interview Tuesday. He said Crystal Geyser matched zoning and code requirements for the area. Chico Enterprise-Record_ 2/3/10

Starbucks recalls glass water bottles

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Health Canada and Starbucks have jointly announced a voluntary recall of glass water bottles sold by the coffee-shop chain. The recall includes about 11,000 bottles in the United States and 1,200 bottles in Canada, which can shatter when people remove or insert a stopper. Starbucks, based in Seattle, Wash., has received 10 reports of either the stoppers or the water bottles shattering, including eight incidents in which someone’s hand was cut by glass shards. The 20-ounce bottles have the words “Glass Water Bottle” printed on a blue label fixed to the bottle. The bottles were sold for $9 at Starbucks locations nationwide in January. Providence Journal_ 2/2/10

Orland, California residents raise concerns about impact of Crystal Geyser bottling plant on groundwater supply

Orland residents belonging to the group Save Our Water Resources (SOWR) will be attending the Feb. 1 meeting of the Orland City Council to speak on behalf of an appeal they filed objecting to the Orland Technical Advisory Committee’s recent approval of Crystal Geyser’s proposal. The Calistoga-based company is seeking approval of the bottling plant on County Road 200 in Orland, on an industrial-zoned parcel that is bordered on three sides by bucolic agricultural-residential land. Prominent concerns are the effects of the water-bottling operation on groundwater supply and the movement of a nearby, PCE-contaminated dry-cleaner plume, as well as the potential for high levels of noise from both plant operations and the daily trips of 25 big-rig trucks to and from the plant. SOWR members are hoping that the Orland City Council will decide to order an environmental-impact report before any further steps are taken toward construction of the plant, which Crystal Geyser says will provide employment for 20 to 25 Orland-area residents. No EIR has been ordered in the nearly two-year period since Crystal Geyser—owned by Japanese conglomerate Otsuka Pharmaceutical—first held meetings, beginning in April 2008, with the Orland TAC. Chico News & Review_ 1/28/10


El Paso, Texas, desalination plant: Another resource for fresh water

What's a desalination plant doing in a city that's hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean? The plants transforms brackish groundwater from the Hueco Bolson into fresh water. Taking in this salty, brackish water allows what Christina Montoya of the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board calls the world's largest inland desalination plant to conserve fresh ground water in the Borderland. kvia_ 2/13/10

California Air Resources Board reaffirms greenhouse-gas plan for Poseidon Resources desalination plant in Carlsbad

In a letter to the California Coastal Commission (CCC) on 8 February 2010, the CARB says, "We do not believe there have been any changes to the project or the assumptions underlying Poseidon's GHG plan, which would change the positions expressed in our August 5, 2008 letter." Poseidon Resources announced that CCC staff have recommended that the commission deny the request made by opponents of seawater desalination to revoke the Coastal Development Permit for the Carlsbad Desalination Project. The commission is scheduled to hear the revocation request when it meets in on 10 February 2010. D&WR_ 2/9/10

Sea water desalination project in south Orange County,  California, heads for new level of testing

The Municipal Water District of Orange County announced Wednesday that it has awarded a $1.05 million contract to Separation Processes Inc. for Phase 3 of the South Orange Coastal Ocean Desalination Project at San Juan Creek. Municipal Water District is partnering with San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, South Coast Water District, Laguna Beach County Water District and Moulton Niguel Water District to try to create a stable new water source to improve supply reliability for all the partners. Currently, South County cities rely heavily on imported water, making them vulnerable to water shortages or reductions in allocations. Phase 3 of the Municipal Water District project should take 18 months, the agency said, and a full-scale desalination plant could be completed in 2016. Orange County Register_ 2/4/10


Pennsylvania plans Marcellus Shale formation hydraulic fracturing regulation to protect drinking water

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Thursday proposed new rules to strengthen state regulation of natural gas drilling to protect drinking water supplies and announced the hiring of 68 new inspectors. The measures reflect the Democratic governor's environmental concerns while still aiming to promote development of the massive Marcellus Shale formation. Marcellus is one of four major shale formations that could provide the United States with an abundant energy supply but whose exploitation could be inhibited by regulators. The regulations are designed to prevent the escape of drilling chemicals into domestic water supplies, following numerous local reports of contamination from a process called hydraulic fracturing. Reuters_ 1/28/10

Georgia, Florida, Alabama Water Sharing

Georgia Gov. Sony Perdue backs state water conservation law and study of new Atlanta reservoirs

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced this morning that he is backing legislation packed with water conservation measures and a study of building new reservoirs as the Atlanta region faces the prospect of losing Lake Lanier as its main source of drinking water. The legislation would force water utilities to detect leaks, require the home building industry to use fixtures that rely on less water and set standards for measuring water use for each unit in apartment buildings. The bill would also make it easier for communities that conserve water to obtain state grants and lower interest loans. And it would set up a study committee to consider building new reservoirs or expanding existing ones. Called the Georgia Water Stewardship Act, the bill stems from recommendations the governor’s Water Contingency Task Force announced late last year. Perdue formed the panel after a federal judge issued a stinging ruling in July against Georgia in its water dispute with Alabama and Florida. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 2/3/10

Federal court allows Georgia to appeal water ruling

Georgia may appeal a momentous ruling that declared metro Atlanta cannot tap into Lake Lanier to supply most of its water needs, the federal appeals court in Atlanta has decided. In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Georgia one of its few legal victories of late in the high-stakes, tri-state water dispute. The court agreed with Georgia's legal team that one facet of Senior Judge Paul Magnuson's ruling in July was a "final judgment" that can be appealed. The 11th Circuit said that because all issues in the complex litigation are "inextricably intertwined," it will consider all findings made by Magnuson in his sweeping July 17 ruling. In July, Magnuson found it illegal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw water from the massive federal reservoir formed by Buford Dam to meet the water needs for more than 3.5 million metro area residents. Atlanta Journal-Constitution_ 1/21/10

Haiti Water

Haiti donations provide everything from clean water to a school

With nearly $60 million raised so far by Friday's "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, a spokesperson for UNICEF provided MTV News with a list of some of the items that can be provided:

» Collapsible water containers ($2): Each container holds 10 liters of water and is especially useful for kids carrying water for long distances to ensure that all their water doesn't spill en route from their water supply. It is also very useful for storing clean, safe water for everyday use.

» Water-purification tablets (60 cents for 50 tablets): Each tablet is able to turn 4 to 5 liters of dirty water into water suitable for drinking. Every day, 4,000 children worldwide die because they do not have access to clean water, according to UNICEF.

» Oral-rehydration salts (7 cents for one package): This solution, containing sugar and salt, treats children suffering from dehydration caused by diarrhea. Approximately 3,500 children die each day from dehydration caused by acute diarrhea, according to UNICEF. MTV News/VH1.com_ 1/25/10

Louisville, Kentucky sends drinking water aid to Haiti

After a day in Haiti's quake-shattered capital, sweating in snarled traffic, scrounging for batteries, attending meetings and nearly getting its first water systems built, word that the Louisville was opening its wallets to help was buoying news for relief workers trying to bring pure water to the people here. Edge team members said the $25,000 in promised funds from Louisville would provide fresh water for 50,000 people a day once the $5,000 purification systems were up and running. The team was preparing to turn on the first two water purifiers Friday morning— one at a Salvation Army site filled with homeless survivors and a second serving a clinic that is seeing more than 200 injured or sick patients a day. The next day, the group plans to install a third system at the Haitian Community Hospital, clogged with the injured seeking treatment and short on fresh water. Ahead, the group plans to set up purifier systems in remote towns not receiving aid. Louisville Courier-Journal_ 1/21/10

UN: Water supplies cut to Haiti capital

Key areas of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince have been heavily damaged by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake, United Nations officials said Wednesday, adding that water supplies were cut. 'All municipal water supplies are reportedly shut off,' said Elizabeth Byrs with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, quoting Haitian ministry officials. Nearly 3.5 million people are estimated to be in areas affected by 'strong quakes,' OCHA estimated. In an earthquake, 'what people need urgently, more than food, is water,' said Veronique Taveau with the UN's Children Fund (UNICEF). UN officials said concerns over the water supply were growing along with fears of disease spreads. Deutsche Presse-Agentur/monsters and critics.com_  1/13/10

International News

India's Shivsu Canadian installs Rs 52 crore worth water plant for Iraqi government

Chennai-based Shivsu Canadian Clear International Limited, a leading water technology solutions provider and manufacturer of mineral water packaging equipments, has become the first Indian company to successfully install Rs 52 crore worth desalination water plant for Iraqi Government. Shivsu's work includes design, manufacture, supply, construction and commissioning of the plant on a turnkey basis, a company release said. The capacity of the plant is 20 MLD (million liters per day). newKerala.com_ 12/28/09

China's Weihe River diesel spill may affect drinking water supply

The diesel fuel leak into a tributary of the Yellow River has spread downstream into Shanxi and Henan provinces, contaminating and potentially affecting the drinking water supply of many local residents. The fuel leaking into the Weihe River has reached the Sanmenxia reservoir on the Yellow River in Henan province despite earlier efforts to prevent it from spreading into the main river. China National Petroleum Corp is the owner of the broken oil pipeline. The broken diesel pipeline, which runs from Lanzhou in Gansu province to Changsha in Hunan province, was found leaking in the wee hours of Dec. 30 at a point close to the Chishui River, a tributary of the Weihe River. Su Maolin, deputy director of the Yellow River Water Resources Commission, yesterday refuted the claim by CNPC that the broken pipeline was caused by a third-party construction project, and called for a further probe into the accident after the spill has been tackled. China Daily/XinHua_ 1/5/10

Regional Water Issues

North Carolina's attorney general balks at secret water talks with South Carolina

North Carolina's top attorney has rejected a call by his South Carolina counterpart to hold closed-door talks to settle a dispute over waterways that flow through the two states, according to a letter released Friday. Attorney General Roy Cooper said in the note that he wants the discussions in a commission appointed by both states to be open for public input. South Carolina's top attorney, Henry McMaster, had suggested in a December letter to Cooper that the two sides hold confidential discussions. AP/Businessweek 1/22/10

Utah governor ready to make deal for Snake Valley water sharing with Nevada

Utah and Nevada officials say they're ready to sign a deal splitting border groundwater in the Snake Valley despite opposition from members of a new Utah advisory board set up to study the plan. The Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council met Wednesday at the Utah Capitol to review public comments about the deal, which effectively grants Nevada the water that a Las Vegas utility wants for a proposed pipeline supplying the city. After discussing those comments, board members themselves voiced their misgivings but learned that a final agreement is imminent. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert believes the deal is needed to protect the rights of current water users in the desert valley west of Delta, said John Harja, board chairman and the governor's director of public lands policy coordination. "He is convinced that an agreement is better than none," Harja said. The next step, he said, is to declare an end to negotiations and have Utah Department of Natural Resources Director Mike Styler sign the deal. Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling said the governor's support has nothing to do with Utah's hopes for Nevada's support of a Lake Powell pipeline. "This agreement is not being used as a bargain chip for anything else," she said. Salt Lake Tribune_ 1/7/10

Judge tentatively invalidates West water pact

A California judge on Thursday tentatively invalidated a landmark pact to curtail the state's overuse of water and allow other Western states to claim their fair share. The 2003 agreement ended of years of bickering over how to divide the Colorado River between California and six western states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  More than 30 million acre-feet of water—enough to cover the state of Pennsylvania a foot deep—would move from farms to cities in Southern California over the 75-year life of the deal.  Superior Court Judge Roland Candee ruled in Sacramento that the state improperly agreed to pick up much of the cost of saving the shrinking Salton Sea in the southeastern California desert. Restoring the state's largest lake was a crucial piece of the agreement.  The state put no limit on costs, "even if they ultimately amounted to millions or billions of dollars," violating a constitutional limit on assuming debts, Candee wrote.  "The Court has no ability to sanction a way to contract around the Constitution," he wrote.  The judge will hear arguments next Thursday to decide whether to make the ruling final.  San Jose Mercury News_12/10/09

Research and Technology

Water hits and sticks: Findings challenge a century of assumptions about soil hydrology

Researchers have discovered that some of the most fundamental assumptions about how water moves through soil in a seasonally dry climate such as the Pacific Northwest are incorrect – and that a century of research based on those assumptions will have to be reconsidered. A new study by scientists from Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency showed – much to the surprise of the researchers – that soil clings tenaciously to the first precipitation after a dry summer, and holds it so tightly that it almost never mixes with other water. The finding is so significant, researchers said, that they aren't even sure yet what it may mean. But it could affect our understanding of how pollutants move through soils, how nutrients get transported from soils to streams, how streams function and even how vegetation might respond to climate change. The research was just published online in Nature Geoscience, a professional journal. "This could have enormous implications for our understanding of watershed function," said Jeff McDonnell, an OSU distinguished professor and holder of the Richardson Chair in Watershed Science in the OSU College of Forestry. "It challenges about 100 years of conventional thinking." News Release_ 1/21/10

Read the full report

U.S. Droughts

After three dry years, Northern California's Lake Sonoma drinking water supply hits 100 percent full

Lake Sonoma has recovered from three years of below-average rainfall, filling up its water supply pool and hitting the flood stage Tuesday for the first time in five years. At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Lake Sonoma had 246,337 acre-feet of water. At the beginning of the year, before a series of storms hit the North Coast, it held 182,090 acre-feet. It is the first time that the water was in the flood pool since New Years Day in 2005, when storms caused flooding along the Russian River. The lake is the primary source of water for 600,000 residents from Windsor to San Rafael. Press Democrat_ 1/26/10

And Finally

Cleveland Cavaliers remove all drinking fountains from arena

To get a drink of water at the arena, named The Q, you must stand in line at a concession stand, where you can get a small courtesy cup of water for free or pay $4 for bottled water. Team spokesman Tad Carper said the Cavs took out the fountains in November to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses that cause H1N1 flu and other illnesses. He said Friday that with health-related decisions like this one, the team takes advice from the National Basketball Association and the International Association of Assembly Managers. However, officials from those organizations said in interviews that they are not recommending that fountains be removed. Local health officials said in interviews Friday that research does not suggest that turning off water fountains is necessary to fight the spread of viruses. Cleveland Plain-Dealer_ 2/8/10



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