The White House recently finalized rules to clarify jurisdiction for the Clean Water Act. But it won’t resolve the fights boiling over between urban and rural interests in places like Iowa and elsewhere over how to clean it up.
Des Moines, Iowa has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to filter nitrate from the Raccoon River, where it gets its drinking water. The situation has grown so dire that the local water utility says it will soon need to build a new facility to comply with federal pollution laws, at a cost of somewhere between $76 million and $184 million.
To hear those who manage the area’s water utility tell it, the dirty water isn’t really Des Moines’ problem at all — it’s the problem of outlying rural counties, where farmers apply nitrogen-heavy fertilizers to boost crop production. And they are tired of waiting for farmers to voluntarily reduce the amounts of nitrate they allow to seep into groundwater, and tired of waiting for someone to police the farmers.
Under statutes just signed into law by the governor, if you discover an environmental disaster in Wyoming you are required by law to keep it to yourself. According to legal experts, the statutes which make it a crime to “collect resource data” from any “open land,” are clearly unconstitutional and interfere with the purposes of federal environmental laws by making it impossible for citizens to collect the information necessary to bring an environmental enforcement action. The law defines the word ‘collect’ as any method to preserve information in any form, including taking a photograph so long as the person gathering the information intends to submit it to a federal or state agency.
Michael Sullivan from IBM writes on the Forbes Blog http://www.forbes.com/ : “Massive forces are refashioning the relationship between humans and water.” Noting the current challenges presented by climate change, floods, droughts, population growth and increasing urbanization. “That’s why some countries and cities are getting very smart, very fast, not only about how they manage water, but also about connecting their water system to their energy, transportation and emergency management systems,” he says.
Yale University’s environment 360 reports on the important work constructed wetlands do filtering drugs and chemicals from drinking water. Writer Carina Storrs points out despite Southern California’s 96-mile long Santa Ana River river being treated at several dozen wastewater treatment plants, unwanted residue from pharmaceuticals and herbicides still remained, posing threats to endocrine activity, metabolism, and development in humans.
A year-old pilot project at the Prado Wetlands, operated by the Orange County Water District, now channels river water through a series of ponds allowing sunlight and bacteria to degrade the harmful pharmaceuticals and other man-made chemicals before the river reaches the city of Anaheim. This filtering is becoming critical as scientists fear that the more humans are exposed to antibiotics, the greater the threat antibiotic-resistant bacteria becomes.
Brett Walton quotes an email to Circle of Blue from Jonathan Overpeck: ‘It’s a wakeup call kind of paper that I’d take seriously.’ A climate scientist at the University of Arizona, Overpeck is a lead author for the United Nations’ climate assessments. The recent paper he references was published in the Journal of Climate and highlights how rising temperature really will be hard on our water supply in a large swath of the United States, especially the Southwest from California to Texas.
A baseline assessment can best be described as the basis by which to judge the success of any action taken to conserve, protect, enhance or restore water resources or habitats. Monitoring, when properly executed, continues to evaluate the health of the resource after any action is taken in order to track results in a meaningful way. This is the critical feedback loop to insure successful restoration and prudent adaptive resource management.
Trout Headwaters Inc performs baseline assessments to meet a variety of objectives, and to guide all restoration planning, design and installation. New technologies have made the assessment process quick and low cost – certainly the best investment toward a successful enhancement or restoration project.
Assessments can do the following:
Reveal ecological potential and challenges;
Answer project feasibility questions;
Uncover hidden problems before you renew, repair or restore;
Provide baseline data for permitting and for comparison over time;
In advance of their Feb. 8-11, 2015 National Conference in Washington, DC, The Corps Network just released its 2014 annual report. The report recaps the good work of nearly 120 service and conservation corps, many partners, and supporters, to protect and restore our precious natural resources while offering young adults opportunities to improve their communities and grow personally.
Trout Headwaters looks forward to our Feb. 9 workshop at the conference where Waders in the Water program participants will share some of their experiences with this important green jobs program that continues to grow, and now reaches into 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Brett Walton, writing at the blog Circle of Blue www.circleofblue.org points up the huge potential consequences of a newly pending lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works that may affect both the reach and enforcement of the 1972 Clean Water Act.
The impending court action seeks to require three counties in Iowa to apply the same federal permitting process to certain types of farm pollution that industrial facilities must follow. The post quotes Graham Gillette, chairman of the Water Works board: ‘I don’t think any voluntary system will work. If we had adopted a voluntary system for air in the 1960s and 1970s, New York City would still look like Beijing today. We need some basic and achievable standards.’
Water news and alerts continued to receive notice throughout 2014. Severe drought as well as dramatic flooding again topped U.S. headlines. My personal Top Water Wishes for the New Year include a quick look back at some of the important water stories that streamed through our offices this past year.
In a recent news story about the stalled Maryland nutrient program which is showing little outcome since 2008, The Baltimore Sun points up some of the concerns of environmentalists and other opponents of nutrient trading, settling on a lack of scientific verification and general lack of interest by landowners in the voluntary state run program. Among the claims in the story are fears that ‘privatizing environmental cleanup is ripe for fraud.’
All this comes as neighboring Virginia’s pollution trading program moves ahead and is touted for its “innovative market-based approach” to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. >Read More