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2007 Around the U.S. Water News

December, 2007

Kansas makes water demands on Nebraska

Kansas threatened a court fight Wednesday unless Nebraska reduces the amount of water it takes from the Republican River and pays an undetermined amount for allegedly taking too much water in the past.  Kansas charges that Nebraska's water use exceeded what it was allowed under an interstate agreement for the years 2005 and 2006 by about 27 billion gallons — enough to supply a city of 100,000 for 10 years.  Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison and the state Division of Water Resources sent letters to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Ann Bleed, director of that state's Department of Natural Resources.
Morrison spokeswoman Ashley Anstaett said Kansas attorneys are still trying to calculate how much they think Nebraska should pay.  However, David Barfield, chief engineer for the Division of Water Resources, said the money will be "certainly in the tens of millions."  Water use from the Republican River is governed by a 2003 decree from the U.S. Supreme Court, which approved a settlement among Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado of a lawsuit that Kansas filed in 1998.  "I don't think there's any question that they've overused the water," Anstaett said. "We believe that our remedy package is fair and will begin to get them on the right track with compliance."  Associated Press_12/19/07

Water Demand Sinking California's Coachella Valley
This desert oasis east of Los Angeles sold itself for decades on water and all the luxury it brings: strings of emerald golf courses, lush resorts and manicured neighborhoods with sparkling pools.  Now, the region that water built suddenly finds itself on shifting ground — and in danger of drying up. Parts of the Coachella Valley have sunk more than a foot in a decade as groundwater was sucked up to feed a thirsty economy.  A study released this week has left officials scrambling to keep the tap on without jeopardizing more than 120 world-class golf resorts — among them PGA West, Bermuda Dunes Country Club and Mission Hills — or slowing a population that has ballooned by 25 percent in just five years.  Water officials are pursuing a range of solutions to ease the pressure on the aquifer, from a giant pipeline to import water for golf courses to giving away timers to regulate home sprinklers.  And though there hasn't been any damage, there are fears that if more isn't done, the uneven turf eventually could fracture sewer lines, crack roads and crumble foundations, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in repairs.  Scientists with the water district and the U.S. Geological Survey found that the earth sank anywhere from several inches to more than 13 inches at a dozen locations between 1996 and 2005, including in Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Coachella.  Residential homes suck up about one-third of the valley's total annual water use, and most of it is pure groundwater. Farmers, who account for about half the water use, irrigate almost entirely with recycled or imported Colorado River water brought in through a branch of the All-American Canal.  But golf courses are also to blame: together, they use about 32.5 billion gallons of water a year — most of it groundwater — and some soak the turf with more than 6 million gallons a day during annual reseeding.  Associated Press_12/19/07

Gravel mine controversy swirls around small New York water system

The hamlet of Chaffee in southern Erie County has about 90 residences, but it could get an $825,000 water system. The Chaffee Water Works, a 111-year-old private company, is ready to use about $626,000 in state grants and no-interest loans to see to that. The question that is causing controversy in the Town of Sardinia, though, is where the rest of the money will come from. Gernatt Asphalt products has offered to donate $200,000 to the Water Works — if the Town Board will drop its suit against the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and let Gernatt reopen its gravel mine. “They’re asking us to drop a lawsuit that we feel has merit to allow the water works — a private company — to accept money,” said Sardinia Supervisor Kathy Balus. “It seems to me that Gernatt is giving them the ultimatum: Do they want water or do they want to look at a gravel pit out of their backyards." The Town Board has sued the Zoning Board, claiming it improperly gave Gernatt the variance after Sardinia had finally won a decade-plus lawsuit to stop the gravel company. Gernatt attorney Peter Sorgi said the offer to help the Chaffee system will disappear if the Town Board persists in its suit. Gernatt is the suit’s third party since it has the property in dispute. Buffalo News_ 12/19/07

21 named to Colorado water-court review panel

Twenty-one Coloradans have been appointed to a new committee that will review the state's water-court system, the Colorado Supreme Court announced Friday. Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey established the Water Court Committee on Dec. 4 "to review water court processes and identify ways in which we may improve them," she said in a statement Friday. Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs will chair the panel. The state's water court system -- first established in 1879 and re-organized in 1969 -- decides water-rights cases and other matters concerning Colorado's water supplies. A district judge selected by the Supreme Court serves as water judge for each of seven "water divisions" of the state covering a river watershed. The new committee is in response to recent calls for streamlining water-court procedures. The 21 members will serve until Aug. 1, when they are expected to make a report to Mullarkey. Denver Business Journal_ 12/14/07

Reclaimed water OK for lake, Tempe says
Tempe is proposing to fill Town Lake with reclaimed water instead of drinking water. But residents need not worry about safety issues and the triathlons will go on, officials say.The city has a "good supply of treated, high-quality reclaimed water" that it wants to make use of, said Basil Boyd, a water-resources hydrologist with Tempe.  Reclaimed water is recycled wastewater that is collected from homes and businesses and undergoes a treatment process and basic disinfection. It is commonly used throughout the Valley for things like watering golf courses.  The lake currently receives water from a Salt River Project canal or the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project. Boyd said the idea has been under discussion for three years, since concerns began to arise about water levels at Roosevelt Lake. It is an effort to better manage water resources and examine long-term drought issues, he said.   The city first must get approval from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and then will have to construct a $10.5 million water pipeline, all of which could take at least two years, Boyd said.   Arizona Republic_12/13/07 Logon required

Baltimore City to tap Susquehanna for drinking water
Baltimore City will soon pump 50 million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River to supplement falling water levels in the region’s three reservoirs, public works officials announced.  The switch, beginning Tuesday, marks the first time since January 2002 the river was tapped to supplement the system’s sources for drinking water. Baltimore’s reservoirs have dropped since June — when they were 99 percent full — to their current level of 66 percent, officials said.  Still, acting City Public Works Director Shirley Williams cautioned the move is precautionary.  “This is by no means a water emergency,” Williams said in a statement. “We are basically conserving some of our reservoir water and using the Susquehanna while the river is running high.”  Despite recent storms, city officials said they expect dry weather patterns to continue. The city’s 1.8 million customers across the metropolitan region use 265 million gallons per day. In the summer, demand increases to more than 300 gallons per day, they said.  Williams, who called the Susquehanna’s water quality “excellent,” urged consumers to reduce water use by 5 percent.  Baltimore Examiner_12/13/07

Storm outages in Oklahoma affect water, sewer plants in 14 counties

Water and sewage treatment plants in numerous areas are operating at reduced capacity. Some have no electricity and are unable to pump water. Some plants are working from generators, while others are on the list to receive one, said Skylar McElhaney, cqspokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality. “The whole situation is terrible. Some areas are getting bottled water, and others are waiting,” she said. NewsOK_ 12/11/07

Editorial: California on course for another water debacle
Dueling initiatives on water projects set stage for a rerun of 1982 electoral follies

California's "water community" –– is one of the silliest misnomers in common parlance.  A community, like a functional family, shares certain attributes: It communicates. It recognizes shared interests. It doesn't put the needs of an individual over that of the group.

California's water community is anything but. At its worst, it is an assemblage of medieval hill towns, heavily fortified and prone toward lobbing fire balls at each other. For several months, the governor's office and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata have been trying to intercept those bombs. They are failing. California's water wars now appear to be heading to the ballot.  Again.  Sacramenton Bee_12/7/07

Precipitation across U.S. intensifies over 50 years

Across the United States, the number of severe rainfalls and heavy snows has grown significantly in the last half-century, with the greatest increases in New England and the Middle Atlantic region, according to a report released yesterday. Environment America, a national group that advocates new laws and policies to mitigate the effects of climate change, issued the report. The report, on the group’s Web site,, is an independent analysis of precipitation data from 1948 to 2006 that was vetted by two climate scientists. It shows that the number of downpours and heavy snows has increased by 22 percent to 26 percent across the country since 1948. Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont were among the states in which occurrences of severe precipitation have increased more than 50 percent, according to the report. In Oregon and Florida, however, the incidence of extreme rainfall dropped slightly, though in Florida the drop was not statistically significant. “As temperatures rise,” the report notes, “precipitation will become increasingly likely to fall as rain rather than snow, increasing runoff and likely reducing water supplies in areas dependent on snowpack." New York Times_ 12/5/07

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U.S. presidential candidates spare few words for water

When it comes to water, the 2008 presidential candidates are remarkably parched for words. They are well aware that there are few faster ways for a candidate to get into political trouble than to wade into the sensitive subject of the water shortages afflicting large areas of the nation. That's especially true when it comes to proposals for regional water sharing. Water-rich regions such as the Great Lakes states have long been wary that water-scarce, but politically robust regions like the Sun Belt will try to siphon off their precious resource. Such competing regional interests are laden with political implications. The handful of states leading off the presidential nominating contests in January tentatively includes the Great Lakes state of Michigan, as well as Nevada in the desert Southwest and South Carolina and Florida in the Southeast, which is suffering a historic drought. Several Great Lakes states, including Ohio, are also swing states certain to be top priorities in the general election. Yet sidestepping the problem is a luxury that presidential candidates won't have forever, Duke University political scientist David Rohde said. The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of rising temperatures and evaporation rates, lack of rain, urban sprawl, waste and overuse. AP/Oneida Dispatch_ 11/12/07

October, 2007

Hardly a fair fire fight; Ramona, California's airport is a hub for air assault on San Diego fires, until the water fails

At 6:30 in the morning Tuesday, Debora Lutz of the U.S. Forest Service got the first sign she was in for a hellacious day in the air war against the Witch. The Witch fire in northern San Diego County had already devoured more than 150,000 acres, and was eating its way down the San Dieguito River Valley, heading straight for the blue-chip seaside real estate of Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. And now -- good morning, Battalion Chief Lutz -- the city of Ramona's main water pump had died, courtesy of a burning power transmission line. That could mean no water to fill the bellies of Lutz's small, ad hoc fleet of air tankers based at Ramona Airport. No water to dilute the blood-red fire retardant to the proper color and consistency of strawberry milk. With the main city water pump disabled, crews brought on line an electric pump of their own to keep the water flowing. Airport power interruptions kept stalling the pump throughout the morning, and workers had to switch to a gasoline-powered generator to keep it running. Meanwhile, water pressure throughout Ramona began to drop. The pressure drop, which started at higher elevations, was working its way down to the basin and the airport. A little after noon, Battalion Chief Ray Chaney, a spotter in one of the planes, came into the control room to grab a cheeseburger and take a half-hour break. "The whole county is on fire," he announced. By 3 p.m., the airport's water problems had coalesced into a full-blown crisis. City water pressure had dropped so low the airport pumps couldn't coax any water from the system. Worse, tanker trucks sent to the water district's main pumping site were turned away. Only a 90-minute supply of water to dilute the fire retardant remained on hand. Lutz and half a dozen tanker truck drivers stood racking their brains for a solution.

Los Angeles Times_ 10/24/07 (logon required)

New York City businesses threatened with water shutoffs

New York City is warning businesses to pay their water bills or have their service turned off. The city Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday it sent notices to more than 30 companies warning them that they will lose service starting Oct. 29 unless they pay up. The DEP has a new initiative to increase collection rates. In the past, it only turned off the spigots when leaking pipes threatened surrounding buildings. Newsday_ 10/17/07

California lawmakers miss deadline to put water bonds on ballot, but they may give themselves more time

Unable to agree on a far-reaching California water policy, state lawmakers will miss a Tuesday deadline to put a bond measure on the February ballot. But that doesn't mean they're out of time. Republicans and Democrats could give themselves another month to settle their differences about whether to build more dams and put a water bond on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot, secretary of state spokeswoman Nicole Winger said. Aaron McLear, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokesman, said the parties continue to negotiate. Schwarzenegger called a special session of the Legislature to focus on water issues and is asking lawmakers to approve two new dams and expand a third as a way to bolster California's water-delivery system. He also called a special session on health care reform, an issue that also remains unresolved. Lawmakers have tangled over new dams for decades. Fresno Bee_ 10/15/07

Chlorine leak forces evacuation of 1,500 near South Carolina water plant

A chlorine dioxide leak was found at a Rock Hill water filtration plant Monday, prompting a nearly nine-hour evacuation of about 1,500 people in homes and businesses, officials said. No injuries were reported and there were no workers inside the equipment building where the leak occurred, city spokeswoman Lyn Garris said. An alarm on an electronic monitor signaled the leak at about 4:30 a.m., and it was stopped within an hour, Garris said. Between 4 and 25 pounds of chlorine dioxide gas leaked from a device that pulsates small amounts of the chlorine mixture into the water as a disinfectant. The mixture, which is less toxic than chlorine, is a severe respiratory and eye irritant in humans, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The cause of the leak was under investigation, Garris said. AP/Boston Herald_ 10/15/07

Rice students helping clear the water in Mexico
A part of Engineers Without Borders, they create a filtering system for village

After about four years and a dozen road trips, a group of Rice University students is poised to finish a project to bring cleaner water to a Mexican village about 30 miles south of Big Bend National Park.  "I was there in the beginning," said Candace Marbury, a 22-year-old senior mechanical engineering major and San Antonio native, "and I want to see it through. I made a commitment to these people."  Marbury is a member of the university's chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit devoted to improving the lives of people in developing countries through infrastructure projects.  The students designed, built and installed a water system in Piedritas, a rural desert town of about 100 people that relies on a well for water. They've driven to the village several times a year to work on the project.  Houston Chronicle_10/11/07

Chicago Marathon runners, organizers at odds over water

Some increasingly desperate runners taking part in the brutally hot Chicago Marathon passed around half-drunk water bottles offered by complete strangers. Others detoured to nearby convenience stores in search of the hydration they say they couldn’t find on the course. Still, race organizers on Monday defended their preparation for Sunday’s marathon — during which one man died and hundreds were sent to hospitals — even as runner after runner told stories of fighting to stave off heat exhaustion during the race that ultimately was cut short. Participants lambasted organizers for failing to provide enough water and sports drinks, but organizers argued needed supplies were available at the 26.2-mile race’s 15 aid stations and underprepared runners may not have known how to cope. Officials said the death was unrelated to the weather, but hundreds of others were treated for heat-related ailments after temperatures reached a race-record 88 degrees within two hours of the 8 a.m. start. Organizers stopped the race about 3½ hours in. AP/Peoria Journal-Star_ 10/8/07

Residents of South Bloomfield, Ohio seeing red over pink tap water

Pink water has been showing up in sinks and tubs off-and-on for more than a year. The culprit: spikes in potassium permanganate, an oxidant used to remove iron and manganese from the community's water supply. Albert Roese, South Bloomfield's mayor for 33 years, said that although the community's water poses no threat, he understands residents' frustration and is looking for solutions. Besides repeatedly flushing water lines, village officials have replaced filters, recalibrated equipment, tapped the expertise of outside engineers and beefed up maintenance schedules at the community's aging water plant. They've also started using a different chemical, sodium permanganate, which should reduce the likelihood of discoloration. Columbus Dispatch_ 10/6/07

Water supply fails for residents of Hawaii's North Kohala district

Much of the Big Island's North Kohala district, with a population of at least 6,000 residents, was left without any residential water supply yesterday when the sole functioning water pump for Hawaii County's main system failed. The Department of Water Supply immediately began trucking water in tankers to two sites and people were carrying water home from there in containers. The water has to be trucked more than 20 miles from Waimea over the winding Kohala Mountain Road. "There's no way we can keep up with the demand in that area," said department employee Daryl Ikeda. Water Department spokeswoman Kris Aton said the earliest that repairs can be made is between tomorrow and Tuesday. Ikeda said even those repairs would be temporary until something more permanent can be done. Star-Bulletin_ 10/6/07

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson makes water sharing part of his presidential campaign

Seizing on a hot-button issue in the desert state of Nevada, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson is calling for a national summit on water to address needs in the parched West. If elected, Richardson said , he would bring states together to talk about a way for water-rich northern-tier states to help with shortages in the Southwest. He also said he would elevate the Bureau of Reclamation to a Cabinet-level post. The bureau within the U.S. Interior Department manages water resources in the West. Las Vegas Sun_ 10/04/07

September, 2007

California Assembly Democrats unveil water plan

With two competing water plans already on the table, California Assembly Democrats weighed in Thursday with their own package of bills to fix the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and increase water supplies.  The legislation includes few details at this point. But the bills reaffirm the reluctance of Democrats to use state money to pay for dams - a major part of Gov. Schwarzenegger's $9 billion plan.  The governor's proposal, carried by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, would authorize the state to pay for as much as half the cost of three dams for a total of $5.1 billion. The targeted sites include one east of Fresno, another in Colusa County and expansion of an existing dam in Contra Costa County.  The legislation by Assembly Democrats states that local water users should carry "the strong majority" of water project costs.  The third plan, a $5 billion proposal by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, would free local water agencies to spend $2 billion in state water supply money as they see fit - on dams, groundwater storage or other initiatives. It also includes $2 billion for projects to repair the deteriorating Delta. The governor includes a similar amount in his plan for the Delta.  The goal of both parties is to get a bond measure on the Feb. 5 ballot. Lawmakers have until Oct. 16 to strike a deal.  Sacramento Bee_9/27/07

Detroit launches water assistance program

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) have collaborated to develop a Water Assistance Program to help low-income Detroit residents manage their water and sewerage bills. ClickonDetroit.com_ 9/24/07

South Dakota water well projects get $500,000

The city of Faith and the Fall River Water Users District will receive federal money for new wells to help offset water losses caused by persistent drought. Faith will get $260,000, and the Fall River Water Users District will get $275,000, which is part of $2.3 million awarded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for drought-relief projects in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Arizona and California. The drought assistance funding was made available in the Supplemental Appropriations Act signed May 27, according to a news release. Rapid City Journal_ 9/23/07

Water usage models spur regional planning in Illinois

With last month's floods fresh on their minds, some 300 engineers and elected officials gathered Thursday to discuss the importance of cooperative planning on water-related issues and implementing a sustainable water supply.  Rapid population growth has depleted local water resources. Without a strategy to identify, manage and maintain the water supply, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay told workshop attendees demand could exceed supply by the year 2030.  Recommendations for managing supply and demand are based on the results of a five-year $1.8 million geologic and hydrologic computer model of the county undertaken by the Illinois State Water Survey and the Illinois State Geological Survey. A full report on the model is due to be released at the end of the year.  The model considers historic rainfall data and usage patterns and takes into account how water travels through underground geologic formations to model the effects of water usage on both the shallow and deep aquifer systems.  No matter what they do, officials need to realize that their decisions about water management affect residents and business owners not just in their town but across the region, workshop presenters said many times.  To that end, county officials have proposed an amendment to state law that would establish a regional water supply management planning committee -- consisting of county and municipal officials -- and abolish municipally controlled water authorities.  Daily Herald_9/21/07

Study: Louisville, Kentucky Water Company pipeline is cheaper than a new treatment plant

The Louisville Water Co. unveiled a consultant’s report Tuesday that says its proposed pipeline is millions of dollars cheaper than a Kentucky American Water plan for a new treatment plant. The report was presented to the Urban County Council’s planning committee. In 20 years, the report says, rate payers will save between $28 million and $68 million under the plan to pipe treated Ohio River water from Louisville. Over 40 years, the savings go up to $98 million to $117 million, the report says. The company says it paid the consultant R.W. Beck $45,000 for the report. Kentucky American Water has proposed a new treatment plant on the Kentucky River north of Frankfort, with a pipeline to bring the water to Lexington. Kentucky American claims its plan is cheaper, and would cost $103 million less over 30 years. The decision on which plan becomes reality rests with the Kentucky Public Service Commission, which has the Kentucky American proposal before it but is looking at both plans. Lexington Herald-Leader_ 9/18/07

Water main break closes 11 schools in Baltimore, Maryland

An apparent break in a 48-inch wide water main that runs underwater in South Baltimore has forced city officials to close at least 11 schools today and left thousands of residents without water for a time, a Department of Public Works official said. The break occurred about 10:30 a.m. and apparently was caused by a contractor who accidentally hit the line under a riverbed, said Kurt L. Kocher, the DPW spokesman. The line carries water across the Patapsco River from Southeast to South Baltimore, where it is collected in a water tower and then distributed to homes and residents. Kocher said most homes had water restored by early afternoon; water also comes in through a separate 72-inch underwater main. Baltimore Sun_ 9/12/07

Water storage issues probably headed to California ballot; Governor calls legislature into special session

Voters may be asked next year to approve funding elements of a health care overhaul and water storage expansion, under a plan outlined Tuesday by legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the regular legislative session set to end Friday, Schwarzenegger called lawmakers into a special session to deal with water and health care - a session that began Tuesday night. The governor and legislative leaders will use the coming weeks to negotiate over a proposed $4 billion water bond that the governor has been pushing since last year. The governor's plan received only modest support among lawmakers. But a ruling earlier this month by a federal judge that could cut water drawn from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by a third has sparked new interest. Voters could be asked in February to consider another multibillion-dollar bond measure to fund construction of new dams or water-supply systems. San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/12/07

More than a week later, Wareham, Massachusetts residents still boiling water

Wareham residents have been under a boil water order since E. coli was detected more than one week ago. The water department still doesn't know the source of the contamination, but officials said Tuesday's and Wednesday's tests came back clean. In the meantime, school kids have to stay away from water fountains and use hand-sanitizing lotions. It's day 10 of the boil water order and, for some, frustrations are boiling over, as well. The town has hired an engineering consultant to investigate why it happened and evaluate its response. Wareham has already spent between $80,000 and $100,000 on things such as water distribution and testing. It has reserves and does not expect this to have any effect on rates. The water department does not know exactly when it will be safe to drink the water again. The earliest would be sometime on Saturday. WCVB_ 9/6/07

August, 2007

Indiana water utilities network in disaster
Officials launched a new network Wednesday - the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina - that they hope will allow utilities to help quickly restore water and other services during disasters.  But only three of the state's thousands of water and wastewater firms initially signed the aid agreement, which outlines reimbursement and legal procedures for utilities helping each other. Water and wastewater companies can already send workers and equipment to assist hard-hit utilities, and even those that join the new network are not required to help in times of crisis.  Still, officials with the new Indiana Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network, or InWARN, say the system is needed to help the state recover quickly and more efficiently from tornadoes, floods, earthquakes or man-made disasters.  Forbes_8/30/07

Statesville, North Carolina to cut water use

Despite no water shortage, Statesville officials said today that they will comply with Duke Energy's request for areas to reduce their water withdrawal from the Catawba River. The city will use water from its 48-million gallon reservoir and the South Yadkin River to cut back usage by 14 percent on the Catawba River. Officials are also asking Statesville residents to cut back their water usage. Duke Energy moved to Stage 2 of the company's drought plan on Monday, which requires all water systems to reduce their water withdrawal. Statesville often struggled with water supplies in the past by only drawing from the South Yadkin River. In 2006, the city began pumping from the Catawba River. Charlotte Observer_ 8/28/07

Groups sue North Coast water board over Klamath River dams
A group of environmentalists, fishermen and Karuk tribe members filed suit Thursday to force the regional water board to regulate discharges of highly toxic algae in the Klamath River.  The lawsuit filed in Sonoma County Superior Court alleges that the North Coast Regional Quality Control Board has failed to establish limits on discharges from California dams and reservoirs owned by Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp.  The plaintiffs—the Klamath Riverkeeper, the Karuk tribe of California and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations—have long pushed for removal of the Iron Gate and Copco dams, which they claim harms water quality and salmon runs in the river along the California-Oregon border.  Earlier this year, the groups petitioned the regional water board to regulate PacifiCorp's discharges, but the board said it lacked the authority to regulate the company—a claim the plaintiffs dispute in Thursday's lawsuit.  Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that a separate lawsuit filed against PacifiCorp could go forward.  San Jose Mercury News_8/23/07

Governor asks North Carolinians to cut water use by 20 percent
Gov. Mike Easley urged residents Thursday to cut their water consumption by 20 percent as drought continued to afflict every part of the state.
Statewide, 59 of North Carolina's 597 public water systems were calling for voluntary water restrictions and 21 imposed mandatory restrictions because of the persistent dry conditions.  "Stream flows and groundwater levels are approaching their lowest levels in recorded history and many of our reservoirs are declining by one foot every 10 days," Easley said, adding that state agencies also were told to cut nonessential water use. Drought has spread to all 100 counties in North Carolina. The state's 12 westernmost counties are the driest, classified as exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Charlotte Observer_8/23/07

Madison, Wisconsin Water Utility manager under scrutiny

The general manager of the Madison Water Utility is again at the center of a controversy after citizens on a utility communications committee voiced concerns to the mayor. Due to legal concerns, Madison's mayor is staying tight-lipped about what might be ahead for David Denig-Chakroff, but the mayor said he is frustrated about the situation. In the past there have been complaints of dirty, potentially even harmful, water in the system and slow action to address the problem. The Water Utility has also received complaints about too many old and broken water mains, bad public communication and bad management. The latest issue involves the lack of public notice about a high manganese water well being turned back on. WISC-TV_ 8/18/07

San Bernardino County, California supervisors ask governor for help in Lucerne Valley water emergency

Supervisors asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency in Lucerne Valley after water trucks supplying desert residents were impounded by the state, which said it acted after residents complained of the quality of their water. The governor's office was reviewing the request on Thursday. The California Highway Patrol and state health officials impounded the trucks because haulers supplying eight desert communities were delivering non-potable water in unlicensed tanker trucks. Some residents have now shut off swamp coolers and stopped flushing toilets to save water. "There's nothing wrong with the water. We got it tested years ago and it's good, clean water," said Elsie Wenger, 86, who hasn't showered in a week. "All of us who live out of town depend on these water trucks. I don't know what to do." Schwarzenegger ordered state agencies to send four water tankers to the Lucerne Valley and Cal Fire trucks were making deliveries Thursday, governor's office spokesman Bill Maile said. The county Department of Aging and Adult Services also started contacting elderly and disabled adults, delivering bottled water to at least five households. AP/San Francisco Examiner_ 8/9/07

San Diego County Water Authority announces new, five-year Blueprint for Water Conservation
Motivating more homeowners and businesses to install low-water-use landscapes, expanding incentives for purchasing "smart" irrigation controllers and other water-saving devices, and reducing overwatering via a sophisticated, web-based "water budget" program are cornerstones of the San Diego County Water Authority's new five-year Blueprint for Water Conservation. The Blueprint, approved by the Water Authority's Board in late July, serves as a roadmap for creating and implementing new, long-range residential and commercial water conservation programs across the San Diego region. It stems from strategies developed jointly by water, business and community leaders at the region's inaugural Water Conservation Summit in September 2006. News Release_ 8/7/07

New Orleans' newest problem: water

The city's 3,200-mile system of water and sewer lines — old, leaky and in need of improvements long before Hurricane Katrina — was damaged by the torrent of pipe-corroding salt water. The city Sewerage & Water Board says at least 50 million gallons of water a day are now being lost to leaks, or 2½ times pre-Katrina levels. S&WB officials also believe raw sewage is leaking out in places, though the extent of the problem is unclear. The larger fear is that if some water pumps fail — whether because of a power outage, some other kind of mechanical trouble, or another Katrina-like storm — a drastic drop in pressure could allow raw sewage or other pollutants to back up into the water system through the leaks. That could contaminate the drinking water in some neighborhoods for days or even weeks. "We don't have the confidence now to say the system won't fail," S&WB spokesman Robert Jackson said. "We're basically holding it together by tap, by glue, by spit, whatever we can get a hold of." AP/CBS_ 8/6/07

More than 120 wells dry in two Maryland counties

For the past two months, wells throughout the Eden-Allen area have been failing one-by-one, road-by-road. As of Friday, more than 120 failed wells in the area that straddles the Somerset-Wicomico county line had been reported to county officials. The worsening situation in recent weeks has prompted Somerset County Commissioners to ask Gov. Martin O'Malley to halt the use of the Manokin aquifer by a sod farm as well as the Eastern Correctional Institution, which is pumping more than 10 times what is permitted. In a letter sent Wednesday, Somerset County Commissioners also asked the governor for funding to help residents pay for new wells. In June, a hydrogeologist hired to evaluate the problem, reported he was concerned that if the Sanitary District, ECI and the sod farm are all drawing water from the same aquifer, then it could create a condition known as "mining," in which more water is pumped out than can be replenished by natural means. Daily Times_ 8/5/07

Lightening knocks out water to 800,000 in New Jersey; repairs Saturday partially restore power to water plant

The lightening strikes Friday night left people around Haworth, New Jersey, about 20 miles northwest of New York City, with little or no running water, authorities said. United Water New Jersey said the lightening strikes even hobbled backup generators. The utility didn't expect to have full water pressure until late Saturday. Boiling water might be necessary as late as Monday. AP/USAToday_ 8/4/07

July, 2007

Powerful California farmers negotiate water deal

The U.S. government appears poised to turn over the rights to billions of gallons of water to a politically connected group of farmers in California, where most people are being asked to conserve. Landowners in the Westlands Water District would gain the rights to 1 million acre feet of water under a proposed settlement federal regulators are likely to present Wednesday. An acre foot translates to the amount needed to cover one acre with a foot of water. That's 15 percent of the federally controlled water in California, which would make it the largest grant to irrigators since the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1903, agency officials said. The Westlands Water District, a coalition of giant agribusinesses in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, draws its water from the Central Valley Project, a vast irrigation system that also supplies drinking water to about 1 million households. If drought-like conditions persist in the West, the deal would guarantee the farmers' irrigation pumps will flow, even if that means some cities in the San Francisco Bay area will get less drinking water. AP/Yahoo!_ 7/31/07

Winter snow removal means too much salt in New Jersey drinking water

United Water company has been sending notices out to its customers in Bergen and Hudson counties warning that the sodium level in the water supply is higher than it should be. The company blames the winter task of salting the roads to keep them clear of ice. The salt and snow melt from the roads spilled into reservoirs, taking the concentration of sodium higher than state guidelines -- and the water processing can't flush it out. But the company is required to put out the warning for people with high blood pressure or other high sodium sensitive health concerns. It advises them to talk to their doctors. WABC_ 7/31/07

Holbrook, Massachusetts residents air concerns over rusty drinking water

The board of selectmen voted on Tuesday to ask Town Counsel Arthur George to investigate the possibility of using funds from various water accounts to remediate a water quality problem that has plagued residents in the Poole Circle area for years. Armed with jars containing opaque, rust-colored water taken from their faucets, several residents presented a petition to the board asking them to step in and correct the problem. Superintendent of Public Works Thomas Cummings said previous tests found no bacteria. “It’s discolored water, no bacteria,” he said. He blames the rusty water on 50-year-old service pipes. The board backed Selectman Robert Austin’s motion to have George research various water accounts and see what monies can be directed to remediate the problem. GateHouse News Service/Holbrook Sun_ 7/26/07

California Governor declares drought emergency in Riverside County
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Thursday for Riverside County, citing drought conditions that have reduced water supplies and caused some $4 million in crop loses.  It is the second such declaration in what has been a very dry year for most of California. Kings County got the first emergency designated last month. In addition, a growing number cities and counties are asking residents to reduce their water use this summer.  The emergency order directs state agencies to help Riverside County water agencies drill new water wells or modify existing wells.  SFGate.com_7/19/07

In a dry time, plans for California water projects flow

Acknowledging the specter of drought, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appealed Monday for a $6-billion investment in water works, while the Democratic leader of the state Senate Don Perata (D-Oakland) called for a $5-billion water bond measure on next year's ballot. The maneuverings by the two politicians virtually ensure that voters will be asked next year to approve billions of dollars in spending for water projects — including, perhaps, two new dams and a canal to siphon the Sacramento River. Cutbacks are inevitable next year if rain and snow don't fall abundantly this winter. The call for more spending comes as lawmakers and bureaucrats weigh how to spend $10 billion from previous water bonds. California's audacious water system moves Sierra and Cascade snowmelt hundreds of miles by pump and aqueduct, with the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta at its heart. Water in arid California engenders bitter politics; depending on the battle, farmers, environmentalists and city water districts may be allies or foes. Recent governors have tended to avoid water policy as thankless, even dangerous terrain. As Schwarzenegger spoke, Perata released his plan for a $5-billion bond measure that would give money to regions in the state to solve their own problems. He criticized the governor's proposal as a "top-down solution to a bottom-up problem." Los Angeles Times_ 7/17/07 (logon required)

Lack of public water plagues rural Tennessee; Cost to connect is $1.7 billion

An estimated 112,000 across rural Tennessee that don't have public water. But extending water lines to every rural home in Tennessee would cost an estimated $1.7 billion, and local officials say money is in short supply. The state has no organized plan to extend the lines or to aid those who have no water. Some legislators say that needs to change. The issue surfaced last month when lawmakers learned Gov. Phil Bredesen had put money in the budget to run a pipe up a mountain in Warren County for residents who don't have water. Tempers flared as legislators demanded to know why one county got money when others needed it, too. Rep. Mike McDonald, a Democrat who represents northern Sumner County subsequently gathered more than three dozen signatures on a bill that would have authorized the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to develop a statewide water plan and loan fund to help communities extend more water lines. It would have been patterned after the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, which requires all projects using state or federal funds to be vetted through an organized chain of local and regional councils. The bill didn't pass this session, but McDonald says he'll push the issue again next year. The number of households with no clean, reliable alternative water source remains unknown. Tennessean_ 7/15/07

Great Lakes cities vow to cut water use by 2015
A coalition of U.S. and Canadian cities along the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River, including Toronto and Chicago, vowed on Thursday to cut water consumption 15 percent by 2015.  The 20 Canadian and nine U.S. communities, members of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, have agreed to cut water consumption by 15 percent below their 2000 level and to then set a target for further reductions by 2025.  "Collectively, we intend to change the nature of water consumption in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin," Toronto Mayor David Miller said in a statement from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the group was meeting.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River hold about 20 percent of the world's surface fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 40 million people in Canada and the United States, according to the group.  The cities also called on the federal governments of both counties to stop the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes, including mandating ballast water rules for ships entering the lakes from around the world.  Reuters_7/12/07

No, it's not a rock concert. Standing room only, overflow crowds mark Albuquerque, New Mexico outdoor water conservation classes

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority wants to take an hour and tell you all about the low-tech but important ways you can reduce water use. And here's the catch: They'll pay you $20, in the form of a bill credit, to do it. The first class, at the Cherry Hills Library on May 12, was standing-room only, and some had to stay for a second hastily organized class afterward. So far, 800 people have sat through the class. With a few simple tweaks, said Katherine Yuhas, the authority's water conservation maven, average customers could probably cut down water use in gardens, lawns and other outdoor tasks by 30 percent to 50 percent. Said Richard Chapman, an Albuquerque conservation consultant who teaches the class, "virtually none of us were ever taught how to figure this out." Albuquerque Tribune_ 7/7/07

Bottled water trucked to flooded areas of southeast Kansas

Area water treatment plants are down because of high water or power loss. Sharon Watson at Kansas Emergency Management says crews are working to get several semi-loads of bottled water to Wilson County generally as well as Coffeyville, Independence and Fredonia. WIBW_ 7/5/07

Foundation provides low-interest loans for water wells
Some low to moderate income individuals or families may be eligible for low-interest loans to construct, repair or improve household water well systems through the Foundation for Affordable Drinking Water.

Qualified applicants can borrow up to $8,000 at 1 percent interest for a term not to exceed 20 years. To qualify, households must:

* Own the home and use it as the principal residence.

* Have as the primary drinking water source an individual household well system located on the property of the home.

* Meet income and other eligibility requirements.

* Be located in a city, town or unincorporated area with a population of less than 50,000.

The foundation, established by the National Ground Water Association, will not underwrite a loan once a project is under way or has been completed. Most new home construction projects are not eligible.  News Tribune_7/5/07

June, 2007

California Governor backs canal to pipe water around fragile delta
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger waded into politically risky waters Thursday when he said he supported building a canal to pipe water around the environmentally fragile Sacramento delta because the state is running low on supplies.  The governor made the comments before a gathering of business leaders and farmers in Bakersfield, who this year have had their water allocations cut because of drought conditions and shutdowns of the state's main water pumps.  "We need more water. We need to build more storage and we have to build conveyance, the canal, all of those kinds of things, even though it's politically risky again," Schwarzenegger said.  Politicians have avoided the topic since voters overwhelmingly rejected such a canal in 1982. At the time, Northern California voters characterized the proposal as a Southern California water grab.  On Thursday, Schwarzenegger said California's water infrastructure has not kept pace with the state's growing population, which is expected to hit 55 million by 2050.  "Do you know that for 20 years, well actually since the late '70s, they've not built a dam?" he said in remarks that were taped.  "Since the 1980s, they've not done any conveyance, built any conveyance that delivers the water."  Supporters say building a canal along the eastern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would provide a more stable way to transport water from Northern California's rivers to about 25 million people in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The water also irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.  But it remains contentious among environmentalists and those who live in the delta's small towns. They fear a canal would siphon out too much fresh water.  SF Gate_6/14/07

Greene County, Ohio residents face boil water order after ignoring ban on watering; tanks tapped out by growth

Greene County residents are ignoring a watering ban issued Saturday, and county officials fear they will have to issue a boil alert by Monday night. "If people did not water their lawns, there would not be a problem. We just can't keep up," said Karen Hawk, spokeswoman for the Greene County sanitary engineer. Water towers that serve Beavercreek and Sugarcreek Twp. are dangerously low because of high demand, and the system is at risk of losing pressure, she said. The Environmental Protection Agency requires a boil alert and water testing for systems that lose pressure because the water has a higher risk of contamination. The watering ban was implemented Saturday evening for all residential and business water customers after a request for residents to water lawns on an even/odd schedule did not work, Hawk said. The problem isn't a lack of water, but not enough pumping capacity, she said. The county plans to open another well this fall, but has had a hard time keeping up with residential growth. Dayton Daily News_ 6/11/07 (logon required)

Experts predict water woes for West

With snowfall diminishing at "statistically significant" rates and spring runoff coming earlier, experts are telling Congress that global climate change is already being felt in the West.  Dam operators, water district managers, farmers, conservationists and scientists all predict mounting problems as scarce water supplies dwindle further in an area stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the desert Southwest.  "The warming in the West can now confidently be attributed to rising greenhouse gases and are not explained by any combination of natural factors," said Philip Mote, head of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington.  Mote said some models show temperatures in the West could rise by 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming years.

Among other things, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources water and power subcommittee learned:

* Spring snowpack has declined at nearly 75 percent of the weather recording stations in Washington, Oregon and California, and the spring runoff is coming two weeks earlier than in the past.

* Southern California is experiencing its driest year on record, and Lake Mead, which supplies water to large parts of the fast-growing Southwest, could be empty in 10 years.

* By some estimates, populations of Pacific salmon in the Northwest could drop between 20 percent and 40 percent by 2050, with even greater losses in California and Idaho. Western trout populations eventually could decline more than 60 percent.

* Tens of thousands of irrigated acres will fall out of production as water supplies tighten, and tensions over water supplies will only be exacerbated as the effects of climate change deepen.  Star Tribune_6/8/07

Amid drought, South Carolina sues North Carolina over water from shared river

South Carolina's attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to stop North Carolina from draining millions of gallons from a river that provides drinking water and electricity to both states.  The lawsuit comes as drought conditions worsen in the Carolinas and vivid images of a severe dry spell five years ago linger in the minds of locals.  “There's nothing more precious than water except maybe oxygen,” South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “So far, the oxygen supply seems to be all right, but we're running out of water.”  South Carolina opposes plans by the North Carolina cities of Concord and Kannapolis to pump up to 10 million gallons a day from the Catawba River.  The permit issued by the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission allows the two cities to draw water from the river and return treated wastewater to a river basin that is closer to their communities than the Catawba. Returning the water to its source would be too expensive, a spokeswoman for the cities has said.  “It's really not a bad problem if the water is handled properly, to take it out and use it and put it back,” McMaster said. “It's the interbasin transfers that just disrupt nature.”

McMaster claims a 1991 North Carolina law that allows the transfer violates the U.S. Constitution by not equitably sharing the river between the states.  Signonsandiego.com_6/7/07

Can't get handle on pump restart
California says delta smelt hold key, water supply remains adequate

The waiting game between the state Department of Water Resources and endangered delta smelt continued Wednesday, a week after the agency shut down the Harvey O. Banks pump plant near Tracy.  Michael Miller, a DWR spokesman, said it was not clear when pumping would resume.  "We're still looking for a biological opinion," Miller said, "and we continue watching water quality and water supply. It's hard to say when conditions might change."  The state wants to be sure that the smelt are moving toward Suisun Bay and away from the pumping plant.  DWR officials shut down the Banks facility May 31 because too many smelt were being pulled into the water pumps and killed. When the pumps first were turned off, state officials said they expected them to remain idle for seven to 10 days.  Last week, DWR director Lester Snow said scientists hoped changes in currents and temperature eventually would cause the smelt to move away.  While there are indications the smelt may be moving on, state officials said more research and evaluation were needed.  Despite the shutdown, officials said there have been no reports of water shortages or other problems.  The Modesto Bee_6/7/07

Kentucky mining plan seen as threat to water supply

An Eastern Kentucky coal company will temporarily abandon an attempt to mine under a reservoir that supplies water to this Harlan County town.  Black Mountain Resources has decided to postpone placing the proposed area on a state permit application because of water replacement issues, said the company's vice president of operations, Ross Kegan.  "We have concluded that the water replacement issue is one that justifies a more in-depth study," Kegan said.  He said an engineering firm will help the company determine whether there is a chance of any water disruption.  Some Lynch residents and city leaders had criticized the plan to mine coal underneath the decades-old reservoir, saying it could compromise their only water supply.  The company's decision to remove the acreage under the reservoir from the application was announced Monday by the Lynch City Council. Mayor Bob Collier said the city's goal was to keep underground mining away from the water.  Courier-Journal_6/6/07

Pennsylvania report on causes of Penn-American water main breaks still not public

The water company responsible for numerous water main breaks in the Steel Valley last year was immediately investigated by a state agency, but the report has still not been made public. The report is supposed to detail what went wrong and help both the water company and the communities affected respond better in the future, but nearly six months later, questions remain unanswered and at least one local leader is starting to sound impatient. The state Public Utility Commission said they finished the report in late April, but will not release it until it's addressed during a public meeting. A spokesperson for the state PUC told Call 4 Action that the commission understands why local leaders want to see it and hopes it will come up sometime this summer. WTAE-TV/Yahoo!_ 6/4/07

May, 2007

State shuts off massive pumps that deliver water to Santa Clara County
Delta Smelt in danger

The California Department of Water Resources today turned off the massive Delta pumps that deliver water to 25 million people - including residents in parts of Santa Clara and Alameda counties - to protect a tiny fish that is plunging toward extinction.  The move is not expected to trigger immediate water shortages, but is likely to cause reservoirs to be drawn down sharply this summer.  State water officials say the shutdown is likely to be in place for seven to 10 days. They could crank the pumps back on if water shortages develop or if Delta smelt, which have been killed at the pumps in increasing numbers since the weekend, move downstream and out of danger.  Mercury News_5/31/07

Texas legislature passes first major water-planning bill in a decade

The statewide water plan gives North Texas two reservoirs. It was approved by a 113-28 vote, after hours of debate and attempts to kill the bill. The measure, which sets guidelines for water conservation and for protecting the ecology of the state's rivers, lakes, bays and estuaries, allows regional decisions on reservoir sites instead of naming them in legislation. The House-Senate compromise effectively restores the proposed Marvin Nichols and Fastrill reservoirs for Dallas' use. They had been dropped from the bill. Dallas Morning News_ 5/29/07

Texas water measure lingers in House

State lawmakers were working to pass Texas' first major water-planning bill in a decade, legislation that nearly crumbled over contentious reservoir sites. The measure, which had been approved by the Senate and was awaiting a vote in the House, but it was unclear whether if could come up for a vote todaybecause of the crowded calendar on the last day.The bill sets guidelines for water conservation and for protecting the ecology of the state's rivers, lakes, bays and estuaries. It also sets aside 19 Texas locations for future reservoirs. Under a House-Senate compromise Saturday, two reservoirs intended for Dallas' use that had been dropped from the bill were restored. But cities and water districts must start spending money on those reservoirs by 2015 or risk losing their designation. Returning the Fastrill and Marvin Nichols reservoirs to the bill angered some House members who accused Dallas of wasting water and seizing environmentally sensitive land to provide water for their lawns. Dallas Morning News_ 5/28/07

Water declared safe, but New York residents are wary

Although city officials told Southeast Queens residents last week that their drinking water does not pose a health threat, residents remain skepticaland many are drinking only bottled water.   Last Thursday, the Department of Environmental Protection alerted 12,000 residences in St. Albans, Cambria Heights and Hollis that above-normal levels of tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as PERC, were found in monthly samples taken on May 1. The health effects of PERC, which is most often used by dry cleaners and in auto repair shops, are unclear, particularly in low doses. Chronic exposure to elevated levels can lead to dizziness, confusion and nausea. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems it a probable carcinogen.   The federal standard for acceptable PERC levels in water is five parts per billion — samples taken last week detected more than twice that amount, at 13 parts per billion. That prompted DEP to notify residents of the contamination, as required by the EPA, by leaving leaflets at residents’ doors. The city agency also assured them the water did not pose a risk.  Queens Chronicle_5/17/07

Chemicals found in Queens water since 2003, reports say

The area of New York City where officials this week found industrial chemicals in the drinking water has had problems with contamination by the same chemicals for several years.  Annual reports of drinking water quality by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection show that the chemical — commonly used by dry cleaners and auto repair shops — that is causing the contamination this week has been detected sporadically in the water in that same general area of the city every year since at least 2003.  Unlike the rest of New York City, which gets drinking water from upstate reservoirs 100 or more miles away, a 5.5 mile section of southeastern Queens, where the contamination has been found, is served by a system of wells that the city took over in 1996.  Officials do not believe the wells were the source of the contaminated water found this week. An analysis of the chemical content of the water indicated that it came from a reservoir, not from a well, officials said.  Anne Canty, deputy commissioner of the environmental protection department, said water quality experts in the department believe the current problem stemmed from a faulty or inadequate valve that was supposed to keep chemical discharges from backing into the drinking water system.  New York Times_5/10/07

California Governor Schwarzenegger Pushes Comprehensive Water Plan
$200 Million conservation efforts to address water shortages

In a speech to more than 1,000 local water officials, Governor Schwarzenegger today called for the passage of his $5.9 billion Water Infrastructure Plan that includes a $200 million water conservation proposal, the largest ever proposed in California.  "Due to climate change, we can expect a decrease in our snow pack by as much as 40 percent by the year 2050, which means more flooding in the winter and less drinking water in the summer," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "We can't afford to wait any longer. We need a water management strategy that tackles all our long-term water needs. That means increasing water storage, developing new conveyance systems, fixing the Delta, restoring key water resources and aggressively moving forward with conservation efforts."  The Governor's Water Infrastructure Plan includes $5.9 billion in water bonds, including $4.5 billion for increased water storage, $1 billion toward fixing the Delta and developing new conveyance systems, $200 million for local conservation grants and $250 in restoration projects.   All American Patriots.com_5/10/07

Drinking Water Week 2007:  What you might not know about tap water and your health

During Drinking Water Week, May 6-12, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) reminds water consumers that protecting public health is the number one priority of water suppliers in North America. What you may not know about the health benefits your tap water delivers:

-- In North America, you can drink from virtually any public tap, while in

the developing world an estimated 3 million people die every year from preventable waterborne disease.

-- The Centers for Disease control names the disinfection of water as one of the top 10 public health accomplishments of the 20th century.

-- In the United States, water utilities monitor for more than 100 contaminants and must meet close to 90 regulations for water safety and quality.

-- Child cavity rates have been reduced by 20-40% where fluoridation of tap water has been implemented.

-- The United Nations has dubbed 2005-2015 the 'Water for Life Decade,' and its seeking to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.

-- Every year, water utilities provide customers with a detailed report on the quality of their drinking water.

For more information on Drinking Water Week, visit Medical News Today_5/10/07

All over the state of Washington--and the U.S.--broken and leaking water pipes leave poor rural communities facing health threats and economic hardships

It's been a problem that has been buried for decades. But a crisis point is finally arriving, experts warn. And there's nowhere near enough government money to go around. Rural communities don't have the millions of dollars that big cities have to keep their systems running. One federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) survey has estimated that Washington state alone needs at least $6.7 billion over 20 years to replace aging drinking-water pipes. Nationally, the EPA guesses it could cost $300 billion over the next 20 years just for drinking-water pipes, and almost as much to replace failing wastewater lines. It's estimated that more than a million miles of underground drinking-water pipes crisscross the country. The oldest ones are thick, cast-iron mains from the early 1900s, which were expected to last 100 years or more. Metal pipe from the 1920s, '30s and '40s was thinner and expected to last about 75 years. Most of the country is using pipe from the 1950s and '60s, most of it made of thin steel or "transite," a hardened mix of asbestos and concrete. Those pipes were designed to last 50 to 75 years. "Do the math — all that pipe is going to wear out at about the same time," said Jack Hoffbuhr, who heads the Denver-based American Water Works Association. Seattle Times_ 5/6/07

Idaho, Nez Perce tribe sign landmark $193 million water rights settlement nearly three years after it was negotiated

Over the weekend, federal, state and tribal officials signed the complex consent degree that was issued by Idaho's Fifth District Court. It will be implemented after the terms are published in the Federal Register in the next few weeks. The Nez Perce agreed to drop most if the tribe's claims to water in the Snake River basin in exchange for about $83 million in cash, 11,000 acres of land now managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, and salmon conservation measures, including requirements for water releases from dams to aid migrating fish. In a statement, Nez Perce Tribal Chairwoman Rebecca A. Miles called the signing a key moment in tribal and state history because it involved water claims in an area "that our people have inhabited for thousands of years." AP/Daily Comet_ 5/1/07

April, 2007

Tighter water restrictions take effect in West Palm Beach
The city was granted emergency access to water by the South Florida Water Management District on Friday, a measure that requires West Palm Beach to impose the most stringent restrictions on water use in the county. The district's permit allows the city to draw up to 16 million gallons of water a day from emergency wells along Roebuck Road and up to 6 million gallons a day from the M Canal, which runs east-west through the city.  The city's 35,000 customers in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach use a total of about 30 million gallons a day.  Under the tighter restrictions, residents at odd-numbered addresses would be able to water lawns on Saturdays from 4 to 7 a.m.; those at even-numbered addresses, on Sundays from 4 to 7 a.m. The city is asking that residents water only for 10 to 15 minutes during that period, but that's not a requirement.That's one day less than the old restrictions.  Hand-watering is still permitted for a total of 60 minutes between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays for odd-  numbered address, and Thursdays and Sundays for even-numbered addresses.  The restrictions go into effect immediately.  Palm Beach Post _4/26/07

Midwest U.S. aquifers in demand for thirsty ethanol plants

The Mahomet aquifer sprawls beneath some of America's richest soils and provides 250 million gallons of water every day for towns, industries and farms in central Illinois. There'd better be lots of water deep down, given what ethanol promoters have in mind. Already, four of Illinois' eight ethanol plants are situated above the aquifer, and another is under construction. Of the state's 34 proposed plants, eight would sit atop or within a few miles of the Mahomet. The concentrated expansion worries some local officials like Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold. "Your town is worth nothing if you don't have water," he said. In neighboring Iowa, since 2002, ethanol plants have received 23 notices of violations for water pollution and 12 for air pollution. They call Minnesota the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes but people wonder whether even Minnesota will have enough water for all the new ethanol plants that have been built and planned. Kansas and Nebraska are affected too as they battle water polluted in earlier days and strive to protect irrigation rights for farmers. St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Akron Beacon-Journal_ 4/23/07

$6 billion to build new dams in California blocked by Democrats in the state Senate

Democrats in the state Senate stymied an attempt to borrow $6 billion for new dams, underground water storage and conservation efforts today. The Senate Natural Resources Committee rejected a bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Cogdill, a Republican whose district includes part of San Joaquin County, after more than an hour’s worth of debate. The vote was 4-3 against the bill. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports increased water storage and said in a statement “it is early in the legislative process and water planning is one of the most difficult and complex issues facing California. My administration will continue to utilize all available means to push for a solution that includes surface storage, allowing California to implement a water plan to endure longer drought periods and higher flood peaks.” Critics of the proposal say dams are an inefficient, expensive way to hold water compared to underground storage and conservation; the bulk of the money in Cogdill’s bill was for dams. Text of the legislation, SB 59, is at The Record_ 4/24/07

Threat to key California water supply reaffirmed
A Superior Court judge has refused to back down from a ruling that in two months could virtually shut down the State Water Project, stopping the flow of Northern California water to Central Valley farms and 17 million Southern Californians.  Over the objections of water officials, Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch this week reasserted a preliminary March ruling in which he found that the California Department of Water Resources had not obtained the proper state environmental permits to operate the huge pumps that siphon water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, in the process killing threatened and endangered fish.  The judge has given the department 60 days from the issuance of his final order to comply with the California Endangered Species Act, or he will turn off the pumps.  Water officials have warned that a prolonged pumping shutdown would wreak havoc on the California economy and slash water deliveries to urban Southern California at a time when the region is experiencing what is on track to be the driest year on record.  Water department Director Lester Snow said his agency would appeal the decision.  Los Angeles Times_ 4/19/07

North Carolina water transfer coalition hires lobbyists
A group of upper Catawba River communities is planning to hire lobbyists to press their case against water transfers like the recently approved plan allowing Concord and Kannapolis to take water from the river.  The Protect the Catawba River Coalition, a group of local governments that oppose the transfer, will spend $100,000 to hire two lobbying firms to push a bill introduced by N.C. Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, and similar bills that would tighten laws regulating water transfers.  If passed, Gillespie's bill would toughen controls on water transfers. It would also retroactively require Concord and Kannapolis to install flow meters tracking water they withdraw from the Catawba and to withdraw only as much water as they need at the time, among other directives.  In January, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission approved the transfer by Concord and Kannapolis of up to 10 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba. The cities may take the same amount from the Yadkin River.  Last month, the coalition appealed the decision, asking an administrative law judge to overturn it.  Charlotte Observer_4/18/07

Forest Service, Montana agree on water compact
After 15 years of negotiations, state and federal officials have signed an agreement to address federal reserved water rights on national forest land in Montana.  “This is an important model that we hope other states will embrace,” said U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey. “People will hold up Montana as a good example of how these disputes should be resolved in the future.”  The Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission and the Forest Service began negotiations in 1992 concerning federal reserved water rights on national forest lands in Montana. When negotiations hit an impasse in 2005, a mediator helped put together the final agreement.  “We can all agree that there’s nothing more important in the Rocky Mountains than water,” Gov. Brian Schweitzer told the group of about 30 who gathered for Tuesday’s signing ceremony. “It’s also difficult to know who actually owns that water.”  The agreement, also signed by U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ryan Nelson, proves that the federal government and states can put together an agreement without litigation, Schweitzer said.  Great Falls Tribune_4/18/07

For U.S., biggest global warming problem is water, too much and too little

It will be a domestic problem, with states clashing over controls of rivers, and a national security problem as water shortages and floods worsen conflicts and terrorism elsewhere in the world, scientists and military experts said Monday. At home, especially in the Southwest, regions will need to find new sources of drinking water, the Great Lakes will shrink, fish and other species will be left high and dry, and coastal areas will on occasion be inundated because of sea-level rises and souped-up storms, U.S. scientists said. The scientists released a 67-page chapter on North American climate effects, which is part of an international report on climate change impact. "Water at large is the central (global warming) problem for the U.S.," Princeton University geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer said after a press conference featuring eight American scientists who were lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's climate-effects report. AP/CBS News_ 4/16/07

Climate change threatens dust bowl in Southwest

Changing climate will mean increasing drought in the Southwest -- a region where water already is in tight supply -- according to a new study.  "The bottom line message for the average person and also for the states and federal government is that they'd better start planning for a Southwest region in which the water resources are increasingly stretched," said Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.  Seager is lead author of the study published online Thursday by the journal Science.  Researchers studied 19 computer models of the climate, using data dating back to 1860 and projecting into the future. The same models were used in preparing the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The consensus of the models was that climate in the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico began a transition to drier conditions late in the 20th century and is continuing the trend in this century, as climate change alters the movement of storms and moisture in the atmosphere.  The reduction in rainfall could reach levels of the 1930s Midwest dust bowl, Seager said in a telephone interview.  El Paso Times_4/5/07

California snowpack melt stirs water worries
Water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack in California continues to drop toward its lowest level since 1990, raising concerns about the availability of water for generating hydroelectricity and irrigating the state's vast farmlands.  Longer term, scientists have projected that 25 percent of the California snowpack could disappear by 2050 due to global warming and climate change.  State water officials say reservoir storage levels are at or above normal after a very wet 2006 -- the fifth wettest on record in the northern half of the state -- but warn that two consecutive dry years could trigger water shortages.  California's last major statewide drought was 1987-1992.  A survey showed the snowpack in California was only 46 percent of normal in March, down from 64 percent in February, and the water content fell further to 39 percent on Thursday, according to the state's Department of Water Resources.  A big reduction of the snowpack and earlier snowmelt would require more reservoirs to prevent flooding and ensure reliable water supplies, while higher water temperatures would affect the Delta ecosystem in California's farming heartland, reducing water quality and threatening wildlife, according to DWR.  Reuters_4/5/07

March, 2007

In Orange County, California, water crisis prompts freeway SwigAlerts

Turning to freeway warning signs to get their message across, Orange County officials said Wednesday the area could face a water crisis if residents failed to step up their conservation practices. For many, the first indication that anything was amiss were the Caltrans warnings — 35 of them — that materialized on the Santa Ana, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and Costa Mesa freeways. "ORANGE COUNTY WATER EMERGENCY CONSERVE WATER," the signs read. The freeway message boards are usually reserved for child abductions and traffic snarls. The water shortage stems from the weeklong shutdown of a water treatment plant in Yorba Linda that supplies Orange County with half of its water and South County with 95%. Yet since the shutdown of the Robert B. Diemer plant for upgrades was planned for more than a year, how did it suddenly become an "emergency"? Water officials insist they've done their best to gently urge conservation: issuing news releases, buying radio time, making automated calls to residents. But in this uncommonly dry season, people just aren't hearing — or just aren't heeding — pleas to delay watering their lawns or washing their cars until the plant reopens Sunday. Los Angeles Times_ 3/29/07 (logon required)

S.C. attorney general says N.C. water plan violates Constitution
South Carolina will sue to block a plan to let two North Carolina towns take water from the Catawba River, Attorney General Henry McMaster said Wednesday.  McMaster said the neighboring state should have consulted with South Carolina about the approved water transfer, which would permanently take water out of a river that supplies water for drinking, electricity, industry and recreation.  "Rivers affect people's lives more than anything else except the air we breathe," the attorney general said. He said he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, which will argue North Carolina's approval process for water transfers violates the U.S. Constitution because one state's decision can't directly affect another state. McMaster hopes not only to stop this inter-basin transfer but wants future requests to involve input from communities downstream in South Carolina.  Too many inter-basin withdrawals can destroy a river, McMaster said. Myrtlebeachonline.com_3/28/07

Sierra snowpack drier than normal, but water stores will hold

'Blame the California High'
The water content in the Sierra snowpack had dropped precipitously -- reaching the lowest level since the drought year of 1990 -- but there's enough water in reservoirs to ensure a normal summer for residents of the Bay Area, water officials said Wednesday.  A monthly snowpack measurement taken Wednesday at Echo Summit near South Lake Tahoe by the state Department of Water Resources showed a snow depth of 48.4 inches, but water content measured less than 50 percent of normal. On average, water content in the Sierra snowpack from southern to northern California averaged 46 percent of normal, said department hydrologist Frank Gehrke.  "Instead of seeing an increase of five or six inches in March, we lost eight or nine inches," Gehrke said "That's a pretty bleak month."  Blame the California High, Gehrke said. That is, the ridge of high pressure off the California coast which mostly kept storms out of the Sierra during March.  "What keeps this year from being completely gloomy is our reservoir storage is above normal," he said. "Last year was extremely wet."  Oroville Mercury Register_3/28/07

Oregon farmers seek increased Columbia River water rights

Economic development officials from Eastern Oregon packed a hearing room Thursday to drum up support for a contentious bill to siphon off 500,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Columbia River to help farmers grow higher value, water-intensive crops.  Increased water rights would help rural economies by allowing farmers to grow feedstocks such as canola and corn that would help drive the alternative fuel industry that policymakers are aggressively pushing in Salem, boosters said.  But environmentalists said the proposal, dubbed the "Oasis Project" by supporters, would harm salmon that swim up the Columbia River each year into creeks to spawn throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  The measure, which received its first legislative airing Thursday, would allow as many as 500 million gallons per day to be pumped from the Columbia River, including during dry summer months when water is critical for both farmers and fish. Statesman Journal_3/23/07

California cancels San Joaquin request to draw Mokelumne River water
The state canceled a 17-year-old request to draw water from the Mokelumne River to serve San Joaquin County's growing population because the county did not submit environmental documentation on time, state officials said.  The county has spent more than $1 million on plans for an off-stream reservoir that could be filled during wet winters with flows from the Mokelumne River. The collected water otherwise ends up in the ocean, said former county Supervisor Jack Sieglock, who pushed the request during his years on the board.  County supervisors allocated another $1.2 million for studies in December and federal officials added $3.3 million last year.  But the county did not meet deadlines for filing an environmental impact report, said a notice sent to the county last week by the state Water Resources Control Board.  Mel Lytle, San Joaquin's water resources coordinator, said the report is being completed now so the county can appeal the state's decision.  San Jose Mercury News_3/22/07

Florida's statewide water woes prompt impending local restrictions

Experts said that for the first time since 2001, South Florida homeowners and businesses would soon be under orders to use less water.  Water levels show that the region is in a deepening drought and Lake Okeechobee is receding daily once again, managers from the South Florida Water Managament District said. They believe that on Thursday a mandatory restriction intended to cut water use by at least 15 percent in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties will go into effect.  Water managers said that sugar growers and rural town around Lake Okeechobee would feel the most heat because their restrictions would be doubled.  For South Florida residents, the restriction means reduced water pressure entering homes and landscapes would be reduced to less watering because of a three-day-a-week limit on lawn sprinkling. Experts said that accounts for half of suburban water demand.  Nurseries, farmers, golf courses, car washes, industries and commercial users also will face an array of reductions -- both mandatory and voluntary -- and some worry cutbacks could also cut profits.  NBC6.com_3/14/07

Idaho's finance committee approves money for water management

after Supreme Court ruling
Idaho budget writers have set aside more money to manage the state's water following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week.The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved $557,000 for the Idaho Department of Water Resources to continue managing water between those who pump water from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer and others such as canal companies who rely on surface water, such as that from the Snake River.  The panel also recommended $850,000 to further study aquifer management. A consulting firm, CDR Associates, has been working with about 250 Idaho water users to figure out how to distribute water in the Lake Erie-sized underground reservoir that stretches across the eastern Idaho desert from Hagerman to north of Blackfoot.  On Monday, the state Supreme Court ruled water managers can take into account where the resource can best be put to use _ not just who owned the rights to it first. That struck down a June 2006 district court decision that had said the state's method of managing water _ balancing the needs of so-called "junior" water rights holders, who purchased their rights to the resource after 1950, against those of "senior" rights holders with century-old rights _ was unconstitutional.  State leaders, including House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, have said the court ruling helps set the groundwork for renewed negotiations over how to divvy up water that has decreased since the 1950s due to groundwater pumping and drought. Times News_3/8/07

Will Rhode Island's water last?

Across Rhode Island, water systems are struggling to generate new supplies to meet soaring demand from growing suburbs that consume vast amounts of water each summer for lawns and car washing. Whether you get your water from the Providence Water Supply Board, which supplies more than 60 percent of Rhode Island, or a smaller local water company, nearly everyone in the state can expect to see changes in coming years that include higher water rates or restrictions on lawn watering and car washing. The problem is simple. Too little has been spent to upgrade and expand the water systems built nearly 100 years ago to serve the state’s big cities. And too many customers now live in newly built suburbs where every home uses far more water than its urban neighbors. Providence Journal_ 3/4/07 (logon required)

Texas House approves bill to protect water levels of rivers and bays
The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday that would help protect water levels in Texas rivers and the ecological balance and commercial productivity of the state's bays and estuaries.  Voice-vote passage of House Bill 3, filed by House Natural Resources Chairman Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, came after little discussion.  The bill had months of input from stakeholders ranging from cities that need water, to environmental groups that want to protect river habitats, to commercial and recreational fisheries groups that depend on freshwater inflows to bays to maintain healthy fisheries.  Puente told House members that instead of trying to continue to meet river and bay needs with a state commission looking at water rights applications on a case-by-case basis, the bill would establish advisory and scientific panels that over the next several years would develop science-based standards for the flows needed for each river basin.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates the usage of surface water by issuing permits, would incorporate the new standards into its considerations for issuing any new permits. It would be authorized to set aside and not issue permits for amounts necessary to keep river and bay systems healthy. MySanAntonio.com_3/2/07

February, 2007

Who's got the world's tastiest water?
For the third time in four years, the northwest Ohio town of Montpelier can claim bragging rights to the world's tastiest tap water.  The village of 4,200 near the Michigan state line has won the Best Municipal Water category, repeating 2003 and 2006 victories at the annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting.  Only one other community, Atlantic City, N.J., has had back-to-back victories in the same category, claiming gold in 1993 and 1994.  Second, third and fourth places this year went to three towns in British Columbia — Clearbrook, Elkford and Campbell River, respectively.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a former gold medal winner, came in fifth among 32 entries from 13 states and three Canadian provinces, event producer Jill Klein Rone said Tuesday. More than 100 waters from 23 U.S. states and 11 countries were judged in various categories at the weekend tasting competition.  Houston Chronicle_2/28/07

Monterey area agencies outline water plan
A memorandum of understanding leading to formation of a Monterey Bay Regional Water Authority was unveiled to cities, public districts and government agencies involved in water issues on Wednesday, Feb. 21.  The regional water authority is intended to develop a strategy for meeting long-term water supply needs for the coastal and northern areas of Monterey County.  The proposed memorandum of understanding, unveiled by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and Monterey Peninsula Water Management Agency, calls for appointment of a Monterey Bay regional water solutions leadership task force made up of representatives from the governing bodies of each entity, and formation of a task force technical advisory committee composed of the executive managers of each entity.  It is not a water allocation program, and the regional authority would not prevent projects already being undertaken by its member agencies from going ahead, said Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass, who serves as chairman of the Water Management Agency.  A regional approach would make the area "well-positioned to be competitive for water funding," said David Potter, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors and a member of the state Coastal Commission.  Monterey County Herald_2/22/07

Los Angeles council OKs projects for water cleanup
$230 million effort targets pollution, urban runoff

Under pressure to take steps to clean urban runoff and improve water quality, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved spending more than $230 million on projects ranging from cleaning up lakes to dealing with storm-drain runoff.  In a 12-0 vote, the council approved using about half of a $500 million bond measure approved by voters in 2004 to begin dealing with water pollution and urban runoff while increasing the amount of park and green space in the city.  "This is an important first step for us to take," council President Eric Garcetti said. "With voters' approval of Proposition O, they gave us the means and the mandate to clean up Los Angeles' water system."  The bond issue is considered a down payment on what has been estimated as an $8 billion problem facing the city as it strives to meet federal cleanup goals.  Officials said they hope to use the bond to generate an additional $300 million in federal and state grants.  Los Angeles Times_2/22/07

Federal plan would cede control of water in Central California
The federal government would give a huge block of water as well as partial control of a large reservoir to powerful Central Valley agricultural interests under a possible agreement aimed at resolving a long-standing farm-drainage problem.  The complicated proposal amounts to an unprecedented restructuring of the federal Central Valley Project, the country's largest water-supply operation.  The project's biggest customer, Westlands Water District, would drop out of the system, and along with neighboring irrigators would assume the rights to a million acre-feet of water — more than the city of Los Angeles consumes in a year.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the project, would also forgive a debt of nearly half a billion dollars the irrigators owe for construction of the mammoth project.  In return, the federal government would no longer be under obligation to fix a vexing San Joaquin Valley drainage problem that could cost U.S. taxpayers several billion dollars to solve.  The proposal, which would require congressional approval, is under discussion and has not been endorsed by the reclamation bureau, which Thursday briefed members of Congress and Interior officials.  Los Angeles Times_2/16/07

Water limits approved for South Florida
South Florida's era of cheap water is ending, water managers said today in unanimously voting to clamp down on cities' and counties' pumping from the Everglades.  The limits — which also affect pumping from the Loxahatchee River and its tributaries — mean local governments will have to turn to increasingly to new sources to meet the needs of their soaring populations. Those steps could include recycling sewage for irrigation, drawing mineral-laden water from deep underground or possibly desalinating ocean water.  The result will mean higher water bills for people and businesses from Martin County to the Keys, utility managers warn.  Even so, the South Florida Water Management District's new rule won endorsements today from some utility managers, as well as environmentalists and the U.S. Interior Department.  The board voted 7-0 to OK the rule, which will take effect in 21 days unless someone challenges it. Board members Harkley Thornton of St. Cloud and Malcolm "Bubba" Wade Jr. of Clewiston were absent.  Supporters say the limits are essential to ensure that the $10.9 billion Everglades restoration meets its promise to rescue nature, not just provide inexpensive water for development.  Palm Beach Post_2/15/07

National coalition to seek federal support for new water supplies
Advocates for new water supplies nationwide have come together to form the New Water Supply Coalition to push for expanded federal support for water supply infrastructure. The Washington DC-based coalition of public water agencies and water industry companies will seek congressional support for the development of new water supply projects nationwide including water recycling, seawater and brackish groundwater desalination and groundwater reclamation projects.  The New Water Supply Coalition is an expanded organization that grew from the U.S. Desalination Coalition, formed in 2002, to seek federal funding for the construction of seawater and brackish groundwater desalination projects. The U.S. Desalination Coalition has several major public water agency members from Florida, Texas and California. The U.S. Desalination Coalition raised congressional awareness of the nation's looming water supply crisis and successfully sought the introduction of legislation in the 109th Congress that would have provided $200 million in funding for desalination projects.  "Our growing national population and the challenges posed by climate change make the development of new water supplies a critical priority for our nation," said Hal Furman, Executive Director of the New Water Supply Coalition. "We have the technology to develop new water supplies if it becomes a national priority, but time is of the essence."  Press Release_2/14/07

Kentucky water systems threatened
Federal officials have told officials of water systems serving 200,000 people in Southern Kentucky they need to lower the level of their intakes in Lake Cumberland, which could cost millions of dollars.  The news is another consequence of the leaks undermining Wolf Creek Dam, which impounds the lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last month that it would lower the level of the lake to take pressure off the dam.  Local and state officials are scrambling to figure out the best way to get water-intake pipes deeper into the lake, come up with cost estimates for the work and figure out how to pay for it.  The Corps said the dam has been rated at high risk of failing because of the leaks in the earthen section of the mile-long structure.  The surface level this year will be at 680 feet above sea level, instead of the usual 723-foot level.  The Corps said the dam is not at imminent risk of failing, but that, if conditions get worse, the lake will be lowered even more to protect people who live below the dam. That's where the agency's advice to water systems that draw from the lake comes in.  All those systems can draw out water at 680 feet. At 650, however, none of them could, said Bill Peoples, a spokesman for the Corps.  Lexington-Herald Leader_2/15/07

Montana lawmakers draft bills on water and development

Uneasy about rapid residential development outside city limits and about Montana's ''perennial'' water problem, state lawmakers have proposed dozens of pertinent laws, but only a few have sufficiently broad support, with Helena-based Montana Smart Growth Coalition Director Tim Davis telling legislative journalist Jennifer McKee, ''Nothing that is not bipartisan is going to survive.'' Among the more controversial proposals is House Bill 104, sponsored by Democratic Representative Kevin Furey. With the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) routinely exempting wells outside city limits from its regulations and letting owners pump 10 acre-feet of water a year, an equivalent of one foot of water over 10 acres, the bill would cut that to 1 acre-foot and limit the acreage an exempted well can irrigate. New West/Smart Growth Online_ 2/13/07

No easy fixes for Waukesha, Wisconsin's water radium problems

Waukesha Water Utility Manager Dan Duchniak said conservation can go only so far in providing residents with a reliable supply of drinking water not contaminated by natural radium. The city plans to ask the state Public Service Commission to implement a new rate structure for residents that makes water consumption more expensive as more is consumed, he said. Now the cost of water use becomes cheaper as use increases. Duchniak's presentation culminated with an outline of the city's interest in obtaining a new supply of water from Lake Michigan. He discussed the likely need to return 100% of used and treated Great Lakes water to the lake through a tributary, such as the Root River. One conservation suggestion from a resident Monday night was to eliminate the need for a new water source by recharging the aquifer beneath Waukesha with treated wastewater. But in Lake Geneva, where that method is used, problems have arisen with concentrations of chlorides from water softeners and pharmaceutical medicines that pass through humans collecting in the aquifer, officials said. Journal-Sentinel_ 2/12/07

NYC beefs up water system patrols after bombs found in California
Authorities beefed up patrols and surveillance Thursday at critical points in the city's water system after pipe bombs were found in a portion of the California Aqueduct.  "It's strictly a precautionary measure," said Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP is charged with protecting the vast water system that supplies the city's 8 million residents. Three pipe bombs were discovered Tuesday near a valve in a portion of the California Aqueduct, which had been partially drained as part of a routine check for submerged objects. The California Highway Patrol said that if the bombs had been triggered, they could have opened the valve and released water. A bomb unit detonated them in a safe area. It wasn't known if the bombs were placed in the aqueduct to intentionally disrupt California's water supplies, but Michaels said New York City wasn't taking any chances.   San Jose Mercury News_2/8/07

Montana sues Wyoming over water rights
Montana sued Wyoming in the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday over water rights in two shared rivers, which Montana claims are running dry due to Wyoming‘s overuse.  The lawsuit alleges Wyoming is ignoring Montana‘s "senior" water rights by taking more water from the rivers than allowed under the 1950 Yellowstone River Compact. That includes water diverted and stored for irrigation and ground water pumped from beneath the surface during coal-bed methane production.  The 1950 compact calls for disagreements to go straight to the Supreme Court for resolution.  But Montana officials say their state is bearing the greater burden. Montana Natural Resources and Conservation Director Mary Sexton said anyone flying over the border region last summer would have seen a sharp contrast: green on the Wyoming side, brown in Montana.  The lawsuit also names North Dakota as a defendant, but only because that state also is part of the water compact. Montana officials said the lawsuit seeks no relief from North Dakota. The Benton Crier_2/1/07

Watchdog agency outlines Monterey Cal. water agenda
Goal: regional solution to Peninsula's problems

A state utility watchdog agency Wednesday outlined an ambitious agenda for the coming year that will ask local public agencies and private utilities to come up with a regional plan to solve the Peninsula's water shortage.  Orchestrating a meeting of more than 40 representatives from various water interests with the flair of a motivational seminar speaker, economist Steve Kasower of the University of California-Santa Cruz Urban and Regional Water Research team walked them through a four-point regional collaboration strategy in which the agencies involved would:

• pursue a more beneficial water supply for the region;

• examine regional solutions that may ignore agency boundaries, previous project plans, organizational histories or previous animosities;

• follow the discussion subject scheduled and avoid veering into other issues;

• provide technical staff members for planning analyses or other studies during the collaboration process.

Kasower is serving as a consultant to the state Public Utilities Commission's Division of Ratepayer Advocates, which called the meeting to determine which water agencies would be on board for a regional approach.  Most of them showed up, including the county Water Resources Agency, California American Water, the Marina Coast Water District, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, Monterey Peninsula Water Pollution Control Agency, Castroville Water District and representatives from citizen organizations interested in the water issue.  Monterey County Herald_1/31/07

California OKs plastic pipes for home water lines in place of copper

California home builders on Monday won the right to use less-expensive plastic water piping instead of copper, ending a two-decade-long battle against groups that warned of plastic's potential health hazards. "Forty-nine other states use the product. We now have a 25-year history of this product in use," said Dennis Beddard, general counsel of the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which drafted the regulation. "It clearly demonstrates this product can be used safely." Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as CPVC piping, is a sturdy material that - unlike most plastics - holds up even when filled with hot water. That makes it an ideal substitute for the metal pipes traditionally used in homes. It also costs several thousand dollars less in a typical home than copper piping. But environmental concerns and fire hazards prompted state regulators to ban its use in drinking-water lines throughout the state. The building industry has lobbied the commission since 1982. AP/Los Angeles Daily News_ 1/29/07

Fearing a dam break, feds lower the water level on Kentucky lake
Fearing a dam break that could cause catastrophic flooding in Kentucky and Tennessee, the Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the water level on Lake Cumberland on Monday.  The measure was aimed at reducing pressure on the weakened 240-foot-high dam, said Lt. Col. Steven J. Roemhildt, commander of the Corps of Engineers’ Nashville office.  “We must take this emergency action to reduce risk to the public and to the dam itself,” he said in a statement.  If the Wolf Creek Dam, which is nearly a mile long, were to break, flooding in communities downstream along the Cumberland River could kill people and cause an estimated $3.4 billion in damage, Roemhildt said. Cities along the Cumberland include Nashville, Tenn.  The dam, which has a concrete core surrounded by earth, was built near Jamestown in the early 1950s. The lake it holds back was created as part of a federal plan to control floods along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.  Roemhildt said water has been seeping under the dam and eroding the limestone on which the concrete rests. He said crews were pumping grout into the ground to counter the erosion.  Reducing the water level could have a major ecological and economic effect as well. Roemhildt said people can expect fish kills because of a rise in water temperature, and boats at marinas could be left high and dry.  Lake Cumberland, about 100 miles southeast of Louisville and one of the nation’s largest freshwater reservoirs, is a popular destination for boaters. A thriving houseboat industry has sprung up around the lake, which has more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.  Napa Valley Register_1/25/07

Los Angeles' open water: what to do about uncovered reservoirs

Los Angeles' 15-year struggle to upgrade its water system has reached its final hurdle: negotiating the fate of two vintage reservoirs, one just north of downtown, the other in a wealthy canyon enclave on the Westside. Facing new water regulations prohibiting open-air reservoirs of potable water, the city would prefer to cover Elysian and Upper Stone Canyon reservoirs with fabric, metal or concrete. But local residents are fighting to have the sites somehow reclaimed as parkland or open space. In the early 1990s California and the federal government began issuing laws to protect municipal water supplies from pathogens, toxic runoff and terrorist attacks. Ever since the city Department of Water and Power launched a $2.3-billion effort to comply with the new rules, anger and fear have simmered in neighborhoods that cherished their views of open water. It's not just Los Angeles. The number of open drinking water reservoirs in the United States has shrunk from 750 in 1975 to only 115 in 2007. Los Angeles Times_ 1/22/07 (logon required)

Power outage with October surprise snow storm left Buffalo, New York suburbs on brink of losing all water

The Erie County Water Authority had never braced for a widespread power failure. "We estimate that we were, at most, two hours away from the heart of the system being without water," said Thomas P. Casey, a county health official who had been nudging the water system to install backup power at its two treatment plants and major pump sites that propel water into homes, businesses and hospitals. Examining information requested from the Water Authority, Casey and other health engineers have learned that the water network serving 550,000 people was going dry more quickly than surmised at the time and that the system sorely needs permanent standby power at key sites. Health officials now know that some tanks in the Southtowns were empty the night of Friday, Oct. 13, the day the storm ended. Had (another) tank gone dry, Casey said, Water Authority customers from Amherst to Hamburg would have faced more troubles than those accompanying a power failure. They would have lost toilets that flush, fire hydrants that work and shower heads from which to bathe, let alone water that could be made consumable after boiling for two minutes. Even though the authority spends thousands of dollars a month on a Washington lobbyist and $30,000 a year on an image consultant, its county- and state-approved emergency plan made no provision to place water in neighborhoods during an emergency. In October, that chore became the county Health Department's, which arranged for water to be trucked in that weekend, if needed. Buffalo News_ 1/14/07

New Hampshire rivers losing water to homes, snowmaking, bottled water

At least three rivers in the Seacoast area are losing water to development. Water withdrawals from the Isinglass River exceeded state standards all through 2003 and 2004, the latest years for which state figures are available. As a result, water levels were lower than they should have been along the entire length of the river, according to the state Department of Environmental Services. Excessive water withdrawals also affected the Lamprey and Exeter rivers at times during the same period. Daily Democrat/AP/Boston Globe_ 1/14/07

Water rules worry New Mexico's pecan farmers

State asserts restrictions needed to protect downstream users

Doña Ana County pecan farmers are unhappy over a set of proposed rules by the state engineer that would cap water use for growers of all crops during dry years.  The proposed limit isn t enough to produce a pecan crop, and it could hurt orchards and the industry overall, said Phillip Arnold, a Las Cruces pecan grower and buyer.  State Engineer John D Antonio, who released the draft regulations in November, has said they are needed to avoid a legal battle with downstream water users.  The rule causing a stir would keep farmers from using more than 4 acre-feet of water per acre each year, regardless of whether it originated from the Rio Grande or a ground well. Farmers during low river water years typically rely heavily on ground water pumping.  D Antonio said the limitation wouldn't apply to each farmer directly but the entire usage for the basin will have to average out to 4 acre-feet. Some farmers, depending on their circumstances, might be entitled to use more. D Antonio said farmers also would be able to lease water from one another to make up for shortfalls.  The limitation is one of several steps needed to keep from over-pumping the basin, which would lead to the state not meeting its water delivery obligations to Texas, D Antonio said. New Mexico lost a water fight with Texas over Pecos River water that cost the state millions of dollars, D Antonio said.  El Paso Times_1/3/07

Well water program on television

To help private well owners protect their drinking water supply, the University of Rhode Island is sponsoring a television program that will be broadcast in January.  Titled “Private Drinking Water Well Testing and Protection,” the program will air several times a week during the month.  The program will provide private well owners with information to make informed decisions about protecting their drinking water supply.  One in 10 Rhode Islanders rely on private wells for their drinking water supply.  Jamestown Press_1/3/07

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