Drought — and neighbors — press Las Vegas to conserve water

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcnews.com

“An ongoing drought and the Colorado River’s stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead’s water level measured just 48 feet above the system’s topmost intake straw.

Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city’s 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people “better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis.

“But if something does go wrong,” he added, “we’re in the business of making contingency plans.”

For officials here, the scenario signifies a formidable job: providing water for the nation’s driest city. Las Vegas uses more water per capita than most communities in America — 219 gallons of water per person every day — and charges less for it than many communities.

Summer temperatures top 115 degrees in a scorched environment that in a banner year receives a paltry four inches of rain. The inhospitable conditions have pushed officials to develop water conservation programs considered models worldwide.”

Read more: LA Times

 

Hundreds of dead pigs fished from Shanghai river

Retrieved from: www.yourhealth.asiaone.com

“At least 2,800 dead pigs have been fished from a Shanghai river since Friday, but authorities insist that tap water in the city is still safe to drink.

State news agency Xinhua said labels tagged to the pigs’ ears indicated they came from the upper waters of the Huangpu River, which flows through the center of Shanghai and is a source of the city’s drinking water.

It’s not clear why the pigs had been dumped in the river, though local media reported earlier this month that a disease had killed thousands of pigs in a village south of Shanghai.

“We will continue to trace the source, investigate the cause, co-operate with neighboring areas and take measures to stop the dumping of pigs into rivers,” the Shanghai Municipal Agricultural Commission said in a statement posted on their website on Monday.

As of Sunday, water quality on the Songjiang section of the river, where most of the pigs were found, remained normal and the incident has had “no significant effect on tap water supply,” the commission added.”

Read more: CNN

 

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Scientists warn that large-scale fracking for shale gas planned by Mexico’s oil company Pemex will cause a surge in seismic activity in northern Mexico, an area already prone to quakes.

Experts link a 2013 swarm of earthquakes in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León to hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the Burgos and Eagle Ford shale deposits – the latter of which is shared with the U.S. state of Texas.

Researcher Ruperto de la Garza found a link between seismic activity and fracking, a technique that involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, opening and extending fractures in the shale rock to release the natural gas.

“The final result is the dislocation of the geological structure which, when it is pulverised, allows the trapped gas to escape,” the expert with the environmental and risk consultancy Gestoría Ambiental y de Riesgos told IPS from Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila.

When the chemicals are injected “and the lutite particles [sedimentary rock] break down, the earth shifts,” he said. “It’s not surprising that the earth has been settling.”

De la Garza drew up an exhaustive map of the seismic movements in 2013 and the gas-producing areas.

His findings, published on Mar. 22, indicated a correlation between the seismic activity and fracking.

Statistics from Mexico’s National Seismological Service show an increase in intensity and frequency of seismic activity in Nuevo León, where at least 31 quakes between 3.1 and 4.3 on the Richter scale were registered.

Most of the quakes occurred in 2013. Of the ones registered this year, the highest intensity took place on Mar. 2-3, according to official records.”

Read more: IPS

 

Who should get water deliveries divides California lawmakers

Photo retrieved from: www.bellinghamherald.com

“WASHINGTON — Seasonal storms have exposed once more some perennial political divisions over California water.

Citing the latest rainfall, seven of the state’s lawmakers are urging the Obama administration to free up more irrigation deliveries for San Joaquin Valley farms. The muscular Capitol Hill lineup is noticeable both for who’s on it and who’s not.

In a telling alliance, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and four other House Republicans, as well as one House Democrat, in calling for increased deliveries.

“Based on historical weather patterns, these storms could be our last chance this year to receive, capture, and move a sizable amount of water to those farms and communities that desperately need it for public health and safety and for their livelihoods that are under severe threat,” the lawmakers wrote Thursday.

Pointedly, they cited “a significant imbalance of regulatory burdens” in declaring that “there is clearly no imminent threat” to federally protected fish species.

Those not signing the letter to the Interior and Commerce departments were equally telling.”

Read more here: The Bellingham Herald

China Rivers at the Brink of Collapse

Photo retrieved from: www.huffingtonpost.com

“China’s rulers have traditionally derived their legitimacy from controlling water. The country ranks only sixth in terms of annual river runoff, but counts half the planet’s large dams within its borders. A new report warns that dam building has brought China’s river ecosystems to the point of collapse.

Since the 1950s, China has dammed, straightened, diverted and polluted its rivers in a rapid quest for industrialization. Many of these projects had disastrous environmental, social and economic impacts. The Sanmenxia Dam on the Yellow River for example flooded 660 square kilometers of fertile land and displaced 410,000 people. Yet because it silted up rapidly, the project only generates power at one sixth of its projected capacity.

In the new millennium, the Chinese government realized that its ruthless dam building program threatened to undermine the country’s long-term prosperity and stability. In 2004, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao suspended dam construction on the Nu (Salween) and the Jinsha (upper Yangtze) rivers, including a project on the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge. The government created fisheries reserves and strengthened environmental guidelines. In 2011, it even acknowledged the “urgent environmental problems” of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world’s largest hydropower project.”

Read more: Huffington Post

 

BP confirms oil spill into Lake Michigan from Whiting refinery

Photo retrieved from: www.nbcchicago.com

“It remains unclear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued. Workers at the refinery reported an oil sheen on the water about 4:30 p.m. Monday, and an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the leak was plugged by the time he arrived at 9 p.m.

Mike Beslow, the EPA’s emergency response coordinator, said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs. The 68th Street water intake crib is about eight miles northwest of the spill site, but there were no signs of oil drifting in that direction.

Initial reports suggest that strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP’s property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. A flyover Tuesday afternoon revealed no visible oil beyond booms laid on the water to prevent the oil from spreading, Beslow said.

“There is no known impact to wildlife or human health at this time,” Beslow said.

Frigid temperatures caused some of the oil to harden into a waxy consistency that made it easier to collect, said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman. Crews used vacuum trucks to suck up any liquid oil that washed ashore.”

Read more: Chicago Tribune

 

 

Washington state mudslide death toll at 24, expected to rise

Photo retrieved from: www.komonews.com

“A 1999 study by geologist Daniel Miller for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned of the potential for a “large catastrophic failure” in the area, northeast of Seattle.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the county’s emergency management director, John Pennington, said local authorities had spent millions of dollars on work to reduce landslide risks in the area after the 2006 event.

He suggested that while officials and residents were aware of vulnerability to unstable hill slopes, Saturday’s tragedy came out of the blue.

“We really did a great job of mitigating the potential for smaller slides to come in and impact the community,” Pennington said. “So from 2006 to this point, the community did feel safe, they fully understood the risks.”

But he also said: “People knew that this is a landslide-prone area. Sometimes big events just happen. Sometimes large events that nobody sees happens. And this event happened, and I want to find out why. I don’t have those answers right now.”

DEATH TOLL HIGHER

Pennington told a Wednesday morning news conference that he expected to have updated figures later in the day on the number of missing individuals, and presumably the death toll.”

Read more: Reuters

 

Historic “Pulse Flow” Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta

 

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“Water for the pulse flow is being released from Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam at an unspecified time. It will take a few days to travel some 320 river miles (515 kilometers) to the Morelos Dam. On March 23, the gates of Morelos Dam will be opened by the International Boundary and Water Commission, which operates the structure. That will allow the pulse flow to enter the last 70 miles (113 kilometers) of the Colorado River. Peak flow through the gates is expected around March 27, and then the flow will taper to a lower volume for about eight weeks.

As agreed upon by the U.S. and Mexico, the total amount of flow over the period will be 105,392 acre-feet of water (130 million cubic meters). That represent less than one percent of the pre-dam annual flow through the Colorado, “but in terms of recent flows it is very significant,” says Postel.

The outcome of the pulse flow remains somewhat unpredictable. Groundwater “sinks” along the route will trap an unknown amount of the water, and debris could block part of the flow or cause it to reroute. “There’s a lot of uncertainty because this is an experiment that hasn’t been done before,” says Postel. (See “The American Nile.”)”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Lawmakers Get Disturbing Picture Of Status of Groundwater

“Groundwater supplies are at an all-time low in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins. Management of that dwindling supply was the focus of debate at the state Capitol.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office told lawmakers that without comprehensive statewide regulation of groundwater, management of the state’s water supply will be increasingly difficult. The LAO suggests the state require local water districts to phase in groundwater permitting and keep track of how much water is extracted from all groundwater wells.

“Hydrologist Jay Famiglietti with UC Irvine says in some places water will disappear in a matter of decades.

“The water losses over the past couple of years have been particularly profound,” says Famiglietti. ”They are roughly equal to 12 and a half cubic kilometers per year which is on annual basis more water than all human water use domestic, municipal, urban water use for all Californians.”

“Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposes almost five million dollars to hire more people to identify, monitor and potentially regulate groundwater basins that are in danger of permanent damage.
You can view the LAO’s report here.

 

 

 

Dahr Jamail | New Mexico: Where Polluting Groundwater Is Legal

Photo retrieved from: www.earthworksaction.org

“New Mexicans get 90 percent of their drinking water from groundwater. Yet the governor of this drought-plagued Southwestern state has given the copper industry carte blanche to pollute what is left of that essential resource.

New Mexico’s Republican governor is the industry-friendly Susanna Martinez, whose administration has been the bane of those concerned about the state’s environment and increasingly precious water resources from the moment she took power in January 2011.

“The Martinez administration behaves like a corporation focused on quarterly numbers,” northern New Mexico resident William deBuys, author of seven books, including A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, told Truthout. “Given the state’s long-term prospects under the warming and drying influence of climate change, New Mexico should be placing high priority on building its water resilience, including protection of its groundwater. Unfortunately, the Martinez gang doesn’t understand this, or doesn’t care. Susanna’s national aspirations and the hunger of her cronies for immediate profits trump everything.”

These are strong words, but deBuys is far from alone in his analysis.

William Olson is a hydrologist and geologist who worked 25 years for the state of New Mexico, including as the Environment Department’s chief of the Ground Water Quality Bureau as well as with the water quality control commission for 13 years.”

Read more: Truth Out