Archive for the 'groundwater' Category

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Truce called in longtime feud between L.A. County water districts

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“For nearly three years, two Los Angeles County water districts had been locked in an ugly feud.

The Central Basin Water District, a water wholesaler, refused to sell to its rival, the Water Replenishment District, which manages an underground storage basin in southeast Los Angeles County that serves 4 million residents. For its part, the WRD was just as happy not to buy the water, lest the purchase benefit Central Basin.

The standoff cut groundwater storage even as the state faced a looming drought.

But as Central Basin faces an FBI corruption investigation, the bad blood between the two agencies has suddenly eased.

Central Basin this month agreed to sell 60,000 acre-feet of water to the Water Replenishment District. Water experts say the sale represents a major boost to the local underground basin. It comes as the drought is forcing local agencies to rely more on the basin for water.

“I think it’s a new day where we’re finally practicing good water management in our basin,” said Kevin Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department, who has sat on the sidelines as the water war raged. “We put zero drops of water in this basin. And that, to me, is the travesty. And it was because of this war.”

Typically, the Water Replenishment District replenishes the basin with about 100,000 acre-feet of “artificially captured water” a year, most of it from rain runoff. About 20% usually comes from imported water purchased from Central Basin. But there has been very little rainfall in the last three years, which combined with the lack of imported water has concerned Wattier and others.”

Read more: The Los Angeles Times

 

 

As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater

Photo retrieved from: www.e360.yale.edu

“In a study conducted last year, researchers from the environmental consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, attempted to trace fracking water — from water withdrawal to wastewater disposal — at several wells in the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We just couldn’t do it,” said Downstream Strategies staff scientist Meghan Betcher, citing a lack of good data and the wide range of disposal methods used by the industry. What the study did find was that gas companies use up to 4.3 million gallons of clean water to frack a single well in Pennsylvania, and that more than half of the wastewater is treated and discharged into surface waters such as rivers and streams.

Increasingly, the fracking boom in the Marcellus Shale and across the United States is leaving behind some big water worries — concerns that are only growing as shale gas development continues to expand. Pennsylvania, which has experienced a frenzied half-dozen years of hydraulic fracturing, is now the U.S.’s third-largest producer of natural gas. The Downstream Strategies report noted that from 2005 to 2012, Pennsylvania and West Virginia issued permits for nearly 9,000 natural gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing technology, which pumps a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals, and sand deep into shale formations to extract natural gas.

The vast volume of water needed to extract that natural gas, and the large amounts of wastewater generated during the process, is causing increasing concern among geochemists, biologists, engineers, and toxicologists.”

Read more: Yale Environment 360

Rain Has Little Impact on Santa Cruz County’s Water Woes

Photo retrieved from: www.santacruzsentinel.com

“SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz County’s thirst is still unquenched.

More than nine inches of rain soaked some spots of the county during the weekend, downing trees, flooding roads and finally freeing endangered fish to swim upstream. But the drenching was more show than substance, barely making a dent in the county’s scarce supplies of water.

“We’re still a long way from no need to conserve,” said Eileen Cross, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Water Department, which will present a recommendation for mandatory water rationing at Tuesday’s 7 p.m. City Council meeting.

Due to parched conditions, the earth essentially acted as a giant sponge, absorbing water before it had a chance to run into tributaries or trickle into underwater wells. The column of tropical moisture known as a Pineapple Express helped alleviate dangerous fire conditions, but did little to bolster local water supplies.

“We are continuing to move forward with programs that are in place that would reduce demand as we get into the summer, with the assumption that we’re not going to see a return to normal rainfall totals over the next three months,” said San Lorenzo Valley Water District Manager Jim Mueller, where customers have been asked for a 20 percent cut in water use.

Three-day rainfall amounts peaked at 9.58 inches at the top of Empire Grade. Most coastal areas saw between one and three inches, with more in higher elevations such as the San Lorenzo Valley, where the storm doubled the amount of rain seen since Oct. 1 to about eight inches.”

Read more: Santa Cruz Sentinel

 

Fracking is depleting water supplies in America’s driest areas

Photo retrieved from: www.theguardian.com

“America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.”

Read more: The Guardian

 

California Dries Up as Brown Pushes $15 Billion Tunnel

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

California’s worsening drought is raising the stakes for a $15 billion plan endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown to build two 30-mile (48-kilometer) water tunnels under an ecologically sensitive river delta east of San Francisco Bay.

The tunnels, each as wide as a two-lane interstate highway, would ship water more reliably from northern California to thirsty farms and cities in the south. They would also bolster the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which is on the verge of collapse from feeding water to 25 million people and 750,000 acres (304,000 hectares) of farmland.

The drought, which officials say could be one of the worst in California’s history, is forcing farmers in the fertile central valley region to fallow thousands of acres of fields and has left 17 rural towns so low on drinking water that the state may need to start trucking in supplies. The tunnels are the biggest part of a $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Reservoirs are at about 60 percent of average, according to state water data, and falling as rainfall remains at record low levels. Mountain snowpack is about 12 percent of normal for this time of year. Brown is urging the state’s 38 million residents to conserve and warning that mandatory restrictions are possible.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

Fukushima Wash-Up Fears in U.S. Belie Radiation Risks: Energy

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

“Seaborne radiation from Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant will wash up on the West Coast of the U.S. this year.

That’s raising concerns among some Americans including the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fairfax, which passed a resolution on Dec. 6 calling for more testing of coastal seafood.

At the same time, oceanographers and radiological scientists say such concerns are unwarranted given existing levels of radiation in the ocean.

The runoff from the Japanese plant will mingle with radiation released by other atomic stations, such as Diablo Canyon in California. Under normal operations, Diablo Canyon discharges more radiation into the sea, albeit of a less dangerous isotope, than the Fukushima station, which suffered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.”

Read more: Bloomberg

 

Moving Mountains

“When it comes to mining for copper and gold, prospectors will move mountains to make it happen. As in, physically dig up the rock, extract the precious metals and move the debris elsewhere.

In the chilly high altitudes of the Andes Mountains, however, what may look like part of a mountain can in fact be a huge, frozen block of rock fragments and ice. When some of that ice melts in the spring, these so-called “rock glaciers” become a valuable source of water for local populations.

Rock Glacier in the Argentinian Andes, retrieved from UDaily

A scientific team including researchers from the University of Delaware trekked to the Andes in Argentina this month to learn more about rock glacier dynamics. They are estimating how much ice is locked inside rock glaciers where several new mines are being developed and how far the formations move each year.

The effort will aid the mining industry and government officials in determining the potential environmental impacts of disrupting the geological features.

“Mining companies are very concerned about altering or damaging any natural icy landscapes because there is so little water coming out of the high, dry Andes,” said Michael O’Neal, associate professor of geological sciences in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

O’Neal and two graduate students, Renato Kane and Erika Schreiber, spent two weeks collecting field data in the San Juan Province, situated just east of the Chilean border at altitudes between 10,000 and 15,000 feet. Kane’s thesis work will evaluate year-to-year movements of rock glaciers, which measure roughly one-third of a square mile, using a terrestrial laser scanner.

Rock glaciers form gradually as mountains erode and pieces of rock crumble downwards. Snow blankets the rocks and then melts when temperatures rise, causing water to seep in between crevices before refreezing. Like regular glaciers, rock glaciers move slowly under their own weight and seasonal melt. The scientists will compare data from year to year to track that movement.

“If they truly are active and flowing, we’ll see it when we measure their position,” O’Neal said.

If not, the rock glaciers may be inactive relics of a glacial advance thousands of years ago and no longer contribute to annual water flow.”

Read more: University of Delaware’s UDaily

 

Nile Delta Disappearing Beneath the Sea

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“It only takes a light covering of seawater to render land infertile, so Mohamed Saeed keeps a close watch on the sea as it advances year after year towards his two-hectare plot of land. The young farmer, whose clover field lies just 400 metres from Egypt’s northern coast, reckons he has less than a decade before his field – and livelihood – submerges beneath the sea.

But even before that, his crops will wither and die as seawater infiltrates the local aquifer. The process has already begun, he says, clutching a handful of white-caked soil.

“The land has become sick,” says Saeed. “The soil is saline, the irrigation water is saline, and we have to use a lot of fertilisers to grow anything on it.”

Spread over 25,000 kilometres, the densely populated Nile Delta is the breadbasket of Egypt, accounting for two-thirds of the country’s agricultural production and home to 40 million people. Its northern flank, running 240 kilometres from Alexandria to Port Said, is one of the most vulnerable coastlines in the world, facing the triple threat of coastal erosion, saltwater infiltration, and rising sea levels.

According to Khaled Ouda, a geologist at Assiut University, a 30 centimetres rise in sea level would inundate 6,000 square kilometres of the Nile Delta. The flooding would create islands out of an additional 2,000 square kilometres of elevated land, isolating towns, roads, fields, and industrial facilities.”

Read more: IPS News

 

Are We Starting to Run Out of Fresh Water?

Photo retrieved from: www.alternet.org

Peak water is here and unlike peak oil, there is no substitution for water. But like peak oil the low-hanging fruit of our fresh water supply has been picked and what is left requires costly environmental and financial impacts to extract. Peak water is about reaching physical, economic, and environmental limits on meeting human demands for water and the subsequent decline of water availability and use. There is a vast amount of water on the planet but sustainably managed water is becoming scarce.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States—and several other populous countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Mexico.”

Read more: Alternet

Water Bonds Shrivel as California Sees Driest Year

Photo retrieved from: www.bloomberg.com

“The driest year on record for Los Angeles and San Francisco is threatening water supplies to the world’s most productive agricultural region and almost doubling borrowing costs on some bonds issued by California water agencies.

Los Angeles, which normally gets almost 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain a year, got less than 4 inches in 2013, according to the National Weather Service. San Francisco, where 22 inches is typical, got 6. Severe or extreme drought grips 85 percent of California, a federal monitor reported Dec. 24.

The scarcity is depleting California’s reservoirs and jeopardizing the credit of at least 30 water agencies that had been considered safe bets because their debt is backed by user fees rather than general taxes. Concern grew in November when the California Water Resources Department, the state’s largest supplier, said it was filling just 5 percent of orders from local water agencies, the lowest in five years. Less supply means lower sales and revenue.”

Read more: Bloomberg