Archive for the 'lakes' Category

Las Vegas Completing Last Straw to Draw Lake Mead Water

Photo retrieved from: www.abcnews.com

“It took $817 million, two starts, more than six years and one worker’s life to drill a so-called “Third Straw” to make sure glittery casinos and sprawling suburbs of Las Vegas can keep getting drinking water from near the bottom of drought-stricken Lake Mead.

The pipeline, however, won’t drain the largest Colorado River reservoir any faster. It’s designed to ensure that Las Vegas can still get water if the lake surface drops below two existing supply intakes.

“You turn on the tap, you don’t think about it,” said Noah Hoefs, a pipeline project manager for the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Water Authority. “These are the things being done in order to live the lifestyle we want in the places we want to live.”

It’s the latest example of ways the parched West is scrambling to deal with 15 years of unprecedented drought.

California is encouraging homeowners to rip out thirsty lawns and asking farmers to turn off spigots. And in New Mexico, a $550 million pipeline project would supply drinking water to several communities that run the risk of having wells go dry within a decade.

Las Vegas started in 1999 to conserve, reuse and replenish supplies. When Lake Mead water levels plummeted in 2002, regional water officials began drawing up plans for the pipeline.

“Unlike California and our other partners on the river, we are almost entirely reliant on Lake Mead,” said John Entsminger, water authority general manager. “We couldn’t afford to wait.”

Sin City gets about 90 percent of its drinking water from the lake behind Hoover Dam, itself an engineering marvel that cost the lives of about 100 workers during five years of construction before it was completed in 1936.

The need for the new pipeline can be seen in the wide white mineral band marking rock canyon walls where lake water has receded and the sun-bleached docks at abandoned marinas, left high and dry.

The water level has dropped almost the equivalent of a 20-story building since Lake Mead last topped the dam’s spillways in 1983.”

Read more: abc News

 

A Push to Save Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake

Photo retrieved from: www.nytimes.com

“Every year, the lake yields about 300,000 tons of fish, making it one of the world’s most productive freshwater ecosystems. That and the floods that pulse through it in monsoon season, swelling it to as much as five times its dry-season size, have earned the lake the nickname “Cambodia’s beating heart.”

But the Tonle Sap is in trouble — from overfishing to feed a fast-growing population, from the cutting of mangrove forests that shelter young fish, from hydroelectric dams upstream, and from the dry seasons that are expected to grow hotter and longer with climate change.

Keo Mao, a 42-year-old fisherman from Akol, says he hopes his five children can find a way out of the life that has sustained his family for generations. “The lake now is not really so good,” he said. “There are too many people.”

Now an international team of researchers has joined local fishermen in an ambitious project to save the Tonle Sap. The scientists are building an intricate computer model that aims to track the vast array of connections between human activity and natural systems as they change over time. Begun in 2012, the model will take several years to complete, while threats to the Tonle Sap continue to mount.

But the hope is to peer into the lake’s future to predict how different developmental, economic and regulatory choices may ripple through this interconnected and fast-changing ecosystem, and to plan a sustainable way forward.

Charting a Changing Cambodia

Henri Mouhot, the 19th-century French explorer who crossed the Tonle Sap on his way to Angkor Wat, said the lake resembled a violin lying diagonally across Cambodia. At its neck, a tributary flows southeast to the Mekong River. On the laptop of Roel Boumans, an ecologist who helped develop the modeling project, the lake and its flood plain are divided into 16 watersheds that he fills with shades of green, yellow and brown, based on vegetation and land-use data from satellite images.”

Read more: The New York Times

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river’s terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages.

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information.

Fast Facts

  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana.
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked.”

Read more: International Rivers


 

Officials Reveal Second Chemical Spilled in W. Virginia Waters

Photo retrieved from: www.commondreams.org

“West Virginia officials revealed Tuesday that a second potentially harmful chemical had also spilled into the Elk River contaminating the water supply of over 300,000 area residents.

According to the Charleston Gazette, it wasn’t until 12 days after the Jan. 9 spill that Gary Southern, the President of Freedom Industries—the source of the leak—told the state Department of Environmental Protection emergency response director Mike Dorsey that the 7,500 gallons of Crude MCHM also contained a chemical known as “PPH,” which contains potentially toxic glycol ethers.

The Gazette reports:

A Freedom Industries data sheet on the chemical says it can irritate the eyes and skin and is harmful if swallowed. The sheet lists the material as less lethal than Crude MCHM but also says no data are available on its long-term health effects.

State officials said late Tuesday that they believe the West Virginia American Water utility company would “likely have removed the chemical from drinking water during its normal treatment process,” and are performing additional testing of water samples from the first days after the incident to confirm that.

“We have to go back and confirm things and make sure we’re doing our due diligence for public health,” said Gen. James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard.”

Read more: Common Dreams

 

Jordan, the PA and Israel trade water from the Red and Sea of Galilee

Some good news out of the Middle East region for a change: It was announced at the Israel Business Forum that Israel has signed an historic water-sharing agreement with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. But not all parties are happy with political manoeuvrings around the announcement.

The new project will include a new desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan, at the northern tip of the Red Sea in order to provide Jordan and Israel with a new source of drinking water. As per the agreement, Israel would release some of its water from Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), further north, to flow to Jordan, and at the same time provide desalinated water to the Palestinians to use in the West Bank.

In a later phase of the project a 180km pipeline system might transport brine produced in the desalination plant form the Red Sea north to the Dead Sea, but officials on the ground say they don’t have information that it would be part of Monday’s agreement.

Read More: Green Prophet

 

You’re invited to Jenna Cavelle’s lecture “Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute” Thursday, Nov 21st at UC Berkeley!

Environmental (In)Justice in Native America: The Case of the Owens Valley Paiute

Over the past 150-years the expropriation of land and water from aboriginal communities in the Owens Valley have had devastating impacts for both people and the environment. Impacts include but are not limited to; loss of land and water rights, increased air pollution, habitat destruction and water scarcity.  These effects have in turn led to erasure of cultural landscapes and caused enduring historical trauma. While non-Indian communities in the region have experienced similar Environmental Justice (EJ) issues, disproportionate exposures for the native community are due in large part to their exclusion from larger EJ discussions and narratives. This lecture will show how community-based projects can promote an EJ framework within tribes through inclusion, indigenous activism and participant media.

The lecture is from 12:30pm – 2pm at GPB 100 on UC Berkeley campus (across from Pat Brown’s). The lecture will begin with the 30-minute conclusion of the documentary film Mulholland’s Dream followed by a 50-minute talk with 10-minutes of Q&A. Following the lecture is the opening reception of Jenna Cavelle’s exhibition at the Bancroft Library titled Water & Culture: Recovering Owens Valley Paiute History. The reception will last from 2-4pm with Cavelle making remarks at 3pm.  For more information contact: jennacavelle@peakwater.org

Cavelle is a published environmental journalist and researcher with a degree in Conservation and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley and is an entering MFA Candidate in Film at the University of Southern California (Spring 2014). Using a Political Ecology approach, her research examines human-environment interactions throughout the Citarum River Basin in West Java, Indonesia. Here, she explores the ecological, cultural, political, and economic factors that underlie water scarcity, degradation, and conflict with an emphasis on how local systems intersect with global forces to produce changes in access among differing groups.

Currently, Cavelle works with members of the Paiute Indian community of Owens Valley, California on a project that combines education, outreach, and technology to restore cultural memory associated with their ancient irrigation systems. These waterworks are currently in danger of being lost in the Owens Valley landscape through weathering and neglect. In addition, knowledge of the waterworks is also fading from American memory through the loss of culturally transmitted traditional knowledge. Through community engagement, her project works with tribal members to document Paiute irrigation networks and their role in shaping Paiute culture using museum exhibits, cartography and documentary film. While this project has real bearing on tribal customs and interests, it also informs larger local and regional communities.

Where Did the Water Go? Busting 5 Myths About Water Levels on the Great Lakes

Photo retrieved from: www.nationalgeographic.com

“The extreme low levels earlier this year left many asking, “Where did the water go?” The answer is that it simply evaporated. The surface of the Great Lakes acts like an enormous evaporating pan under the right conditions. As explained in a previous post, the lack of ice cover in 2011-12 and record-breaking warm temperatures created ideal conditions for high rates of evaporation on Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. These lakes had already been fluctuating below average levels for 15 years. A severe drought prevented the lakes from replenishing themselves, and water levels reached record lows.

Another reason the water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron are lower than normal is the past dredging and erosion in the St. Clair River that resulted in a 10- to 15-inch (25- to 38-centimeter) lowering of water levels. These historic losses were never offset with mitigation measures. The only dredging that occurs today is to keep rivers at authorized depths for navigation. Recent studies show this is not the cause of low water.

Even though this is well documented by the agencies that have been monitoring water levels, going back to 1918, various theories about possible causes abound, especially online. Some of these theories and misleading facts get repeated so often, they become mythic. As the lakes begin their seasonal decline, a little myth-busting is in order.”

Read more: National Geographic

 

Iran’s Water Woes More Worrying than War

Photo retrieved from: www.greenprophet.com

“Iran’s population of 75 million faces chronic water shortages, according to a recent story published in Al Monitor.

Not only have three of its major lakes dried up, including Lake Orumieh, the tragic devastation of which we have covered several times, Lake Haman, and Lake Bakhtegan, but changes in weather patterns as a result of rising global temperatures ensure very little renewal.

“Here in Iran, we are situated in a low-precipitation belt of the planet,” Gary Lewis, the UN resident coordinator in Iran, told Al-Monitor. “One primary concern must therefore be water. We are at risk of a perfect storm: water scarcity, land degradation and climate change all feeding into each other.”

Unlike Israel, where water shortages have long been a fact of life, the Iranian government has done very little about educating the masses to conserve water. As a result, they act as if there is a never-ending source.

Currently the average Iranian uses 70 percent more water than the global average, Lewis told the paper. Shopkeepers in Tehran are said to wash their storefront sidewalks with water instead of using a broom, and in the heat of the day during a recent heat wave, municipal workers were seen watering with full flow hoses.

Agriculture uses approximately 90 percent of the country’s water, and approximately 70 percent of that is wasted. This is a sad state of affairs for a nation that boasts an impressive history of sustainable water management practices.

Israel and Iran are arch enemies, and so much time and energy is wasted perpetuating this lingering political hatred, but the latter nation could stand to learn from Israel’s super efficient irrigation practices and ingenuous desert farming.”

Read more: Green Prophet