Federal Water Tap, August 22: Water Quality and Research

Lake Tahoe Agreement
At a summit on Lake Tahoe’s water quality, the governors of California and Nevada and a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement to improve the lake’s clarity. The agreement sets a plan to reduce pollution from four sources, the most significant of which is urban stormwater runoff.

Also at the summit, the U.S. Geological Survey presented a video, posted on its YouTube channel, that highlights the agency’s research in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Antarctica Ice Flows
The trunk-and-branch shape of a watershed map should be familiar to anyone who has studied rivers. From the smallest tributaries to terminal deltas, the maps provide a schematic view of a river basin. Now, a team of scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine has stitched together thousands of satellite measurements to produce the first “ice-shed” map of Antarctica. The researchers compiled the images—taken between 1996 and 2009 by space agencies from Canada, Japan and Europe—into an animation that shows the velocity of ice flows across the continent.

Advanced Biofuels
The U.S. biofuels industry relies on corn, but to achieve the renewable energy goals many have pinned to it, the industry will need to use source materials that are not also tonight’s dinner. These so-called “advanced biofuels” are the goal of a research and testing center that opened last week at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. The center will allow scientists to test laboratory findings at a scale that mimics industrial production. The center’s $3 million annual operating budget comes from the DOE.

Consent Decrees
The Justice Department has reached agreements with two American cities for violations of the Clean Water Act. The city of Newport, R.I. will pay a penalty of $170,000 and overhaul its sewer system and water pollution control plant. The city of Elkins, W.Va. will pay penalties totaling $64,800 and will spend an estimated $4.2 million to separate its stormwater and sanitary sewer systems.

Where are the Clergy?
They sound like the protagonists in a deeply unfunny joke. But NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and Nike are up to some good. Last year they formed a coalition to promote and support innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems. Uniting under the Nike-esque term LAUNCH, the group started with “water” then moved to “health”. Now it is accepting proposals for ways to transform energy use. Ideas are due September 9. Ten winners will present their deliberations at a conference in November.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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