Federal Water Tap, July 5: Monitoring the Environment

Montana Oil Spill
Only a small fraction of the oil spilled from an ExxonMobil pipeline into the Yellowstone River in Montana is likely to be recovered, according to an Environmental Protection Agency staff member, speaking with the Associated Press. In the last year, several pipeline breaks have fouled waterways in the U.S, most notably the rupture that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a tributary of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. In response to those earlier spills, the Senate is considering a bill that would increase financial penalties for leaks, add more federal inspectors, and require safety features such as automatic shut-off valves.

Adjust Your Settings
Every decade the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updates its 30-year climate baseline. The measurements from its 1981-2010 “normals”, released last week, show that average temperatures in the U.S. increased 0.5 degrees F from the 1971-2000 period. The largest increases happened in the upper Midwest, Southwest and Northeast.

A second NOAA report looks globally. Last year was the second hottest year on record, according to the State of the Climate in 2010. Evidence from ocean salinity measurements suggests that the water cycle is becoming more intense—i.e., higher evaporation rates and more precipitation. More precise salinity data is the goal of a NASA satellite mission launched last month.

Recovery Act Review
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the “stimulus”) provided $6 billion for two federal revolving loan funds used to finance water projects. The Government Accountability Office reviewed how closely implementation of the act hewed to its purpose, and found, based on data analysis and interviews with state officials, that states were “largely complying” with the act’s requirements.

New Tests
The Environmental Protection Agency approved a menu of new tests for analyzing contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a complement to older procedures, the 11 tests give public drinking water systems more flexibility in meeting federal requirements.

Rural Water
The Bureau of Reclamation is providing $2.3 million to study water supply improvements in six states west of the Mississippi River. The eight projects primarily examine regional water supply options.

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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