Federal Water Tap, October 29: Have You Heard? There’s an Election Coming Soon. Also, Hurricane Sandy

This week, Circle of Blue will publish a water guide to the 2012 election. It will explain the presidential candidates’ positions on water, as well as point out various state and local initiatives related to desalination, financing and water supply. Look for it in the next few days. (Update 10/31/12: 2012 Election Guide.)

Storm Warning
As of Monday morning, the National Weather Service was warning that Hurricane Sandy would bring a “life-threatening storm surge,” hurricane-force winds along the Atlantic Coast, from Virginia to Massachusetts, and heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains. To keep abreast of new turns, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has set up a one-stop shop for information–advisories, forecasts, images and river data.

Elsewhere, the Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring reservoir and tide levels. The New England District operates three hurricane barriers, which might be closed to prevent flooding. And NASA’s satellites are tracking the storm from their orbiting crow’s nest.

Farm Bill Action
While fundraising in Idaho, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters that he would bring a vote on the Farm Bill during the lame-duck session of Congress after the November 6 elections, the Idaho Statesman reports.

Nuke Leak
After a video inspection, the Department of Energy announced that radioactive waste has escaped the inner wall of a double-wall tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, the Tri-City Herald reports. Several tablespoons of waste may have exited through a ventilation channel, a DOE assistant manager said. The tank, one of 28, is a year or two beyond its designed operating life.

Drought Update: Are You Part of the 81.8 Percent?
The Department of Agriculture updated its drought maps. Some 2,572 counties–81.8 percent of the U.S.–were declared disaster areas because of the worst dry spell since the 1950s. Farmers in these counties are eligible for federal aid.

Aid to the Horn of Africa
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. government would spend an additional US$58 million in drought relief for Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The U.S. has contributed more than US$1.3 billion in emergency aid to the region since 2011. The government’s famine warning system labels much of the region as “stressed” or in “crisis”, the second and third levels on a five-tier chart.

Laying the Groundwork for Science
Scientists need good data, and they need to access it and share it. The National Research Council has published a roadmap report for how the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the federal government’s premier science agencies, can do that. The report describes the process for creating a “spatial data infrastructure,” which is the union of data, analytical tools and the people who use them.

To carry out such a task, the USGS first needs leaders who can define what an effective infrastructure entails, according to the report. Then the vision can be developed and fine-tuned.

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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