Federal Water Tap, June 9: Drought Catches Federal Reserve’s Eye

The Federal Reserve’s assessment of current economic conditions, known as the beige book, notes that drought is affecting food prices and crop production.

With cattle stocks the lowest in decades, beef prices are expected to rise, as are food prices more broadly because of California’s drought, the Fed claims.

In Texas, wheat is in poor shape and many acres will not be harvested. Cotton farmers were also concerned about dry soils and paltry yields.

On the flip side, spring rains delayed crop planting in the upper Midwest.

Not Enough Water in Colorado Oil Shale Alone to Develop the Resource
Water is one of many obstacles to commercial development of oil shale deposits in a northwestern Colorado basin. Now a U.S. Geological Survey analysis finds that the shale itself does not contain enough water to support oil production, which means potential developers would need to tap rivers or aquifers in the arid region.

During oil drilling – or mining in the case of oil shale – water is brought to the surface along with the rock. USGS researchers found that the ratio of water to oil in Colorado’s Piceance Basin is less than one to one. The most recent estimates of the water required to process oil shale using conventional mining techniques are between one and five barrels of water per barrel of oil. An alternative method, in which the oil is heated in place so that it flows, could require as much as 10 barrels of water per barrel of oil.

The oil in question is actually kerogen, organic matter that becomes oil when heated. The Piceance Basin is the world’s largest deposit of oil shale and is part of the larger Green River formation, which covers parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

Hurricane Sandy Change
Using before-and-after photographic comparisons and a laser-imaging technique called lidar, U.S. Geological Survey researchers assessed the coastal rearrangement wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

The October 2012 storm reshaped the Atlantic Coast. One in seven sand dunes in North Carolina lost more than two meters in height. Most of central and northern New Jersey’s dunes lost between two meters and six meters in height.

California Farm Grants
Eight irrigation districts in California will receive a total of $US 6.3 million in federal funding towards projects that cut water waste. The types of projects include: lining canals to prevent leaks; using recycled municipal water; and connecting well owners to the canal system so that they can stop pumping during wet years and let the aquifers recover.

House Water Hearing
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule for clarifying its Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Follow the next link for background on the rule and the chilly reception it received in March from Republicans on the House budget committee.

Carbon Dioxide Pipeline
The Bureau of Land Management will begin an environmental review of two proposed pipelines that will carry liquid hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide across Wyoming. One pipeline will span 257 kilometers (160 miles); the other, 134 kilometers (83 miles). Both liquids will be injected underground, though the carbon dioxide will be used in oil fields to produce more oil. The projects will need a Clean Water Act, Section 404 permit for dumping dredged material into wetlands or streams. Public comments on the scope of the study are being accepted through July 9 via BLM_WY_RRNP@blm.gov.

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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