A county in northern Georgia wants to increase its water supply. Nitrate levels in U.S. rivers remain high despite a decline in the rate of nitrate discharge. State Department helps build water partnerships in Central Asia. A California recycled water project will undergo an environmental review. The House Science Committee will discuss Pebble Mine, proposed for Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Wind power sees tremendous growth.
“Long-term monitoring of 22 large U.S. rivers provides a rare glimpse into how water quality conditions have changed over the last 65 years. Although the greatest increases in nitrate concentrations occurred prior to 1980, levels have since remained high in most rivers. Unfortunately, there is no widespread evidence of improving conditions.” — Edward Stets, lead author of a U.S. Geological Survey study that examined persistently high nitrate levels in U.S. rivers.
By the Numbers
2,966 megawatts: Installed wind power capacity in the United States in the first nine months of 2015 – more installed capacity than any fuel source, including natural gas. (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)
7.3 percent: Decrease in average annual runoff by the end of the century compared with the period from 2016 to 2035 for Alaska’s Susitna River Basin. The basin is the proposed site of the tallest hydroelectric dam to be built in the United States in nearly 50 years. The runoff study is one of 58 technical and environmental studies of the dam site. (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)
Reports and Studies
Hall County, Georgia, located 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Atlanta, proposes to build Glades Reservoir on a tributary of the Chattahoochee River to supply 50 million gallons of water per day. The county claims this is the water supply gap it will face by 2060.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ draft environmental review endorses the project, which is located in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint watershed that has been the source of conflict within and between Alabama, Florida, and Georgia for more than two decades. Construction of the reservoir, 140-foot dam, and pipeline system to draw water out of the Chattahoochee will effect wetlands, streams, and forests.
Comments on the draft review should be sent to Richard.M.Morgan@usace.army.mil by December 29.
Chicago Area Waterway System
A canal completed in 1900 that connected Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River Basin is the centerpiece of a 90-mile system of channels used for water supply and navigation around Chicago. The U.S. Geology Survey published a report on the system’s hydrology and the challenges its faces from invasive species and sewage pollution.
Central Asia Water Partnership
The U.S. State Department will provide technical training for water managers in five Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, according to an agreement signed November 1 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The program, which will be implemented by a local NGO, will also bring together water managers for trust-building exercises. The water systems of the five countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — are interlinked, but water management is fraught with rivalry and vitriol.
Water Infrastructure Meeting
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) held an off-the-record discussion on the nation’s water infrastructure. Clinton Britt, the chief of staff, would not release the list of attendees. Tonko is one of the most vocal proponents in Congress for the need to reinvest in drinking water systems.
Water Infrastructure Legislation
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) introduced a bill that will loosen operational restrictions for a pilot water infrastructure financing program established in 2014.
The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act was passed last year as part of a larger water resources package. Curbelo’s bill will allow cities to combine WIFIA funds with tax-exempt municipal bonds, thus expanding the reach of the program.
On the Radar
Pebble Mine Hearing
On November 5, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the Pebble Mine, a copper mine proposed in the Bristol Bay watershed of south Alaska. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using its Clean Water Act authority, moved in July 2014 to block development of the mine, which could pollute the world’s top sockeye salmon fishery.
California Recycled Water
The Bureau of Reclamation will begin an environmental review of a wastewater recycling project proposed for Sacramento County. Up to 50,000 acre-feet of water will be available per year to farmers, cities, and wildlife refuges. A pipeline network to distribute the water will also be built.
Comments on the scope of the review should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 30.
Washington Water Quality Comment Period Extended
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is extending by 45 days the comment period for revisions to Washington state’s water quality standards. The new deadline is December 28, 2015.
In September, the EPA proposed stricter standards, which are based on the assumption that Indian tribes consume more fish than was accounted for. People who eat more fish face greater exposure to pollutants that accumulate in fish tissue.
Comments should be submitted at www.regulations.gov using docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0174.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton