Federal Water Tap, May 11: EPA Recommends Health Standards for Toxic Algae in Drinking Water

The Rundown

EPA issues toxic algae guidelines. A California congressman wants to block federal spending on river flows in his home state. Commenters want more protection for drinking water from federal oil-by-rail rules. Irrigation in the mid-Atlantic is concentrated on a peninsula. Nevada uses less Colorado River water. Asian carp won’t go hungry in Lake Erie.

“This makes a mockery of the sacrifices made by Californians who are stretching every drop of water in their homes.” — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) speaking in support of his spending bill amendment to block federal agencies from purchasing water for environmental flows. The amendment passed the U.S. House.

By the Numbers

75 percent: Share of acreage under center-pivot irrigation in the North Atlantic coastal plain that is found on the Delmarva Peninsula. Parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina are located in the coastal plain. The peninsula is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where farm runoff is a significant source of pollution. (U.S. Geological Survey)
10 percent: Reduction in Nevada’s consumptive use of the Colorado River in the first four months of 2015, compared to 2014. (Bureau of Reclamation)

Reports and Studies

Yakima River Basin Dam
The Bureau of Reclamation recommends increasing by 1 meter (3 feet) the height of a dam in the Yakima River Basin, according to a final environmental review. Raising the dam, located 145 kilometers (90 miles) east of Seattle, will add storage capacity that can be used to boost dry season river flows or meet agricultural demand.

Algae Buffet for Asian Carp
There is enough algae in Lake Erie to sustain Asian carp, an invasive species that lawmakers and businesses would like to keep out of the Great Lakes. The U.S. Geological Survey used satellite images to determine that carp species could live and thrive in the lake.

News Briefs

Toxic Algae
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set health standards for toxic algae in drinking water. The standards are not a regulation and are not mandatory. They will be used by utilities as a guideline for issuing health warnings. EPA estimates that 30 million to 48 million Americans use drinking water sources that are vulnerable to toxic algae outbreaks.

Oil-by-rail Rules
Rail cars that carry crude oil face an across-the-board speed limit of 50 miles per hour, a 40-mile-per-hour limit in urban areas, and safer design standards, according to final rules from federal regulators. A number of comments from environmental groups asked for lower speed limits near critical ecosystems such as sources of public drinking water supplies. Regulators said that watersheds are one factor that rail companies should consider during the route analysis, which is required annually by the new rules.

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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