The Global Rundown
Regulators tell the utility serving Australia’s fourth-largest city that it will be allowed to pump less groundwater. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision with far-reaching consequences, will consider whether the Clean Water Act applies to certain discharges to groundwater. Arizona lawmakers warn that not all their drought plan agreements will be signed by the federal government’s new March 4 deadline. Texas regulators fine a plastics manufacturer for dumping pellets into a bay. Dams that supply Cape Town have more than twice the water as they did a year ago.
“We will do our utmost to complete all intrastate agreements as soon as possible, and some of them are very likely to be completed by March 4, but not because of any Federal deadline. While deadlines can be useful to bring things to completion, the imposition of another deadline, March 4, is counterproductive and a potential distraction to completing the intrastate agreements within Arizona.” — Leaders of the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project, in a letter to the head of the Bureau of Reclamation. Arizona officials say that not all of the necessary drought plan agreements within Arizona will be signed by March 4, which is the date when the federal government will begin taking comments on what its own plan should be for reducing Colorado River water use. Arizona Republic
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By the Numbers
$121,875: Fine levied against Formosa, a plastics manufacturer, by Texas regulators for dumping plastic pellets into Lavaca Bay, on the Texas Gulf coast. Formosa wants a federal judge to dismiss a Clean Water Act lawsuit brought by citizens against the company in response to the pellet dumping. Victoria Advocate
Science, Studies, and Reports
The water level in the dams of the Western Cape Water Supply System, which supplies Cape Town, is 55 percent of capacity. A year ago the system was a national emergency, when dam storage dropped below 24 percent of capacity. Cape Argus
On the Radar
Environmental regulators in Western Australia have told the state-run utility that provides water to 2 million people, including the capital Perth, to expect large cuts in the amount of groundwater it is allowed to pump. The expected cut is 30 billion liters per year, or roughly one quarter of the groundwater pumped last year. In 2017-18, some 40 percent of Water Corporation’s supply came from groundwater and nearly half from desalination. The utility’s plans for future water supply are to expand desalination plants, increase reuse, and continue to conserve. The West Australian
Does the Clean Water Act apply to pollutants discharged to groundwater that then flows into rivers and lakes? That is the question that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in a case that has nationwide consequences for pollution regulation. Lower courts have issued contradictory rulings, largely in cases involving pits that hold coal waste. USA Today
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