The Stream, February 27: Severe Flooding Prompts Evacuation Order for More Than Two Dozen Northern California Communities

The Global Rundown

The rising Russian River, swollen with rain, prompts evacuations north of San Francisco. Pharmaceutical concentrations in rivers and lakes are increasing worldwide. More than half of wastewater treatment plants in South Africa are in poor or critical condition. A bill in the Idaho Senate that would address excessive groundwater pumping fails to move out of committee. New York regulators consider the nation’s first drinking water standard for the chemical 1,4-dioxane.

“I don’t know that the committee understands that if we don’t do something about the outliers or the free-riders, that the settlement agreement that’s between the surface and the groundwater users will probably fail in the next few years.” — Lynn Tominaga, executive director of the Idaho Ground Water Association, discussing the failure of a bill in the state Senate that would have penalized groundwater irrigators who are not obeying an agreement to reduce pumping. In 2015, Idaho negotiated an agreement to stabilize groundwater levels in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, vital for the state’s agriculture industry and a drinking water source as well. Declining groundwater levels were causing springs to dry up, which then resulted in irrigators with higher priority to water — those using streams and springs — losing out. Because the committee vote was split four to four with one member absent, there is hope that the bill can be resurrected. Associated Press

By the Numbers

56 percent: Share of the municipal wastewater treatment plants in South Africa that are in poor or critical condition, according to a presentation from the Department of Water and Sanitation. The department recently warned that the country will face severe water shortages within the next decade unless it repairs water infrastructure, restores river corridors, and invests in water reuse. GroundUp

Science, Studies, and Reports

Antibiotics and other medicines in rivers and lakes are increasing worldwide, according to a study led by Radboud University in The Netherlands. Researchers estimated pharmaceutical concentrations with the aid of computer models. One major uncertainty for a global analysis is pharmaceutical consumption data by country. When compared with measured concentrations of two medicines, the model fairly predicted concentrations of an anti-epileptic drug but underestimated concentrations of an antibiotic. Yale Environment 360

On the Radar

The Russian River, north of San Francisco, is expected to crest at 14 feet above flood stage on Wednesday evening. More than two dozen communities in Sonoma County have been told to evacuate. An atmospheric river, carrying moisture from the tropics, extended its firehose across the county, dumping up to five inches of rain in 24 hours. The last time the river rose this high was in 1995. SF Gate

In context: California Rains Put Spotlight On Atmospheric Rivers

A state water quality council recommended that New York regulators set a drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane. New York would be the first state in the nation to regulate the chemical that is used as a solvent for removing paint and grease. It has been found in groundwater on Long Island near an aerospace manufacturing facility operated decades ago by the Navy and its contractor Northrup Grumman. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems it a likely carcinogen. PBS News Hour

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