Federal Water Tap, February 17: Planet’s Hottest January Ever Measured, NOAA Finds

The Rundown

Water legislation introduced in Congress targets microplastic pollution, faulty septic systems, and buckled canals in California. The GAO recommends incorporating climate change planning into federally funded drinking water and sewer projects. The National Weather Service signals higher than normal flood risk this spring for the eastern Missouri River basin. Federal agencies are scheduled to release, by the end of the month, a review of dam operations in the Columbia River basin. And lastly, last month was the hottest January on record.

“But what you have is, when that gets painted black, it becomes virtually untouchable during many parts of the season because of the sun hitting it. The black absorbs the heat. So not only would you have to be a good climber, but you’re going to have to bring a hose with lots of water to water it down, and there aren’t too many hoses in the area, and there’s not too much water in the area either.” — President Donald Trump speaking about his wall on the Mexican border, in an address to members of the National Border Patrol Council.

By the Numbers

60.9 million acre-feet: Missouri River runoff in calendar year 2019, the second-highest on record behind 2011. The current forecast for this year is 36.3 million acre-feet. (Army Corps)

#1: The global average temperature in January was the hottest ever measured. Records date to 1880. At 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average, the monthly temperature differential — meaning the measured temperature minus the average — was the fourth-largest of any month. (NOAA)

News Briefs

Water Bills in Congress

Studies and Reports

Water Infrastructure and Climate Change
Congress should consider requiring recipients of federal water infrastructure funding to account for climate change in their designs, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The GAO examined ways to improve climate resilience for drinking water and sewer infrastructure projects.

In addition to requiring climate planning, the watchdog group suggested that the EPA expand its technical assistance to water utilities, which may not have the expertise to evaluate climate risks in their service areas.

The report was based on interviews with officials at four federal agencies, 15 water utilities, and 10 outside experts.

On the Radar

Missouri River Flood Risk
Spring flood risk is significantly higher than normal in the eastern half of the Missouri River basin, according to a National Weather Service seasonal forecast.

The basin’s eastern half includes eastern Dakotas, eastern Nebraska, western Iowa, eastern Kansas and most of Missouri. Severe flooding devastated the basin last year. Water moisture maps show that soils and shallow groundwater in the northern Plains are highly saturated.

Columbia River Environmental Review
By the end of the month, federal agencies in the Pacific Northwest are scheduled to release the draft environmental review of dam operations in the Columbia River basin.

Ordered by a federal judge, the review will assess how the dams influence the basin’s endangered salmon and other species. One option that the review will evaluate is breaching four dams on the lower Snake River, a major tributary.

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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