The Pure Water Occasional for May 12, 2014
In this mid-Spring Occasional, you’ll hear about junior and senior water rights, neighbors suing neighbors, tailings pond controversies, water contamination from funeral parlors in Zimbabwe, antibiotics in China’s rivers, Texas’ disputed water needs, fights over injection wells, hog farm pollution, and the woes of the Yangtze River. Find out about the WarckaWater and a unique “bioconcrete” whole house filter. World Water Week (with National Garden Hose Day just around the corner), El Nino, Tucson’s innovative gray water laws, water issues in N. Dakota and W. Virginia, the importance of water testing, and, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here.
A Case for Water
by Amy Bickel
Editor’s Note: This piece illustrates the eternal dilemma of “who owns water” and the complexities of the laws that define the right to the use of water. It underlines the urgency of the issue. It also puts water use in perspective when we consider the dripping faucet that we are taught to worry about in the context of an irrigation well that pumps out 1,500 gallons per minute to water a corn field. To conserve water, should we not be worrying more about what we eat and how much we drive our cars than about dripping faucets? –Hardly Waite.
The battle over water is being played out in Haskell County District Court.
Fifth-generation farmer Jay Garetson says if nothing changes in a few years his area of western Kansas will run out of irrigation water.
So Garetson, his brother, Jarvis, and their families made an unpopular decision several years ago: They are testing the state’s water law.
“The Ogallala has been massively over-drafted,” Garetson said. “If we don’t make changes and large changes and make them soon, we might not have anything left to talk about other than what part of the country we are moving to.”
First in time
With water law, one rule is the cornerstone – first in time, first in right. The longtime law gives senior water rights priority over junior rights. Thus, if a senior right is impaired, then the owner of the junior right could be ordered to reduce irrigation from their well or be shut off completely.
Such a law hasn’t been tested often among groundwater users, especially in the Ogallala Aquifer of western Kansas.
But state leaders, including Gov. Sam Brownback, aren’t hiding the fact that the Ogallala Aquifer is waning due to an overabundance of irrigation wells – largely drilled in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, water by the hundreds of gallons per minute is being pumped out of the ground in some places, with recharge not coming close to refilling it.
A longtime proponent of preserving the Ogallala, Garetson has his own junior rights. His hope in filing an impairment claim on his family’s oldest water right would prove that action is needed to save the Ogallala.
“Water is precious, and it is required for life,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise us it is heated and passionate – it needs to be engaged by a broad of section of Kansans.”
Making a case for water
The case originally goes back to 2005 when the Garetson family first filed impairment on their vested water right – one of the oldest water rights in Haskell County. Vested rights are the most senior rights in the state – rights developed before the Kansas Water Appropriations Act of 1945.
Jay Garetson said the Moore family, some of the county’s early pioneers as well as close family friends, first drilled vested right HS003 – the third water right granted by the state in Haskell County – in the 1930s. The Garetsons, whose great-grandfather come to Haskell County in 1902, purchased the Moore land and the water right in 1977.
As more wells continued to dot the farmland around them, Garetson said they had to drill the well deeper twice because of the water table’s decline. The last time, they drilled down to 450 feet deep and, mostly likely, as deep as they will be able to go.
When he was growing up on the farm 30 years ago, the well pumped 1,500 gallons per minute.
“Now we are struggling to pump 300 gpm,” he said, adding the well varies from 300 to 450 gallons per minute and the water level in the area continues to drop five to six feet a year.
But the issue sat idle for several years. After backlash and threats from the community, the Garetsons dropped the charge in 2007.
“Our goal has been to bring attention to the urgent state of decline of the Ogallala Aquifer in GMD No. 3,” the Garetsons wrote in their withdrawal letter. “Rather than being a positive catalyst for change in the effort to extend the useful life of the aquifer as a whole, we have been perceived as selfishly damaging our neighbors for our own gain.”
In 2012, the brothers decided to file impairment again.
“There is not enough water to go around. We’ve known that for 40 years now,” he said. “It is getting bad enough something needs to happen.”
Whose water is it?
It could be months before any outcome in the case, Garetson Brothers v. American Warrior, an oil company owned by Cecil O’Brate, Garden City, is reached, said Mark Rude, director of southwest Kansas’ Groundwater Management District No. 3.
However, on May 5, the judge in the case issued a temporary injunction, meaning the oil company can’t pump water from its junior wells in question in the case to irrigate crops this summer. The judge also issued a temporary injunction from pumping in May 2013.
The Kansas Division of Water Resources study also noted impairment in a study released earlier this year.
According to the court document regarding the injunction, it was noted that DWR had determined half the water draw-down at the location is caused by the Garetson well, while the other half is due to the pumping of five nearby wells. DWR attributed 25 percent of the draw-down to American Warrior’s two wells that are in the lawsuit.
With the case still pending in court, O’Brate, who has farm and ranchland, declined to comment at this time. The Kansas Department of Agriculture also did not comment on the case or on questions regarding water right laws.
Rude, who was called to testify for the defendant, said while it is not the first time water law has been tested, he does think it is the first time the prior appropriations doctrine has gone to court with injunctions issued on junior water rights.
“What this injunction suggests, you have a solid case to go to court,” he said, adding it could change the status quo.
He added that not all water decline battles have come to the court. Irrigators in Sheridan County came together a few years ago to implement a mandatory cuts in usage. Meanwhile, Groundwater Management District No. 1 in west-central Kansas is preparing to put a similar savings measure – a 20 percent cut for all but vested rights – to the vote of members.
Rude noted that the “first in time” law was originally created for surface water rights. Over time, the Ogallala developed as a groundwater source and those same water laws applied.
“The question is, under the court of law, who is entitled to the water that remains?” said Rude.
Vision for water
For now, the issue of depletion is a top priority for the state. Last fall, Brownback unveiled his vision for water, saying the state must move forward to preserve its natural resource. He made it clear that the issue is one he wants answered – and soon.
If Kansans continue down the current path, the state’s water resources could be nearly spent in 50 years, according to the Brownback administration. Moreover, roughly 70 percent of Kansas’ Ogallala – the lifeblood of the region’s economy – would be depleted by 2064. About 40 percent of the area being irrigated now wouldn’t even be able to support a 400-gallon-a-minute well to pump water to a corn crop.
Garteson, however, thinks those changes could happen even sooner.
“There is a lot of fear – we are talking about millions and millions of dollars of livelihood that are at stake here,” Garetson said. “We in southwest Kansas have been blessed for so long. Some of us have grown up second, third and fourth generation in a lifestyle that is unsustainable without some major changes. We have had so much water for so long, we really thought the desert would bloom for an eternity.
“I think the western Kansas desert could continue to bloom for a long time forward, but we have to buy time to learn new ways to use water more effectively and in small quantities to make it a long-term proposition.”
Source: Kansas Agland.
Can Relief for California’s Devastating Drought Be Had for a Few Drops?
by Peter Getty
As Californians prepare for a third summer of drought, we may be temporarily inconvenienced here or there, but we have no concept of how it would feel to have not one drop of water come out of a faucet when we turn on the tap.
Yet, in villages in the mountainous regions of Ethiopia, women and their children spend most of their days walking for miles on dangerous roadways to collect water from worm-filled ponds, which are basically cesspools of human waste. After they fill these heavy containers, they haul them back to their homes. It not only takes hours out of their days (oftentimes they make two trips each day), but more importantly, the children are exposed to dangerous illnesses from the journey and the contaminated water which compromises their fragile immune systems and many die. Those who survive, are kept out of school to help haul the water to their families. It’s estimated 40 billion hours every year are spent walking for drinking water.
Every year, unsafe water kills more people than violence and that includes war. Children are the biggest casualties of the more than two million people who die from waterborne illnesses each year.
Italian entrepreneur Arturo Vittori has designed a seemingly economical and sustainable solution for harvesting atmospheric water vapors — literally collecting drinking water from the air. If his invention is doable in Ethiopia, then it might just help California’s catastrophic drought crisis.
The WarkaWater name comes from the Warka fig tree in Ethiopia. They are 30 feet, tall — 80 pound pillars which are constructed in two sections. There is a semi-rigid exoskeleton, built by tying bamboo or juncus stalks together an an internal plastic mesh, similar to polypropylene and nylon fibers. They act as a scaffold for condensation and as they droplets of dew form, they follow the mesh into a basin at the base of the structure.
Genius — to capture water from thin air — as nature might have intended? We’ll see — as Vittori hopes to have the towers available to the village residents in 2016. I would venture to say that if the proposed structures can pull in 25 gallons of clean water a day in the desert, it might be possible to design structures specifically for the foggy conditions on the California coast that could help tap a source of supplemental fresh water for the state.
I’m starting to see more and more solar panels appearing on the sunny sides of roofs; if something economical can be designed to harvest fresh water from the air, it would make a nice use of the shadowed side. Of course, they would need to create a bigger harvesting device to capture more water here in the U.S., in states such as California.
For the purposes of the initial phase of construction — cost wise-it appears to be had for pennies for dew drops and at a mere $550.00 to build with only a team of four people, using local materials, it beats the many major corporations and businesses who are vying for similar sustainable water solutions with costlier price tags.
While Californians could surely put this technology to a much needed use, I hope for the sake of the families in countries like Ethiopia — that the WarkaWater towers provide them with safe, clean water, thereby saving lives and affording them opportunities to stave off the cycles of poverty, and enable them precious time for more productive tasks.
Source: Huffington Post.
World Water News of the Week
68 antibiotic types found in China’s water. Some 68 types of antibiotics have been detected in China’s surface water, a consequence of the country’s chronic overuse of the drugs, according to a recent report.
One-third of households in West Virginia county report water-related illness, survey finds. About one-third of households in Kanawha County, West Virginia, had at least one person who had an illness they felt was related to the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak and ensuing water crisis, according to preliminary results of a new survey.
North Dakota is the deadliest state to work in. Fracking has done some incredible things for North Dakota: It has the fastest-growing economy and lowest unemployment in the nation. But as with any gold rush, the boom comes with a human cost for those involved – illness, injury, and fatalities.
Improve methods to keep birds off tailings ponds, study says. Oilsands companies need better techniques to keep birds off tailings ponds, according to a report that shows ducks and other water birds are landing by the tens of thousands on ponds containing waste from open-pit mines. An estimated 200,000 birds land annually.
‘Pungent smell’ suspends city’s water supply near Yangtze River. A city along the Yangtze River suspended its tap water supply for hours on Friday in China’s third major water pollution case in a month.
This house’s “bioconcrete” turns every drop of rain into drinking water. If your entire house is a water filter, clean water is never hard to find. In cities, where rain rushing down streets can lead to flooding and overflowing sewers, new rain-harvesting buildings could serve as an alternative form of stormwater management.
Funeral parlours contaminate drinking water. Funeral parlours, service stations, fuel holding depots and food processing plants have been dumping waste in the drinking water system throughout Zimbabwe, incensing a Cabinet Committee.
Deep well at Piney Point: Best solution or too risky? A Manatee County, Florida, plan to pump potentially billions of gallons of industrial wastewater to the bottom of a 3,500-foot well is rife with controversy, as opponents say there’s too much risk that it will taint the region’s irrigation and drinking water supply, while proponents tout it as the answer to keeping the Tampa Bay and other area waterways free from pollution. Opponents point to tens of thousands of violations at injection sites across the United States as an indicator of risk for the proposed well. They also question whether engineers designing the well can know enough about deep earth geology to guarantee that contaminated water pumped under the aquifer will stay entombed forever.
Maryland investigates underground petroleum storage sites. The Maryland Department of the Environment is investigating more than 40 underground petroleum remediation cases in Frederick County, according to a partial online listing of cases from the agency.
El Niño probability raised to 78 percent for next winter. Leaders at California water districts are privately hoping that the El Niño shaping up in the Pacific now will save them from what will be dire circumstances with widespread water rationing next year if the upcoming winter is unusually dry again. But they continue to say they aren’t counting on El Niño to save the state
Why US Congress can’t fix our crazy chemical safety system. How broken is the nation’s chemical-safety system? Of the 80,000 or so chemicals currently used in commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency has only tested 200 since Congress gave the agency its marching orders nearly four decades ago – only five have been banned or regulated. That porous safety net comes courtesy of a law that everyone—from doctors to industry groups, Democrats to Republicans—agrees needs fixing. But despite a bright start on a reform bill and the best of intentions this term, it’s taken just 12 months to go from bipartisanship to bickering, and what was once a promising push for chemical-safety reform may stall in its tracks.
$20 million fight threatened over pig smell on farm. What some in the township of 4,000 people want is to change zoning and other laws in order to limit neighborhood farms from becoming more industrialized. The focus is stopping the pollution, such as bad odors or contaminated water from runoff, that may come with larger farms.
Suing polluters: Texas again considers curbing county attorneys. After being the target of intense lobbying that drew criticism in last year’s Texas legislature, lawmakers will again hear why big business wants restrictions on local governments that go after polluters in court. The House Judiciary Committee will take up the issue at a hearing May 16th.
Leaky sewer pipes could export viruses to lakes. A Milwaukee scientist who has found sewage migrating from old pipes through soil and into the stormwater lines that drain to lakes or streams says the problem is likely to occur in Madison and cities nationwide.
How much more water will Texas really need by 2060? 2.7 trilllion gallons per year or a mere 1.1 trillion?
The 2012 state water plan — the state’s strategy for meeting water needs — estimated that Texas would face a shortfall of 2.7 trillion gallons of water a year by 2060, and that filling the gap would take an estimated $53 billion in new infrastructure.
But some water law and planning specialists believe that number is too high. A report for the nonprofit Texas Center for Policy Studies, an environmental research group, says that Texas would only need an additional 1.1 trillion gallons of water a year by 2060. That’s in part because, according to the report, state water planners have overestimated the needs for water from the agricultural industry and from cities. Plus, it says, the plan underestimated the effects of water conservation measures.
Gray-water systems catching on in Tucson
by Kimberleigh Holsclaw
TUCSON – The green tree python on display at the Reid Park Zoo’s Lee H. Brown Family Conservation Learning Center coils to collect rain.
Visitors who come to this building to learn how such animals adapt to their surroundings, some by conserving water, may not know they are doing the same when they use the center’s sinks and water fountains.
In addition to cisterns that collect rain that hits the roof, channeling it to be used for irrigation, the center, which opened in 2008, features a gray-water system that sends water through underground pipes to water plants outside.
To Les McMullin, Reid Park’s supervisor, the benefits involve more than helping the environment.
“It costs us a lot less, and the city a lot less, to use reclaimed water rather than potable,” he said.
Since 2008, Tucson has required plumbing in new homes to allow homeowners to set up gray-water systems to reuse water from bathroom sinks, showers and tubs as well as washing machines to water plants and lawns. Noting that a third of household wastewater typically can be reused as gray water, the city also offers a $1,000 rebate to homeowners installing permanent gray-water systems.
Since 2008, Tucson has required plumbing in new homes to allow homeowners to set up gray-water systems to reuse water from bathroom sinks, showers and tubs as well as washing machines to water plants and lawns.
Tucson Water has helped fund gray-water demonstration sites at the zoo as well as some businesses, social-service agencies and government offices.
Brad Lancaster, Tucson-based author of the book “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” said a gray-water system can reduce an average household’s water bill by 30 percent to 70 percent.
“If they redirected their gray water to the landscape instead of the sewer, they could meet easily over half of their landscape-irrigation needs just with the gray water,” he said.
Lancaster said that Tucson’s population and water consumption are growing but that its water resources are fixed.
“We need to become much more efficient and creative at how we reuse,” he said. “We need to recycle what we have multiple times and do it in the lowest-energy, highest-productive way.”
At his home in Tucson, Lancaster has a multipipe drain system, connected to his outdoor washing machine, that uses gravity to send the water down to his citrus trees. He also has a branched gray-water system that sends water from his bathroom sink and shower outside for irrigation. At any point, he is able to turn a valve and the water is redirected to the sewer.
“It reconnects you with where things come from and where things go,” he said.
Vice Mayor Paul Cunningham said Tucson changed its gray-water regulations a year and a half ago because so few people were installing systems. The city added the rebate and removed a requirement that homeowners obtain permits. Instead of permits, the city requires homeowners to follow a list of best management practices established by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
“I feel Tucson’s long-term sustainability is incumbent on its ability to preserve water,” Cunningham said.
David Arthur Sampson, senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability, researched gray water through simulations in 2012 and found that an average household can save 18 to 35 gallons per day by using a gray-water system.
“If you count just the water that’s coming out of washing clothes, showers and baths, that can be almost 80 percent of the water you use in your house,” he said. “If you were able to use that water for irrigation, that would provide a substantial amount of water savings.”
Sampson said gray water hasn’t caught on in the Phoenix area like it has in Tucson, in large part because water rates generally are lower in the Valley.
“Water is too cheap right now,” he said.
The gray-water system at Reid Park Zoo’s Conservation Learning Center complements a catchment system through which rain that hits the roof is used in its toilets, reducing the use of potable water inside by about half. Both systems tie into the zoo’s overall conservation efforts, said Vivian VanPeenen, a zoo spokeswoman.
“The practice of conserving water and other natural resources is definitely effective for the zoo and the species we care for,” she said.
The Value of a Good Water Test
by Gene Franks
One of the things I’ve come to believe in very strongly after more than 25 years in the water treatment business is water testing.
Water plays such an important role in our lives that it only makes sense to know as much as possible about the water we use.
A high quality water test is worth many times its cost. Whether you have a private water source or get water from a city supplier, an independent water test will give you extremely valuable information about your water.
It you find out that you have great water with no significant treatment issues, that is the most valuable information of all, and the test pays for itself many times over, both in peace of mind and in avoidance of purchasing unneeded equipment.
If you learn that you have an unsafe level of a health-threatening substance like lead, arsenic, E.coli, chromium, or fluoride that needs immediate treatment, the test pays for itself many times over.
If you are planning to treat a known water issue, like hardness, iron, or an unpleasant odor, a reliable, easy-to-understand independent test will give you precise information about the issue in question and provide a full picture of your water so you can select the most appropriate and cost-effective treatment. The test, again, pays for itself many times over.
When you consider the total cost of providing water for a home, a good water test is a minor expense, and the information you receive always pays for the test.
Pure Water Products offers free testing for the most basic water issues like hardness, pH, and total dissolved solids, and we also offer comprehensive water test packages from National Testing Laboratories that provide a complete picture of your water. We’ve been offering the NTL WaterCheck and WaterCheck with added pesticides packages for a number of years, and we have recently added specialty test packs for city water users and specific well water issues.
NTL tests are reported in an easy-to-understand format, color coded for quick reference. See a sample test report. Upon request, we at Pure Water Products will help with interpretation of NTL tests and recommendation of equipment to remedy problems identified by the tests. (We’ll help with test interpretation whether you buy the test itself through us or not.)
The WaterCheck Test Kit has everything you need to overnight the samples to the test lab. The test kit price includes both the kit and the testing itself.
Our own free test is much less extensive, and, we are the first to point out, much less expertly done. He have some very good test equipment, but we aren’t a certified laboratory and we make no guarantee of absolute accuracy. Our test is designed for well water, not city water, although we test city samples if they are sent to us. It concentrates on the five most significant well water issues (not counting, of course, bacterial contamination that must go at the top of the list). Knowing these can save much of the guess work of treating well water issues. Here’s a rundown of what I call the “big five”:
Turbidity measures the general clarity of the water The lower the number, the cleaner and clearer the water. The measurement is in FTU. (Most testing for turbidity reports in NTU, but our LaMotte equipment calls it FTU. In either case, it’s an an arbitrary scale designed to measure turbidity.) Above 1 FTU can be considered an issue of concern, although water often measures considerably higher. Turbidity not only can be an aesthetic nuisance; its presence also can offer a breeding ground for bacteria. The test is done by shining a light through the water and recording how much is blocked by particles in the water.
Hardness is a measurement of the calcium and magnesium content. These minerals form scale in pipes, keep soap from lathering, and ruin appliances. The measurement is given in grains per gallon. A grain of hardness represents 17.1 parts per million. Water is usually considered hard enough to require treatment at about 7 grains per gallon.
pH is a measurement of the relative acidity/alkalinity of water. Seven is a neutral pH and anything lower is acidic and anything higher is alkaline. Mildly alkaline is usually viewed as the ideal pH. While 6.0 doesn’t seem a lot under 7, it is actually quite acidic– enough to cause severe damage to plumbing, creating pinhole leaks in copper pipes, and causing water to pick up bad tastes from metals it comes in contact with. pH is a very important factor that influences many water treatment strategies. For example, iron and manganese are much more easily removed by filtration at a high pH. Sometimes it is necessary to raise the pH of the water as part of the iron treatment procedure.
Iron, which along with hydrogen sulfide odor, is the most common well water complaint. Iron content is measured in parts per million, and problems with iron usually begin at about 0.3 ppm. Iron causes staining of fixtures, laundry, and even sidewalks and driveways. Iron and iron removal are among the more complicated issues in water treatment. Iron exists in several forms: ferric (red water iron), ferrous (clear water iron), colloidal, and more. There are also iron bacteria which constitute a separate problem. Our test is mainly for clear water iron. Ferric iron may constitute part of the turbidity reading. Iron bacteria must be tested separately by a professional tester. (Our NTL test program offers a separate test for iron bacteria.)
TDS, or Total Dissolved Solids, is a measurement of the total mineral content of the water. It consists mainly of calcium and magnesium (hardness) and sodium. Although we do not test for sodium, you can usually take an educated guess at the sodium content by subtracting the hardness from the TDS. [This is an over-simplification, but it’s a useful rule to apply. If your water has 450 parts per million Total Dissolved Solids and only 2 grains (34 parts per million) hardness, you can be fairly certain that it has a lot of sodium.]
Diagnosis of Water Problems by Taking an Educated Guess
Hydrogen sulfide must be tested on site and its rotten egg odor is usually obvious enough that a test for its presence is not needed. Treatment of 2 or 4 or 6 parts per million hydrogen sulfide would be essentially the same, so self-diagnosis is usually practiced. To treat it, however, it is very helpful to know if there is also iron present, the pH of the water, and whether or not dangerous bacteria like E. coli are also present. The presence of iron, on the other hand, is easy to detect by red staining on fixtures and clothing, but it should never be treated unless testing has been done to determine the amount of iron, and the pH and hardness levels of the water. Finding a treatment strategy that works with iron (e. g. a water softener, an “iron filter” with or without an added oxidizer like air or chlorine) is just a guess unless you know at least the basic characteristics of your well water.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.
Garden Hose Filters. Don’t be the last on your block to own one.
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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