The Pure Water Occasional for October 20, 2014
In this mid-October Occasional, you’ll hear about the dramatic re-curving of the Kissimmee River, the worst drought ever, the prestigious Water Tank of the Year award, the political wrangling over the Passaic River, and the arsenic problem in Bangladesh. Then there’s Pratt & Whitney pollution in Florida, leaky oil tankers in Seattle, acid draining rock, Boyan Stat’s war on plastic, the environmental perils of deep sea gold mining, the forfeiture of maritime zones by drowning islands, and Dr. Bronner’s ads that were turned down by scientific publications. Learn how BPA pollutes the air as well as water, how smog adds water to rivers, how birth control pills kill minnows, how aluminum does (or doesn’t) cause Alzheimers, and why the privatization of water resources seldom works. You’ll read Pure Water Annie’s thoughts on dissolved oxygen, Bee Sharper on the current water news numbers, the amazing win streak of the Lodi Flames, the perils of soda guzzling, the addition of “environmental labels” to beef to save water, and, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here. (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette’s sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)
The Kissimmee: A River Recurved
by Amy Green
Kissimmee Straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers
Click image for larger view.
It sounds almost superhuman to try straighten a river and then recarve the curves.
That’s what federal and state officials did to the Kissimmee River in central Florida. They straightened the river in the 1960s into a canal to drain swampland and make way for the state’s explosive growth. It worked — and it created an ecological disaster. So officials decided to restore the river’s slow-flowing, meandering path.
That billion-dollar restoration — the world’s largest — is a few years from completion. And so far, it’s bringing signs of new life, especially on a man-made canal that was dug through the heart of the river.
“Birds are back, both wading birds and ducks. They’re all over the place,” says Paul Gray of Audubon Florida. “The oxygen levels in the river are better. There’s a lot more game fish in the river like bass and bluegill and stuff. Most of the biological perimeters, the goals of the restoration we’ve already met.”
The man-made canal begins near Walt Disney World in Central Florida and flows 50 miles south. “It messed up our water management infrastructure,” Gray says. “Now we drain so much water that when it’s dry we don’t have enough water for our human needs. We over drained, and so now we’re trying to rebuild the system where we’re going to catch water instead of wasting it when it’s wet.”
For decades, piles of dirt dug for the canal have remained heaped on its banks. Now bulldozers are pushing the dirt back into the waterway, filling it and making way for the river’s old meanders to recarve their historic path. Five dams controlling the waterway’s flow are being blown up, allowing the water to flow naturally.
The 20-year restoration effort is expected to be complete by 2017.
Defending The Water
The Kissimmee also is the backbone of the Everglades. It supports farming and the drinking water for 6 million south Floridians. The problem is now central Floridians are looking to the Kissimmee.
“Groundwater is not an infinite resource,” says Joanne Chamberlain of the Central Florida Water Initiative, a group of state agencies, cities and utilities who together are examining how much water the region needs.
The group estimates by 2035 Central Florida’s demand will exceed its supply, which it gets mostly from an underground aquifer. So the group’s members are considering other sources. One possibility they’ve identified is the Kissimmee’s headwaters.
“There’s opportunities under certain situations that water can be used — high-water level situations where that water could be taken, stored and used for other purposes,” Chamberlain says.
She means during the summer wet season, when Florida receives the bulk of its rain.
“Florida is not like any other state in the union. We revolve around our water so greatly, not just as a drinking source but as a source of recreation and as source of tourism,” says Chuck O’Neal, chairman of the natural resources committee of the League of Women Voters of Florida.
The group supports a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would put more money toward land and water conservation, including the Kissimmee.
Other environmentalists hope to protect the Kissimmee’s water with a unique legal tool called a water reservation, which would set aside a certain amount of water so utilities can’t have it for consumer use.
“The future is going to be trying to defend the water, to make sure the river has the proper hydrology,” Gray says.
Cynthia Barnett, a Florida author who writes about water issues. “The key for the future is to learn from those past mistakes and now do things differently. Instead of clashing all the time the idea is to work together to use less.”
She says the Kissimmee is a lesson, that Floridians don’t need more water but that environmentalists, utilities and farmers together can work toward a future of conservation.
The restoration’s goal is to put as much of the Kissimmee as possible back to the way it was. This photo shows the river after partial restoration.
Click image for larger view.
Source: National Public Radio.
Drought Of 1934 In North America, During The Dust Bowl, Was The Worst In Thousand Years: Study
This photo shows a farmer and his two sons during a dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936. The 1930s Dust Bowl drought had four drought events with no time to recover in between: 1930-31, 1934, 1936 and 1939-40.
The drought of 1934 in North America was the driest and the most widespread of the last millennium, according to a new study based on a reconstruction of North America’s history of drought over the last 1,000 years.
In the study, published in the Oct. 17 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from NASA and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, used a tree-ring-based drought record between the years 1000 to 2005, as well as modern-day records, to determine that the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the next worst one in 1580. The study also found that the 1934 drought extended across 71.6 percent of western North America while, in comparison, the average extent of the 2012 drought was 59.7 percent.
“It was the worst by a large margin, falling pretty far outside the normal range of variability that we see in the record,” Ben Cook, a climate scientist at NASA and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
The 1934 drought was one of four similar events that occurred in sequence over a period of 10 years. The droughts of 1930-31, 1934, 1936 and 1939-40 are together called the Dust Bowl. According to scientists, two sets of conditions led to the severity and extent of the 1934 drought — while a high-pressure weather system over western America affected normal rainfall patterns, poor land management practices caused dust storms in the spring of 1934.
A dust storm approaches Stratford, Texas, in 1935.
“In combination then, these two different phenomena managed to bring almost the entire nation into a drought at that time,” Richard Seager, professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the study’s co-author, said in the statement. “The fact that it was the worst of the millennium was probably in part because of the human role.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, said in a recent report that climate change is expected to make North America’s droughts worse, with the southwest likely to become significantly drier. The researchers believe that an analysis of the last thousand years could help them better understand the natural variability of droughts.
Although dust storms like the ones from the Dust Bowl are unlikely to occur in North America today, farmers still need to pay attention to the changing climate and adapt accordingly, the scientists said.
Source: International Business Times.
Water News for the Week Ending October 20, 2014
Above is Lebanon, Missouri’s entry into the TNEMEC Tank of the Year contest. You can see other cities’ entries on the Tank of the Year website.
New Jersey’s Passaic River: After legal battle, a fight over settlement. A coalition of environmental groups and a congressman are urging the Christie administration to use a $190 million settlement over contamination in the Passaic River to clean up the waterway instead of diverting it to balance the state budget.
BPA in the air: Manufacturing plants in Ohio, Indiana, Texas are top emitters. As concerns mount over people’s exposure to the plasticizer bisphenol A in everyday products, it’s also contaminating the air near manufacturing plants: U.S. companies emitted about 26 tons of the hormone-disrupting compound in 2013.
Do we need a new ‘environmental impact’ label for beef? Researchers say there’s plenty the beef industry can do to use less land and water and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions. But producers may need to charge a premium to make those changes.
“After crunching the data with economic models, researchers found that consumers would likely pay as much as 10 percent more for beef products with an environmental label that emphasized water conservation. And that premium would allow producers to make changes that would bring about huge water savings in livestock production — some 76 to 129 billion gallons of water annually, they estimate.”
Pratt & Whitney’s Florida Aircraft Complex.
For years, radioactive waste has seeped into swampland, canals—even drinking water of one Florida town. Now a few families are fighting to hold the polluters accountable.
Jet fuel, which was the suspected cause of another cancer cluster in Fallon, Nevada, may also have played a role at the Acreage. A mixture of chemicals that can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause cancer in mice, jet fuel was found at the Pratt & Whitney facility in Florida. According to a 1983 report, there were three plumes of jet fuel totaling some 53,000 gallons beneath the company’s property, and a layer on top of the groundwater in certain places as well.
“Judges tend to be, historically, extremely deferential to anything relating to national security, especially if it involves the military,” says Stephen Dycus, a professor at Vermont Law School and the author of National Defense and the Environment. Dycus notes that it’s not uncommon for defense-related companies to resist providing information because of military sensitivity, as Pratt & Whitney has done in the Acreage case.
Although the Defense Department (which utilizes some 30 million acres of land) and its contractors are subject to the same environmental laws as everyone else, the difficulties of prosecuting such cases means that they can—and often do, according to Dycus— get away with contaminating the environment. This constitutes a huge problem, though one that, he says, seems to spur little outrage.
“If Al Qaeda sent a team of sleeper cells to poison our groundwater and release toxic materials into the air, people would go nuts. It would be an act of war,” Dycus notes. “But if we do it to ourselves in the name of national security, in preparation for war, that seems to be sort of OK.”
Read the full article in The Nation.
Well drilling in Santa Barbara County has tripled during the drought. In a normal, non-drought water year, Santa Barbara County gets 50 or so applications for new well drilling permits. In the first quarter of the 2014-2015 fiscal year, Santa Barbara County has already received 28 well permit applications, which puts the county on track for about 120 or so new wells for the year.
Does air pollution put more water in rivers?
Rivers may gush under sullied skies
Air pollution can dim sunlight and curb evaporation
Swollen rivers may be the unexpected fallout of billowing smog.
By intercepting sunshine and shading the Earth, polluting particles can stifle evaporation, leaving extra water to flood local waterways. Dirty air can load rivers with up to 25 percent more water than they would have under cleaner skies, researchers report October 5 in Nature Geoscience.
“In a way, it makes sense,” says coauthor Peter Cox, a climate scientist at the University of Exeter in England. But many other factors also alter how water loops through the environment, including rainfall, large-scale irrigation and humidity, he says. “We weren’t sure —until we did this —on the overall impact,” of air pollution, he says.
Full report in Nature Geoscience.
First-of-its-kind water tunnel below S.F. Bay
Four years ago, a few dozen miners and engineers, hired to work around the clock, set out to do something no one else had done: dig a tunnel beneath San Francisco Bay.
At just 100 feet a day, the crew’s high-tech boring machinery, backed by a long conveyor belt for towing out clay and gravel, carved slow but steady progress through the dark, damp underworld. And now, the shaft that began near Redwood City is seeing the light in Newark, 5 miles away.
This week, the $288 million tunnel begins carrying the Bay Area’s water supply from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park to the Peninsula, bolstering the dependability of the region’s water system.
Read the rest in SFGate.
Birth control pill led to near extinction of fish in lake. The lead researcher of a new study is calling for improvements to some of Canada’s wastewater treatment facilities after finding that introducing the birth control pill in waterways created a chain reaction in a lake ecosystem that nearly wiped out a freshwater fish. Researchers in the United Kingdom discovered that male fish began to develop eggs when estrogen was introduced in their habitat.
Why did top scientific journals reject Dr. Bronner’s ad? Science and Nature rejected an advertorial by David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, that focuses on how GMO crops have led to increased pesticide use in the United States. Did they cave to pressure from GMO supporters?
Oil tankers leaking into Seattle’s water. A highly flammable byproduct flowed from oil tankers into an area stormwater system for at least a year before state regulators inspected the problem.
Acid-draining rock poisons water across Montana. Tourism promoters charge people $2 apiece to look at the most notoriously polluted mining site in Montana, an old copper pit filled with toxic water that will likely never be cleaned up.
Aluminium poisoning may trigger Alzheimer’s disease, claims professor. Professor Chrisopher Exley of Keele University claims that aluminium present in everyday items like cosmetics and food may be building up in the brain and causing Alzheimer’s disease.
Bangladesh: 60,000 students suffering from drinking water crisis. About 60,000 students of 146 institutions in Muksudpur upazila of Gopalganj district have been suffering from fresh water crisis due to arsenic contamination in groundwater.
When island nations drown, who owns their seas? Climate change threatens the very existence of low-lying island nations across the world. It also threatens another, less visible set of assets—their large and valuable maritime zones.
Here’s what you need to know about the deep-sea gold rush. The potential for profit from deep sea mining is great, but so are the environmental risks. The deep ocean is one of the least-understood ecosystems on earth.
The Dutch boy mopping up a sea of plastic. Boyan Slat is a 20-year-old on a mission – to rid the world’s oceans of floating plastic. He has dedicated his teenage years to finding a way of collecting it. But can the system really work – and is there any point when so much new plastic waste is still flowing into the sea every day?
Sewer, Water Privatization? Slow Down, There.
When a complicated bill is being fast-tracked through the Legislature, it usually means the fix is in. Especially when it involves privatization – the sale or lease of a public program or function to a private, for-profit entity.
Why the cynicism? Because privatization rarely works. The oft-cited rationale is that a private company can do something cheaper and more efficiently than government – and make a profit at the same time. But as writer Michael Kinsley once put it, “Privatization cannot work. This is a mathematical certainty, not an opinion.” The profits are real enough – but they have to come from somewhere. And usually that’s from your pocket.
Water Polo Builds Character and Strong Bodies
The Lodi Flames Are Still on a Roll
The Lodi Flames varsity boys and girls water polo teams continued their perfect run through the Tri-City Athletic League, sweeping the Lincoln Trojans in Stockton on Thursday.
Lodi’s girls (13-4, 6-0 TCAL) outlasted the Trojans in a shootout, 14-10, Olivia Grim had four goals for Lodi and McKenna Martin and Karlyn Bertsch added three apiece. Full story of the Trojans’ victories.
A lifetime of sugary sodas may be 4.6 years shorter
By Lindsey Bever
You knew that drinking sugary sodas could lead to obesity, diabetes and heart attacks — but, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, it may also speed up your body’s aging process.
As you age, caps on the end your chromosomes called telomeres shrink. In the past several years, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, have analyzed stored DNA from more than 5,300 healthy Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from some 14 years ago. And they discovered that those who drank more pop tended to have shorter telomeres.
The shorter the telomere, the harder it is for a cell to regenerate — and so, the body ages.
“We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight,” psychiatry professor Elissa Epel, senior author of the study, told CBS San Francisco.
According to the research, drinking a 20-ounce bubbly beverage every day is linked to 4.6 years of additional aging. You get the same effect by smoking, said UCSF postdoctoral fellow Cindy Leung, lead author of the study. About 21 percent in the sample said they drank at least that much soda per day. However, researchers say, a link does not mean causation.
“The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our body within seconds by drinking sugared beverages is uniquely toxic to metabolism,” Epel told Time.
Scientists found no link between cell aging and drinking diet sodas or fruit juices. But Epel said the results might be different with more modern data.
“We think that the jury’s still out on sugared beverages — theoretically they’re just as bad,” she told Time. “But 14 years ago, people were drinking a lot less sugared beverages. … They were mostly drinking soda.”
The authors said the study looked at each participant at only one point in time; it did not track them. The participants, ages 20 to 65, had no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
But, with or without sodas, telomeres naturally shorten over time.
Source: Washington Post.
Gazette Numerical Wizard Bea Sharper brings you up to date on the current water news in numbers.
Tons of BPA spewed into the atmosphere in 2013 by US companies — 26.
Gallons of water that could be saved annually by putting an “environmental label” on beef products — 76 to 129 billion.
Brain cancer rate increase among girls in a Florida town whose water was contaminated by the radioactive wastes of a defense contractor – 550%.
Ticket price charged by promoters to see “the most polluted mine in Montana” — $2.
Age of Boyan Slat, who has launched a significant project aimed at ridding the oceans of plastics — 20.
Aging, in years, added by drinking a daily 20-ounce soda, according to an American Journal of Public Health study — 4.6.
Year in which status of the British outpost Rockall was downgraded from island to rock — 1997.
Nautical square miles of ocean lost by the United Kingdom because of the downgrade — 60,000.
Factor by which water well drilling has increased in Santa Barbara, CA during the current drought — 3 times.
Percentage of the UK’s public water that is taken from groundwater sources — 35%.
Cost of restoring the Kissimmee River to its near meandering state after it was “straightened” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — $ 1 billion.
Pure Water Gazette technical writer Pure Water Annie explains how oxygen gets into water.
Dissolved Oxygen: An important Constituent of Water
by Pure Water Annie
Our atmosphere consists of around 21 percent oxygen. Water, however, has only a fraction of 1 percent.
Oxygen dissolves into water at the point where water and air meet.
Dissolved oxygen, called DO, is made up of microscopic bubbles of oxygen gas in water. This dissolved oxygen is critical for the support of plant life and fish.
According to one authority, “DO is produced by diffusion from the atmosphere, aeration of the water as it passes over falls and rapids, and as a waste product of photosynthesis. It is affected by temperature, salinity, atmospheric pressure, and oxygen demand from aquatic plants and animals.”
Dissolved oxygen is measured as percent saturation or as parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). As the chart below indicates, oxygen dissolves easily into cold water, not so easily into warm, and not at all into boiling water.
In water treatment, a high level of dissolved oxygen can make water taste better, but it can also make water corrosive to metal pipes. Dissolved oxygen is a necessary ingredient of many water treatment processes. The use of catalytic carbon to remove iron, for example, requires a minimum of about 4.0 ppm of dissolved oxygen in the source water, and Birm, the popular iron removal medium, will not work without sufficient dissolved oxygen.
Oxygen can be added to water by simple aeration techniques which involve exposing the water to air. Ozone is also used in water treatment to greatly increase the oxygen content of water.
Glasses show how oxygen leaves water. Milky water on left with high level of dissolved oxygen. On the right, the air has gone back to the atmosphere and the water is clear. Often a film will be left at the surface or “skin” at the top surface of the water. When cloudy water clears from bottom to top. the discoloration is harmless air. Water cloudy from silt clears from top to bottom and leaves residue at the bottom of the glass.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories. We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment. We stock parts for everything we sell.
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!”
Write to the Gazette or the Occasional: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pure Water Gazette – now now with an up-to-the-minute feed of the latest water news.