Current Water News
by Hardly Waite
In the ongoing state vs. state water wars being waged in the courts, Georgia won a major decision over Florida and Texas won over New Mexico. Both cases involve the right to water in rivers that pass through both states.
In a more complex litigation about water, the Trump administration (as did also the Obama administration) is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by New Mexico and the Navajo Nation over a 2015 mine-waste spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado. There are 1.2 billion in claims, and the government is denying responsibility because the agency was simply aiding in cleanup caused by operators of the mine. Republicans earlier slammed the Obama administration for taking the same stance as the current administration.
The 2015 spill was caused by an EPA contractor who, working with federal and state employees, miscalculated the pressure of wastewater at the abandoned mine. About 3 million gallons of toxic sludge spilled out, turning the Animas River orange for days, along with downstream rivers that run through New Mexico and the Navajo Nation’s reservation.
New Mexico has also sued Colorado in the Supreme Court over its alleged responsibility for the spill. The high court is considering whether to hear that case.
Other Water News
New York city’s need for water infrastructure upgrade is expected to cost $80 billion over the next 20 years.
Oklahoma is considering joining the practice of several other states of storing water underground by using “leaky ponds” to recharge aquifers. Rather than allow surplus water to leave the state as runoff to rivers or to be stored in lakes subject to loss by evaporation, water is redirected to aquifers to be pumped to the surface in times of need.
Good News for Lake Mead, and Consequently Las Vegas: Federal forecasters now expect the Lake Mead reservoir to avoid its first federal shortage declaration next year, thanks to the boost it should get from what could wind up as the wettest winter on the river’s basin in 20 years. Storms in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming over the past month have added more than 3 million acre-feet to the water supply forecast for the Colorado. That’s a 10-year supply for Nevada, which gets 300,000 acre-feet from the river each year.
There is a rather extensive research project going on at the University of Michigan that is designed to find the most effective ways to convert urine into fertilizer that can be used to help plants grow. Urine is rich is nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The current phase of the project features uses of a special toilet that harvests fertilizer ingredients from human urine.
Although reservoirs are seldom thought of as part of the water infrastructure that needs maintenance, water managers are catching on that many of the nation’s reservoirs are operating at a fraction of their original capacity because they are filling with silt, sand and gravel. Evidence is growing that cleaning the debris out of our reservoirs to restore their holding capacity makes more sense than searching for new sources of water by building dams and drilling more wells.