Water News for September 2023
Can the Great Salt Lake Be Saved?
Environmental and community groups have sued Utah officials over failures to save its iconic Great Salt Lake from irreversible collapse. The largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere has been steadily shrinking, as more and more water has been diverted away from the lake to irrigate farmland, feed industry and water lawns.
A megadrought across the US southwest, accelerated by global heating, has hastened the lake’s demise. Unless immediate action is taken, the lake could decline beyond recognition within five years, a report published early this year warned, exposing a dusty lake bed laced with arsenic, mercury, lead and other toxic substances. The resulting toxic dust bowl would be “one of the worst environmental disasters in modern US history,” the ecologist Ben Abbott of Brigham Young University said earlier this year.
Despite such warnings, officials have failed to act, local groups said in their lawsuit. “We are trying to avert disaster. We are trying to force the hand of state government to take serious action,” said Brian Moench of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, one of the groups suing state agencies.
Can the lake be saved? Despite growing political momentum on the issue, scientists say the proposed measures are not nearly enough to save the lake, which has lost about 40 billion gallons of water annually since 2020. The Guardian
Five American cities are one intense climate issue away from being in serious trouble.
CNN in an in depth report listed five American cities –Buffalo, New York; Prichard, Alabama; St. Louis, Missouri; Central Coast, California; and San Juan, Puerto Rico as all facing existential vulnerabilities that could leave drinking water or wastewater systems in total disrepair should climate-induced calamity strike. And these potential worst-case scenarios range from drinking water scarcity to stormwater inundation. Water Online.
In September, Antarctic sea ice shrank to the lowest level ever recorded. Full story from The Guardian.
Salt Intrusion in Louisiana
The very low water level of the Mississippi is allowing Gulf water to seep into drinking water sources in parts of Louisiana. As a result, grocery stores are struggling to keep up with bottled water sales.Residents have reported skin irritations and damaged appliances, including water heaters and washing machines, from salt exposure. “Unimpeded salt water continues to creep upriver and threatens municipal drinking water. That makes it unsafe to drink — especially for people with kidney disease, high blood pressure, people on a low-sodium diet, infants and pregnant women.” U.S. News. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has signed an emergency declaration over an intrusion of saltwater into the Mississippi River that officials say could impact the water supply in the region.
The Carbon Footprint of Pet Fish
A lot has been written about the environmental impact of owning pets like dogs and cats, but not a lot has been said about the carbon footprint of pet fish ownership. As you might guess, there’s a world of difference between owning a goldfish and maintaining a full-fledged aquarium for tropical fish. What’s the carbon footprint of owning pet fish? looks at the environmental consequences like water and energy use of maintaining an aquarium in some detail. Environmental concerns related to fish ownership are mainly water used, which can be considerable for large aquariums requiring reverse osmosis water and frequent water changes, and energy used for pumping and heating water. The Conversation.
A recent poll reported by Greenwire found that 79% of voters want more water infrastructure funding.
Study Finds Disparities in Public Water Quality Associated with Race and Income
Recent studies funded by the Superfund Research Program (SRP) reached the not-surprising conclusion that socioeconomic factors, such as race and income, may be associated with disparities in exposure to drinking water contaminants. For their studies, researchers evaluated contaminants in private wells and community water systems in various regions across the country.
These disparities stem from a long history of unequal environmental protections and investments in water infrastructure. As a result, water is more likely to become contaminated in poor communities and these communities face greater technical and financial challenges in maintaining water quality that meets safety standards.Environmental Factor