The Water Cycle for Kids

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have teamed up to create a water-cycle diagram for schools. The site also includes an interactive diagram, which allows you to “mouse around” the parts of the water cycle and view explanations, pictures, and more online.

Army Corps Accepting Water Resources Project Proposals

Under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), which became law in June, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) is accepting proposals from local governments for feasibility studies and modifications to authorized water resources development projects. The request is open until December 3, 2014.

WRRDA authorized flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects to help upgrade the nation’s aging infrastructure. A key WRRDA provision allows local project sponsors to submit proposals to Army Corps, which in turn will submit a list to Congress for authorization.

Under that provision, Section 7001, Army Corps is soliciting proposals from local and regional stakeholders for water resources studies or project modifications to be conducted in partnership with the Agency. Section 7001 provides an excellent opportunity for local governments to shape the future of Army Corps by identifying beneficial and necessary water resources projects to be developed through federal/non-federal cost sharing.

Does your municipality have a problem with frequent flooding?  Does the port that supports your local and regional economy need improvements?  Would the quality of life in your community be improved by restoring an urban stream or watershed?  Is your growing economy dependent on additional water supply?  The key missions of Army Corps support the development of water resources projects to tackle these types of issues.

Through the Section 7001 solicitation, local governments can help Army Corps and Congress identify where scarce federal resources can be invested to address our nation’s water resources priorities.

Once proposals are collected, Army Corps will publish an Annual Report to Congress listing the proposed projects. The Annual Report is intended to be the sole list of water resources projects to be considered for authorization in future legislation.

The official notice of the request for proposals can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-08-05/pdf/2014-18495.pdf.

Toxic Industrial Pollution and Restoring the Promise of the Clean Water Act

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Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year – threatening both the environment and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), toxic discharges from industrial facilities are responsible for polluting more than 17,000 miles of rivers and about 210,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.

To curb this massive release of toxic chemicals into our nation’s water, we must step up Clean Water Act protections for our waterways and require polluters to reduce their use of toxic chemicals.

Industrial facilities dumped 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2012, according to reports from those facilities to the national Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

  • Our nation’s iconic waterways are still threatened by toxic pollution – with polluters discharging chemicals into the following watersheds: Great Lakes (8.39 million pounds), Chesapeake Bay (3.23 million pounds), Upper Mississippi River (16.9 million pounds), and Puget Sound (578,000 pounds), among other national treasures.
  • Polluters released toxic chemicals to 850 local watersheds across the country. Indiana led the nation in total volume of toxic releases to waterways, with more than 17 million pounds of discharges from industrial facilities, followed by Texas and Louisiana. The top 10 states for toxic industrial releases to waterways were the same as in 2010.
  • Watersheds receiving the highest volumes of toxic pollution were the Lower Ohio River-Little Pigeon River (Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky), the Upper New River (Virginia) and the Middle Savannah River (Georgia and South Carolina).

Several of these watershed regions contain multiple outlets to the ocean. Toxics released in these areas do not all follow the same path to the sea.

Toxic chemicals linked to serious health effects were released in large amounts to America’s waterways in 2012.

  • Cancer: Industrial facilities released more than 1.4 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer into 688 local watersheds during 2012, including arsenic, benzene and chromium. The North Fork Humboldt River watershed in Nevada received the largest release of carcinogens among local watersheds, followed by the Lake Maurepas watershed in Louisiana.
  • Developmental damage: More than 460,000 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental disorders were released into more than 600 local watersheds. Nevada’s North Fork Humboldt River watershed suffered the most developmental toxicant releases among local watersheds, followed by the Lake Maurepas watershed in Louisiana.
  • Fertility problems: Approximately 4.4 million pounds of fertility-reducing chemicals were released to more than 600 local watersheds. The Lower Chehalis River watershed in northwestern Washington, which flows into a bay surrounded by wildlife refuges, state parks and beaches, received the second-highest volume of reproductive-toxic releases in the nation.
  • Discharges of persistent bioaccumulative toxics (including dioxin and mercury) are also widespread.

Industrial facilities – especially those operated by corporate agribusiness – continue to release high volumes of nitrates into America’s waters.

  • Nitrate compounds – which can cause serious health problems in infants if found in drinking water and which contribute to oxygen-depleted “dead zones” in waterways – were by far the largest releases of toxic chemicals in terms of overall weight.
  • Corporate agribusiness facilities – such as slaughterhouses and poultry plants – were responsible for approximately one-third of all direct discharges of nitrates to waterways. This is in addition to huge volumes of runoff pollution from factory farms and other agribusiness operations.
  • Toxic releases continued in already damaged waterways. For example, Tankersley Creek in northeast Texas has long been the target of state and federal cleanup efforts, but a 30-year-old chicken-processing plant released four times more nitrates into Tankersley Creek in 2012 than it had in 2000.

Toxic chemicals vary in the severity of the threat they post to the environment and human health. When weighted by toxicity of releases, the watersheds receiving the most toxic discharges were the Lower Brazos River (Texas), the Lower Grand River (Louisiana), and the North Fork Humboldt River (Nevada).

To protect the public and the environment from toxic releases, the United States should prevent pollution by requiring industries to reduce their use of toxic chemicals and restore and strengthen Clean Water Act protections for all of America’s waterways.

The United States should restore Clean Water Act protections to all of America’s waterways and strengthen enforcement and permitting under the Clean Water Act.

  • Specifically, the Obama administration should finalize its proposed rule clarifying that the Clean Water Act applies to headwater streams, intermittent waterways, isolated wetlands and other waterways.

State and federal policies should move industrial polluters away from the use of toxic chemicals, in favor of safer alternatives. Specifically, state and federal officials should:

  • Require the use of safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, where such alternatives already exist.
  • Phase out the worst toxic chemicals.

The data in this report do not cover the entire volume of toxic chemicals released to the environment – just the ones released to surface waterways by industrial facilities that report to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. To expand understanding of toxic releases, policymakers should:

  • Close loopholes that allow major polluters to avoid reporting their toxic releases. For example, the oil and gas industry should be required to report releases of fracking fluid and drilling waste to the Toxics Release Inventory.
  • Ensure the public is informed about the storage of toxic chemicals, especially in light of the toxic spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 people in West Virginia in January 2014.

New tool helps visualize how climate change could affect the Great Lakes

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently launched a web tool that predicts what the Great Lakes shorelines looks like under different water levels.

The Lake Level Viewer shows different water levels of the Great Lakes. On NOAA’s Digital Coast website, users select a lake to view, zoom in on the specific area of interest and change the water level within six feet above or below the average level to see the receding or growing shorelines.

Farmers, environmentalists at odds over proposed EPA water rule

Listen to the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

In middle of the 20th century, America’s rivers were in rough shape. Decades of urban growth and industrial pollution had turned many of them into dumping grounds for everything from hazardous chemicals to human waste.

A burgeoning environmental movement and high profile events like the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River finally pushed Congress to take action. In 1972, it passed the Clean Water Act, giving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate water pollution.

But which waterways the agency can regulate has been a source of conflict and confusion. In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule it says clarifies its jurisdiction.

Environmentalists say it will close loopholes that allow pollution into streams and wetlands go unchecked.  But farm bureaus in many states including Michigan are saying the rule goes too far and could hurt the agricultural industry.

Current State talks with Laura Campbell, Manager of Agricultural Ecology at the Michigan Farm Bureau, and John Rumpler, Senior Attorney for Environment America.


When Cutting Water Use 40% Isn’t Enough

Read the full story in Governing.

As the three-year drought drags on, cities and towns on the Central Coast are looking for alternatives: Santa Barbara may dust off its dormant desalination plant, and San Luis Obispo County wants to connect two pipelines to deliver emergency water to Morro Bay and state and county agencies along Highway 1.

In Cambria, the water shortage is particularly acute because its 6,000 residents get all of their supply from two shrinking local creeks. To prevent the creeks from going dry, the Cambria Community Services District is building a controversial treatment plant to essentially make the town’s water go further.

Over the past year, Cambria embarked on a civic effort to reduce water consumption, and it succeeded: Water use dropped 40 percent.

Yet that was not enough for the unincorporated community six miles south of Hearst Castle. The Community Services District declared an extreme water shortage in January and soon secured a fast-tracked county permit to build the water treatment plant along one of two creeks that feed its aquifer.