EPA scientists and partners team up to tackle Cape Cod’s nutrient pollution and protect water quality

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Like many places in the country, Cape Cod’s coastal waters are under stress from excess nutrients, which mainly consist of nitrogen. While nitrogen and other nutrients occur naturally in the environment, too many nutrients can cause water to become polluted. Nutrient pollution from human activity can throw natural water systems out of balance, leading to algal blooms and contributing to low oxygen conditions that harm aquatic ecosystems and can cause fish kills.

To help Cape Cod solve its nutrient pollution problem, EPA researchers are collaborating with federal, state, and community partners. This diverse group of partners came together with the common goal of restoring the water quality and natural ecosystems on which the region depends. Their work includes research to better understand nutrient pollution in the region, field testing nitrogen-removal technologies, and developing communication methods to engage community members throughout the research process.

How a sponge could help clean up microplastics in Chicago and the Great Lakes

Read the full story from WBEZ.

A team of Northwestern University engineers created a coating that, when applied to sponges, traps pollutants found in water.

ISWS-Waterly partnership digitizes groundwater data

Water flowing through a culvert

by Tiffany Jolley, Prairie Research Institute

The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) is partnering with Waterly, an Illinois-based water sector operations data analytics company, to collect groundwater pumping data from South Elgin, West Dundee, Joliet, McHenry County, and Arbury Hills.

Leveraging Waterly software will allow the ISWS groundwater science team to acquire almost real-time water pumping data that will amplify the team’s ability to forecast aquifer changes and gain a better understanding of current and future water risks across Illinois. 

The Illinois Water Inventory Program (IWIP), a statewide inventory of water use and withdrawals in Illinois, requires public water suppliers, self-supplied industry water users, and agricultural irrigation water users to report their water use and withdrawals.

While the legal mandate for data collection is limited to annual reporting, more frequent data can show valuable trend details that can make a massive difference in the forecasted availability of a water supply. 

“If we had monthly pumping data as well as monthly water level data, we would be able to understand more of the variability between observed and estimated water levels,” said Daniel Abrams, associate research scientist and ground flow modeler at ISWS.

In the case of northeast Illinois, groundwater withdrawals become unsustainable when the deeper sandstone layers become dewatered. As an aquifer approaches the end of its lifespan, little details make a big difference, and little details go unnoticed with annual data collection.

The City of Joliet facilitated a pilot project in 2019 that provided monthly data to the ISWS to assess local and regional water supply. The actual observed groundwater levels changed significantly throughout the year at many facilities, an observation not apparent from just looking at the annual numbers. 

The year 2030 is key for many at-risk wells in the region, because Joliet (the largest water user in the region) intends to find an alternative source by that date. Even still, modeling indicates that when Joliet switches from using the aquifer, many communities and industries will still have at-risk water supplies, particularly during peak pumping conditions. These peak pumping conditions could only be evaluated by efforts to collect monthly data.

This story first appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.

Lake Michigan water-level rise affects inland waterways, study finds

Read the full story from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

2020 marked Lake Michigan’s highest water level in 120 years, experts said, and climate variance makes future water levels challenging to predict. Coastal impacts are well-documented, but the effect of lake level rise on the area’s inland waterways is poorly understood. A University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study examined how Lake Michigan’s rising levels affect water quality, flood control and invasive species management within the Chicago-area waterway system that connects the lake to Illinois, Indiana and the Mississippi River basin.

The study, led by civil and environmental engineering professor Marcelo Garcia and graduate student Dongchen Wang, focused on how lake-level rise influences the unique bidirectional flow of the Chicago-area waterway system – initiated by the engineered reversal of the Chicago River in 1900 – and its connection to the Calumet-area waterway subsystem situated along the Illinois-Indiana border.

EPA warns toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more dangerous than once thought

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency warned Wednesday that a group of human-made chemicals found in the drinking water, cosmetics and food packaging used by millions of Americans pose a greater danger to human health than regulators previously thought.

The new health advisories for a ubiquitous class of compounds known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, underscore the risk facing dozens of communities across the country. Linked to infertility, thyroid problems and several types of cancer, these “forever chemicals” can persist in the environment for years without breaking down.

Cooperation rewards water utilities

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

Inter-utility water agreements can help mitigate risks, in research that used supercomputer simulations of water supply in the North Carolina Research Triangle. Findings are generalizable to any place where water providers face financial and supply challenges in allocating regional water.

How a shadow price on water could prime innovative technologies

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

How can stakeholders, in particular the private sector, contribute to scaling innovative water technologies and catalyze other stakeholders to accelerate changes in public policy to adapt to 21st-century water realities?

We propose the increased adoption of shadow pricing (the price of water plus consideration of risks, costs for energy and associated carbon emissions, etc.) and business value at risk strategies (additional considerations such as brand value, license to operate and grow, etc.) to overcome the challenges and barriers of using internal return on investment criteria to consider these strategies.

SAWS reports drought sparks interest in water-saving yards in San Antonio

Read the full story at Texas Public Radio.

The San Antonio Water System reports the drought is sparking interest among customers about how to install a water-saving landscape.

The city-owned water utility offers education, water-saver coupons, and other rebates to make it easier to replace thirsty lawns with native or drought tolerant vegetation and do away with automatic sprinkler systems.

Cleaning up lakes and oceans

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

With a sponge that looks like one you might find in your kitchen, Northwestern University researchers have discovered how to effectively clean up oil, microplastics and phosphate pollution.

This sponge could help clean up oil spills without harming marine life and prevent algae blooms from forming when phosphate builds up to dangerous levels. To recover and reuse dwindling natural resources — like oil and phosphate — the sponge can simply be wrung out.

Northwestern engineer Vinayak Dravid, who developed the new tool, said the novel technology can accommodate multiple functions, much like a Swiss Army knife. The sponge absorbs 99% of phosphate ions it encounters and 30 times its weight in oil.

Anheuser-Busch to implement new water reuse technology in connection with its breweries

Bottles of beer on ice

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Anheuser-Busch is partnering with Cambrian to implement new water reuse technology in connection with its breweries – including a new plant in Houston, Texas, set to open in the summer of 2022. Through a series of reactors and filtration technologies, Anheuser-Busch will be able to clean and reuse previously discarded water in industrial processes which don’t contact beer, reducing the Houston brewery’s reliance on new water from the community’s municipal water supply by 10%.