Category: Water

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report 2021

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The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy 2021 Biennial Report is the third report
to provide the public with updates on the implementation of the Illinois Nutrient Loss
Reduction Strategy, released in 2015. The strategy continues to be guided by Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and University of
Illinois Extension, with input and feedback from the Policy Working Group and several other stakeholder groups and councils. This biennial report provides a 2019-20 overview of the efforts and investments made in reducing nutrient loss to Illinois waterways from source sectors: agriculture, point sources, and urban stormwater.

As drought grips American West, irrigation becomes a Michigan selling point

Read the full story at Bridge Michigan.

A new narrative about water and irrigation is becoming more significant on this Manistee County farm and across Michigan. Will there be enough water for the state’s thriving farm sector and for every other use of a natural resource growing scarcer across much of the rest of the nation?

A Black town’s water is more poisoned than Flint’s. In a white town nearby, it’s clean

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Activists in Benton Harbor say it’s been an uphill battle getting the city, county and state to take action.

Addressing challenges of PFAS: Protecting groundwater and treating contaminated sources

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

In 2019, EPA geochemist Rick Wilkin, helped to develop three teams to focus on treatment, characterization, and risk management of PFAS in groundwater. This collaborative work includes EPA experts from Regions 2 and 3, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

World Meteorological Organization sharpens warnings about both too much and too little water

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

With global warming intensifying the water cycle, floods and droughts are increasing, and many countries are unprepared.

Integrating surface water and groundwater modeling

by Tiffany Jolley, Prairie Research Institute

Water Survey researchers are exploring ways to simulate the interactions between groundwater and surface water by combining existing modeling technology, including investigating how groundwater elevations change in response to storm events and subsequent river rises. Groundwaters and surface waters are intimately connected and impacts on one will affect the other (e.g., contaminated groundwater seeping into river flow). Understanding these interactions will enable the Water Survey to better support management of the state’s natural water resources. 

“There are some areas that bear close monitoring, including areas where irrigation is increasing over confined aquifers, including the Green River lowlands and the eastern part of the Mahomet aquifer in East Central Illinois,” said Allan Jones, an ISWS hydrogeologist.  

The ISWS groundwater team is collaborating with the Imperial Valley Water Authority and local communities to help them better understand their water usage and the demands on the local aquifer.  

“In particular, irrigation pumpage in Mason County is extensive, peaking at nearly 1 billion gallons per day during the summer irrigation season,” said Jones. 

However, long-term aquifer records indicate that such extensive pumping does not leave a permanent impact on the groundwater (e.g., a gradual loss of water volume over time). The current explanation for the lack of persistent influence from irrigation is that the shallow Mahomet aquifer is rapidly recharged during annual rain events.  

 “Our current research suggests that water may also be entering the Mahomet aquifer from the Illinois River, especially during regional precipitation events when river water levels are elevated,” said Jones. “These contributions of water from the Illinois River may act to buffer the Mahomet aquifer’s water storage against the regular irrigation demands.”  

However, Jones notes that these contributions to groundwater from the Illinois River introduce new challenges.  

“The water from the Illinois River can cause a flow inversion in the groundwater that causes groundwater to stagnate or flow back into the aquifer rather than toward the river as usual in this system,” said Jones. “Furthermore, this can impact the transport of nutrients and influence chemical reactions to occur that may not normally occur through the groundwater and may induce a lag time before flow into the rivers.” 

The ISWS groundwater team is working to improve groundwater models of near-stream dynamics of environmental contaminants. ISWS researchers are working to speed up groundwater flow models by streamlining model architectures to couple them with dynamic river stage models. In addition, combining watershed-scale models and groundwater flow models will help to better capture the simulation of broadly distributed contaminants, such as nitrate. 

The Water Survey also helps communicate research to the public to better identify water supply planning priorities. ISWS researchers regularly meet with water users, managers, and planners at the state, regional, and local levels.  

“Our efforts continue to evaluate community risk for regional growth scenarios and improve understanding of how water users influence supply risk and uncertainty,” said Jones.   

For more information, contact Alan Jones:

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

Illegal marijuana farms take West’s water in ‘blatant theft’

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

From dusty towns to forests in the U.S. West, illegal marijuana growers are taking water in uncontrolled amounts when there often isn’t enough to go around for even licensed users. Conflicts about water have long existed, but illegal marijuana farms — which proliferate despite legalization in many Western states — are adding strain during a severe drought.

Researchers study radium in aquifers of north-central Illinois

By Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Walt Kelly, Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) groundwater geochemist, answered questions about the findings of his recent study on radium levels in groundwater of the St. Peter Sandstone aquifer, with a study area in north-central Illinois. Radium levels are above the drinking water standard in many community water supply wells open to the aquifer.

What was the purpose of this study?

This study was part of a larger study undertaken to evaluate water supplies in the Middle Illinois Region. We were interested in what the water quality of the major aquifers was, and what the water chemistry could tell us about the evolution of groundwater in the deep aquifers.

Who was the report intended for?

The report was primarily for the scientific community, especially those interested in radioactivity in sandstone aquifers. But it was also intended for those communities and industries that use these aquifers, to help them understand and manage their water quality.

Why is it important to study radium in groundwater?

Drinking or cooking with water that contains too much radium can pose a hazard to human health. Drinking water is required to have no more than 5 picocuries per liter of radium. Being a radioactive element, it can also give us clues about what reactions are occurring within the aquifers and between them.

What are the environmental factors that affect the levels of radium in groundwater, particularly for north-central Illinois?

Radium is formed as uranium and thorium in the rock decay radioactively. There are many factors that can affect whether the radium remains in the water or is removed to solid phases, including the rock and water chemical characteristics.

What role do uranium and thorium play in the water levels of radium?

They are the “parents” of radium. They are formed as the uranium and thorium, which are found in the rocks, decay. The radium further decays, eventually forming non-radioactive lead. One form of radium also decays to radon, a carcinogenic gas. The more uranium and thorium in the rock, the more potential for radium and radon to be found in the groundwater.

What were the major results from the water sampling and analysis?

It’s been known for a long time that there are elevated radium levels in these aquifers. Our work has helped us understand the sources and transport of radium in this enormously complex hydrogeological and geochemical system. One thing we have been able to do is track the movement of Pleistocene meltwater into the aquifers and learn how they have mixed with brines and affected radium and uranium.

Where were the highest levels of radium in the study area and why?

The highest concentration we measured was 17.6 pCi/L. Earlier sampling north of our study region had many higher values, as high as 37 pCi/L. Differences in radium concentrations can be attributed to different amounts of the uranium and thorium and differences in solid and water chemistry that affect whether the radium remains in solution.

What are the implications of this study?

Communities using these aquifers will always have to deal with radium, because it is naturally occurring and is continually being produced. There may be several options, including various treatments or blending. One thing to remember in treatment is that the waste stream is radioactive, and its handling may be regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

What are the plans for future studies?

We have no concrete plans, but we are interested in looking more closely at rock cores to learn more about the association of uranium, thorium, and radium within the solid phase.

The report detailing the study, Hydrogeological and Geochemical Controls on Radium and Uranium in the St. Peter Sandstone Aquifer in the Middle Illinois Water Supply Planning Region, is available in the University of Illinois IDEALS depository. Co-authors include Samuel Panno, Keith Hackley, Daniel Hadley, and Devin Mannix.

Media contact: Walt Kelly, 217-333-3729,

This article originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute New Blog. Read the original article.

2021 State of Climate Services: Water

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More than 2 billion people are living in countries under water stress and 3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water at least one month per year. Meanwhile, water-related hazards have increased in frequency for the past 20 years. Since 2000, flood-related disasters have increased by 134%, and the number and duration of droughts also increased by 29%.

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is vital to achieving long-term social, economic and environmental well-being. But, although most countries have advanced their level of IWRM implementation, 107 countries remain off track to hit the goal of sustainably managing their water resources by 2030 (UN SDG 6).

This latest WMO report explores the progress made by WMO Members in using climate services to address water-related challenges – and highlights the gaps in user engagement, forecasting, observing networks, and data collection that still exist.

In term-opener, justices will hear Mississippi’s complaint that Tennessee is stealing its groundwater

Read the full story at SCOTUSBlog.

Mississippi v. Tennessee is not only the Supreme Court’s first oral argument of the 2021-22 term, but it is also the first time that states have asked the court to weigh in on how they should share an interstate aquifer. The court’s decision could fundamentally restructure interstate groundwater law in the United States for decades — or the case could be dismissed immediately on the grounds that Mississippi has failed to allege the proper cause of action.

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