Federal Water Tap, October 5: Army Corps Evaluates Multibillion-Dollar Flood Projects for Houston

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The Rundown

The Army Corps of Engineers wants public input as it assesses ways to reduce flood risk along Houston waterways. FEMA begins accepting applications for $500 million in flood resilience grants. The Department of Health and Human Services wants to test sewage as a coronavirus early-warning system. Three agencies sign a new management plan for federal dams in the Columbia River basin. Regulators say there is enough evidence to list two freshwater mussel species as threatened. USDA begins accepting applications for a pilot program for septic systems that fail due to unsuitable soil. And lastly, the EPA considers revising up to eight national drinking water rules.

By the Numbers

$500 million: Grant funding available to help communities reduce the risk of catastrophic floods. Of that amount, some $20 million is set aside for tribes. The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grants encourage projects that update building codes and those that incorporate nature-based flood prevention: things like wetlands, green spaces, and room for water to flow. (FEMA)

$5 million: Grant funding available for a new pilot program to evaluate and test small-scale wastewater treatment systems for poor communities with septic systems that fail due to unsuitable soil. Applications from regional research collaboratives are due November 4 and can be submitted via http://www.grants.gov. (USDA)

In context: Septic Infrastructure in the U.S.

News Briefs

Tracking the Coronavirus in Sewage
The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking a contractor that could help test sewage for traces of the new coronavirus, CNBC reports.

Evidence of genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in sewage can be used to identify potential outbreaks more quickly than clinical data. The CDC has already said it would organize a national surveillance network.

The department says that testing will begin with a network of wastewater plants that treat the sewage of about 10 percent of U.S. residents. The project could scale up to cover about 30 percent of the country’s population, largely in the biggest cities.

CNBC notes that the solicitation appears to be tailored toward the services of a particular company: BioBot, a startup that began testing sewage earlier this year and now has partnerships in 42 states.

Threatened Mussels
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that there is enough evidence to list two freshwater mussel species as “threatened” under federal protection laws.

Critical habitat for the longsolid and round hickorynut mussels extends from Alabama to Pennsylvania. This includes about 1,000 miles of river habitat.

Comments on the proposed listing are being accepted through December 28. Submit them via http://www.regulations.gov using docket number FWS-R4-ES-2020-0010.

Studies and Reports

Houston Flooding Study
The Army Corps of Engineers released an interim report as part of its assessment of ways to reduce flooding risk along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou.

Options include a new reservoir (estimated cost: $2.1 billion to $2.9 billion), dredging and widening Buffalo Bayou ($946 million to $1.2 billion), and relocating businesses and apartments downstream ($2.3 billion). There are a number of smaller options that could be included in those three options.

The Corps operates two dams on the bayou and its tributaries, which were inundated during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Several factors account for the area’s increasing flood risk since the dams were built in the 1940s: population growth, more pavement, and higher-intensity rainfall.

The interim report does not make any conclusions or recommendations. Those will be part of the final report. Before then, the public has a chance to weigh in. Submit comments by November 2 to BBTRS@usace.army.mil.

Columbia River Dams
Three federal agencies signed a record of decision on a new management plan for federal dams in the Columbia River basin.

Intended to improve the health of the basin’s salmon runs while accounting for the dams’ other authorized purposes — flood control, navigation, hydropower, water supply — the plan prioritizes spilling more water from the dams. Spilling water is a way to prevent outbound salmon from being killed in the turbines.

The plan does not take the step that some environmental groups and tribes had wanted: breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River.

On the Radar

EPA Drinking Water Rules Review
Every six years, the EPA is required to review federal drinking water rules to determine, based on new data, whether any require revision.

The latest review found eight rules that could need updating. Those rules relate to microbial contaminants like Legionella and Giardia, as well as the chemical byproducts of water disinfection.

The agency will hold an online meeting on October 14 and 15 to hear expert testimony and public input about potential revisions.

The agenda is here. Register via the above link by October 12.

In context: Who Regulates U.S. Drinking Water, and How?

Environmental Finance Board Meeting
Scheduling conflict alert: the Environmental Finance Advisory Board, which advises the EPA on the important question ‘How to pay for it?’, will hold a public meeting on October 14 and 15.

On the agenda: the EPA Office of Water will respond to a board report on stormwater financing and consolidating smaller water systems in regional blocs.

What Is a Showerhead
The Department of Energy is giving the public an additional two weeks to comment on its proposal to revise the definition of “showerhead.”

The revision would allow for high-end, multi-nozzle fixtures to use more water than current efficiency standards.

Submit comments by October 14. Send them to Showerheads2020TP0002@ee.doe.gov with the subject line EERE-2014-BT-TP-0002.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/federal-water-tap/federal-water-tap-october-5-army-corps-evaluates-multibillion-dollar-flood-projects-for-houston/

Explainer: Who regulates U.S. drinking water, and how?

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Federal, state and local governments all have a hand in protecting public water systems and private wells from contamination.

This story was co-published with Ensia, a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from Park Foundation and Water Foundation.

By Brett Walton, Circle of Blue

Who’s responsible for making sure the water you drink is safe? Ultimately, you are. But if you live in the U.S., a variety of federal, state and local entities are involved as well. 

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) forms the foundation of federal oversight of public water systems — those that provide water to multiple homes or customers. Congress passed the landmark law in 1974 during a decade marked by accumulating evidence of cancer and other health damage caused by industrial chemicals that found their way into drinking water. The act authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time to set national standards for contaminants in drinking water. The EPA has since developed standards for 91 contaminants, a medley of undesirable intruders that range from arsenic and nitrate to lead, copper and volatile organic chemicals like benzene.

In 1996, amendments to the SDWA revised the process for developing drinking water standards, which limit the levels of specific contaminants. Nearly a quarter century after those amendments, an increasing number of policymakers and public health advocates today argue that the act is failing its mission to protect public health and is once again in need of major revision.

Setting Limits

The process for setting federal drinking water contaminant limits, which is overseen by the EPA, was not designed to be speedy. First, the EPA identifies a list of several dozen unregulated chemical and microbial contaminants that might be harmful. Then water utilities, which are in charge of water quality monitoring, test their treated water to see what shows up. The identification and testing is done on a five-year cycle. The EPA examines those results and, for at least five contaminants, as required by the SDWA, it determines whether a regulation is needed. Three factors go into the decision: Is the contaminant harmful? Is it widespread at high levels? Will a regulation meaningfully reduce health risks? If the answer is “Yes” to all three, then a national standard will be forthcoming. Altogether, the process can take a decade or more from start to finish.

Usually, however, one of the three answers is “No.” Since the 1996 amendments were passed, the EPA has not regulated any new contaminants through this process, though it has strengthened existing rules for arsenic, microbes and the chemical byproducts of drinking water disinfection. The agency did decide in 2011 that it should regulate perchlorate — which is used in explosives and rocket fuel and damages the thyroid — but reversed that decision in June 2020, claiming that the chemical is not widespread enough to warrant a national regulation. Two other chemicals have recently advanced to the standard-writing stage. In February, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that the agency would regulate PFOA and PFOS, both members of the class of non-stick, flame-retarding chemicals known as PFAS. For those two chemicals, the EPA currently has issued a health advisory, which is a non-enforceable guideline.

The act of writing a national standard introduces more calculations: health risks, cost of treatment to remove the contaminant from water and availability of treatment technology. Considering these, the EPA establishes what is known as a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG), which is the level at which no one is expected to become ill from the contaminant over a lifetime. The agency then sets a standard as close to the goal as possible, taking treatment cost into account. Standards, in the end, are not purely based on health protection and sometimes are higher than the MCLG. These standards, except for lead, apply to water as it leaves the treatment plant or moves throughout the distribution system. They do not apply to water from a home faucet, which could be compromised by old plumbing. 

The EPA also has 15 “secondary” standards that relate to how water tastes and smells. Unless mandated by a state, utilities are not required to meet these standards.

Once the EPA sets a drinking water standard, the nation’s roughly 50,000 community water systems — plus tens of thousands of schools, office buildings, gas stations and campgrounds that operate their own water systems — are obligated to test for the contaminant. If a regulated substance is found, system operators must treat the water so that contaminant concentrations fall below the standard. 

Omissions and Nuances

That is the regulatory process at the federal level. But there are omissions and nuances. 

One big omission is private wells. Water in wells that supply individual homes is not regulated by federal statute. Rather, private well owners are responsible for testing and treating their own well water. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that about 15% of U.S. residents use a private well. Some states, such as New Jersey, require that private wells be tested for contaminants before a home is sold. County health departments might also have similar point-of-sale requirements.

The nuance comes at the state level. States generally carry out the day-to-day grunt work of gathering water quality data from utilities and enforcing action against violations. To gain this authority, they must set drinking water standards that are at least as protective as the federal ones. If they want, they can set stricter limits or regulate contaminants that the EPA has not touched.

State authority had long been uncontroversial because only a few states — California and some northeastern states — were setting their own standards. That has changed in the last few years as states, responding to public pressure in the absence of an EPA standard, began regulating PFAS compounds.

“There was always a little bit of state standards-setting,” says Alan Roberson, executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, an umbrella group for state regulators. “But it’s gone from a little bit to a lot.”

Six states — Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont — adopted drinking water standards for certain PFAS compounds, while four others, including North Carolina and Minnesota, have issued health advisories or guidelines for groundwater cleanup.

States are also putting limits on other chemicals that the EPA has ignored. In July, New York adopted the nation’s first drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane, a synthetic chemical that was used before the 1990s as an additive to industrial solvents. The EPA deems it likely to cause cancer, but the agency has not regulated it in drinking water. In 2017, California approved a limit for 1,2,3-TCP, another manufactured industrial solvent that the EPA considers likely to be carcinogenic. 

The burst of state standards, especially for PFAS chemicals, has raised eyebrows. Some lawmakers worry that mismatched standards are confusing to residents. New York and New Jersey, for instance, set different limits on PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. “This can create poor risk communication and a crisis of confidence by the public who have diminished trust in their state’s standard when it fails to align with a neighboring state,” Rep. Paul Tonko said during a House Energy and Commerce subommittee hearing in July. 

Tonko, from New York, argued that the federal process “has not worked,” pointing to the two-plus decades since a new contaminant was regulated.

Other representatives countered with the view that the EPA should concentrate on a select number of the most concerning contaminants so as not to overwhelm utilities and states with too many rules that are too hastily put together. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois, echoing statements made by other committee members, said he does not want a system in which “quantity makes quality.” 

This debate, and other considerations like regional drinking water standards, is likely to carry over into the next Congress.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/explainer-who-regulates-u-s-drinking-water-and-how/

Satellite imaging to map groundwater use in California’s central valley

California

Researchers at the University of California San Diego report in a new study a way to improve groundwater monitoring by using a remote sensing technology (known as InSAR), in conjunction with climate and land cover data, to bridge gaps in the understanding of sustainable groundwater in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Their work could be revolutionary for managing groundwater use in agricultural regions around the world, as groundwater monitoring and management have been notoriously difficult to carry out due to lack of reliable data.

The satellite-based InSAR (interferometric synthetic aperture radar) is used to make high-resolution maps of land surface motion in space and time, including measurement of subsidence (or sinking). Subsidence can occur when large amounts of groundwater are removed from underground stores, called aquifers.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, took advantage of the incredibly fine-scale resolution of InSAR to evaluate subsidence patterns according to crop type, revealing surprising results. For example, despite reports of high water consumption by fruit and nut crops in California, the crop types with the greatest rates of subsidence, and by association the greatest rates of groundwater use, were field crops such as corn and soy, followed by pasture crops like alfalfa, truck crops like tomatoes, and lastly, fruit and nut crops like almonds and grapes.

“Our initial hypothesis was that fruit and nut crops would be associated with some of the highest rates of subsidence, but we found the opposite,” said study lead author, Morgan Levy, an assistant professor with a joint appointment with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Global Policy and Strategy.

Because displacement is a response to groundwater storage change in locations with varying geology, soils and vegetation, the interpretation of InSAR varies across locations, unlike satellite measurements of climate that have the same interpretation in any location. Therefore, InSAR must be combined with other sources of geophysical data to achieve location-specific insight into groundwater use.

By combining InSAR with other land surface datasets including land cover, potential evapotranspiration (a measure of plant water demand), and the location of surface water supply networks, UC San Diego researchers found that between 2015 and 2017, subsidence occurred at much higher rates in irrigated cultivated land compared to undeveloped land, and in dry surface water-limited years relative to wet years.

Over the study period, there was a median 272 millimeters (or 16 inches) of total cumulative subsidence for field crops (like corn and soy), and a dry water year subsidence rate of 131 millimeters (5 inches) per year. For fruit and nut crops, (like almonds and grapes) there was a median 62 millimeters (2.5 inches) of total subsidence over the study period, and a dry water year subsidence rate of 31 millimeters (1 inch) per year.

“The outcome might be explained by two things. First, on average fruits and nuts require less water physiologically, compared to field and pasture crops. Second, field and pasture crops tend to use irrigation methods that are less efficient and higher-volume than those used by fruit and nut crops,” Levy said. “However, fruits and nuts may still consume greater total volumes of water because they occupy more land area, even if their groundwater use intensity is less.”

Methods and findings from this research could be used to support the state’s ongoing effort to prevent overdraft of groundwater aquifers. Groundwater is a critical resource both nationally and globally: In the U.S., groundwater is a source of drinking water for roughly half of the population, and constitutes the largest source of irrigation water for agriculture. Irrigation accounts for approximately 70 percent of total U.S. groundwater withdrawals, and California has the highest rates of groundwater pumping in the nation.

“Our findings indicate that in the Central Valley, the costs and benefits of transitions away from field crops and towards fruit and nut crops in recent years are more complex than typically assumed,” Levy added. “Our results suggest the possibility that transitions to fruit and nut cultivation might be desirable, at least from a groundwater sustainability perspective, although more research is needed to confirm this.”

Global potential to advance groundwater monitoring and management

California is an example of a semi-arid and irrigation-dependent climate for agriculture. Coordinated efforts from the UC San Diego team of climate scientists and geophysicists to link subsidence, groundwater and surface water use, and crop production data across comparable time and space scales has tremendous potential to advance groundwater monitoring and management in agricultural regions in other parts of the world, said the authors.

In the San Joaquin Valley during wet years, farmers may receive up to 100 percent of their surface water allocations, while in extremely dry years, they may receive none. When surface water supplies are unavailable, farmers mine groundwater. Thus, groundwater has become increasingly important under climate change, as California and many parts of the world have experienced surface water shortages. However, excessive pumping does occur, even in relatively wet years. And, aquifers can run out.

In 2014, California passed legislation mandating a gradual, locally led shift towards sustainable use of groundwater — the resource on which 85 percent of its population and much of its $50-billon agriculture industry rely. The data from InSAR can be critical to the state’s efforts to perform effective monitoring and management in response to climate change.

While the legislation has encouraged local agencies to begin to use InSAR for documenting land subsidence, uses of InSAR for direct monitoring of groundwater use are early in their development. The UC San Diego research efforts provide an example of how water managers might use satellite data sources, including InSAR, to directly monitor local relationships between subsidence, groundwater pumping and crop portfolios.

“The promise of InSAR lies in our ability to combine it with other sources of geophysical and social data to answer water policy-relevant questions,” Levy and co-authors wrote. “We provide a preview of the power of such a synthesis, demonstrating that spatial patterns of subsidence and their relationship to agricultural cultivation and associated water demand are clear and robust.”

They concluded, “Our findings suggest that policy levers supporting sustainable groundwater management might benefit from consideration of the groundwater use intensity of crop selection, not only the difficult-to-define sustainability of groundwater extraction volumes over groundwater aquifer boundaries that remain uncertain and that are costly to delineate.”make a difference: sponsored opportunity


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of California – San DiegoNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Morgan C Levy, Wesley R Neely, Adrian A Borsa, Jennifer A Burney. Fine-scale spatiotemporal variation in subsidence across California’s San Joaquin Valley explained by groundwater demandEnvironmental Research Letters, 2020; DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/abb55c

FOR MORE INFORMATION: University of California – San Diego. “Satellite imaging to map groundwater use in California’s central valley: Satellite data reveal variability in intensity of groundwater use for different crops, a boon for irrigation policymaking across the state.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201001113646.htm

Humanity at crossroads, according to report by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity

Healthy ecosystems underpin delivery of water supplies and water quality, and guard against water-related hazards and disasters. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity may therefore be regarded as foundational to the whole 2030 Agenda.

Earlier this month, the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report was published by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The report offers an authoritative overview of the state of nature and outlines eight major transitions needed to slow, then halt nature’s accelerating decline.

The land and forests transition: conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems, combatting and reversing degradation, and employing landscape level spatial planning to avoid, reduce and mitigate land-use change

The sustainable agriculture transition: redesigning agricultural systems through agroecological and other innovative approaches to enhance productivity while minimizing negative impacts on biodiversity

The sustainable food systems transition: enabling sustainable and healthy diets with a greater emphasis on a diversity of foods, mostly plant-based, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption

The sustainable fisheries and oceans transition: protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, rebuilding fisheries and managing aquaculture and other uses of the oceans to ensure sustainability, and to enhance food security and livelihoods

The cities and infrastructure transition: deploying “green infrastructure” and making space for nature within built landscapes to improve the health and quality of life for citizens and to reduce the environmental footprint of cities and infrastructure

The sustainable freshwater transition: an integrated approach guaranteeing the water flows required by nature and people, improving water quality, protecting critical habitats, controlling invasive species and safeguarding connectivity to allow the recovery of freshwater systems from mountains to coasts

The sustainable climate action transition: employing nature-based solutions, alongside a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, to reduce the scale and impacts of climate change, while providing positive benefits for biodiversity and other sustainable development goals

The biodiversity-inclusive One Health transition: managing ecosystems, including agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as the use of wildlife, through an integrated approach, to promote healthy ecosystems and healthy people.

Access the report Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.unwater.org/humanity-at-crossroads-according-to-report-by-the-un-convention-on-biological-diversity/

New freshwater database tells water quality story for 12K lakes globally

Freshwater lakes already emit a quarter of global carbon—and climate change  could double that

Although less than one per cent of all water in the world is freshwater, it is what we drink and use for agriculture. In other words, it’s vital to human survival. York University researchers have just created a publicly available water quality database for close to 12,000 freshwater lakes globally — almost half of the world’s freshwater supply — that will help scientists monitor and manage the health of these lakes.

The study, led by Faculty of Science Postdoctoral Fellow Alessandro Filazzola and Master’s student Octavia Mahdiyan, collected data for lakes in 72 countries, from Antarctica to the United States and Canada. Hundreds of the lakes are in Ontario.

“The database can be used by scientists to answer questions about what lakes or regions may be faring worse than others, how water quality has changed over the years and which environmental stressors are most important in driving changes in water quality,” says Filazzola.

The team included a host of graduate and undergraduate students working in the laboratory of Associate Professor Sapna Sharma in addition to a collaboration with Assistant Professor Derek Gray of Wilfrid Laurier University, Associate Professor Catherine O’Reilly of Illinois State University and York University Associate Professor Roberto Quinlan.

The researchers reviewed 3,322 studies from as far back as the 1950s along with online data repositories to collect data on chlorophyll levels, a commonly used marker to determine lake and ecosystem health. Chlorophyll is a predictor of the amount of vegetation and algae in lakes, known as primary production, including invasive species such as milfoil.

“Human activity, climate warming, agricultural, urban runoff and phosphorus from land use can all increase the level of chlorophyll in lakes. The primary production is most represented by the amount of chlorophyll in the lake, which has a cascading impact on the phytoplankton that eat the algae and the fish that eat the phytoplankton and the fish that eat those fish,” says Filazzola. “If the chlorophyll is too low, it can have cascading negative effects on the entire ecosystem, while too much can cause an abundance of algae growth, which is not always good.”

Warming summer temperatures and increased solar radiation from decreased cloud cover in the northern hemisphere also contributes to an increase in chlorophyll, while more storm events caused by climate change contribute to degraded water quality, says Sharma. “Agricultural areas and urban watersheds are more associated with degraded water quality conditions because of the amount of nutrients input into these lakes.”

The researchers also gathered data on phosphorus and nitrogen levels — often a predictor of chlorophyll — as well as lake characteristics, land use variables, and climate data for each lake. Freshwater lakes are particularly vulnerable to changes in nutrient levels, climate, land use and pollution.

“In addition to drinking water, freshwater is important for transportation, agriculture, and recreation, and provides habitats for more than 100,000 species of invertebrates, insects, animals and plants,” says Sharma. “The database can be used to improve our understanding of how chlorophyll levels respond to global environmental change and it provides baseline comparisons for environmental managers responsible for maintaining water quality in lakes.”

The researchers started looking only at Ontario lakes, but quickly expanded it globally as although there are thousands of lakes in Ontario a lot of the data is not as readily available as it is in other regions of the world.

“The creation of this database is a feat typically only accomplished by very large teams with millions of dollars, not by a single lab with a few small grants, which is why I am especially proud of this research,” says Sharma.make a difference: sponsored opportunity


Story Source:

Materials provided by York UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alessandro Filazzola, Octavia Mahdiyan, Arnab Shuvo, Carolyn Ewins, Luke Moslenko, Tanzil Sadid, Kevin Blagrave, Mohammad Arshad Imrit, Derek K. Gray, Roberto Quinlan, Catherine M. O’Reilly, Sapna Sharma. A database of chlorophyll and water chemistry in freshwater lakesScientific Data, 2020; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41597-020-00648-2

FOR MORE INFO: York University. “New freshwater database tells water quality story for 12K lakes globally.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 September 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200922083910.htm>.

Improving the health of the African Great Lakes

A new collaboration between the Canada-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the African Center for Aquatic Research and Education (ACARE) will tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the African Great Lakes (AGL) today.

This new partnership will build on decades of freshwater science and policy research at IISD’s Experimental Lakes Area and the local networks and initiatives of the ACARE to improve research, information and management around the African Great Lakes.

During its first year, the new partnership will boost the activities of six Advisory Groups that were created to address specific issues on each of the African Great Lakes. Members of each group are harmonizing priorities on the lakes to advance work on scientific inquiry, monitoring, climate change, and education and training, among other issues.

Learn more about the partnership here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.unwater.org/improving-the-health-of-the-african-great-lakes/

Brain-eating amoeba in city’s water supply kills 6-year-old, leads Texas to declare a disaster

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration in Brazoria County on Sunday after the discovery in the local water supply system of an amoeba that can cause a rare and deadly infection of the brain.

“The state of Texas is taking swift action to respond to the situation and support the communities whose water systems have been impacted by this ameba,” Abbott (R) in a news release Sunday. “I urge Texans in Lake Jackson to follow the guidance of local officials and take the appropriate precautions to protect their health and safety as we work to restore safe tap water in the community.”

The governor’s declaration follows an investigation of the death of 6-year-old Josiah McIntyre in Lake Jackson this month after he contracted the brain-eating microbe, which prompted local authorities and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the water. The preliminary results came back Friday, showing that three out of 11 samples collected tested positive.

One of the samples came from a hose bib at the boy’s home, Lake Jackson City Manager Modesto Mundo said, according to CBS News. The others came from a “splash pad” play fountain and a hydrant.

“The notification to us at that time was that he had played at one of [the] play fountains and he may have also played with a water hose at the home,” Mundo said.

On Friday night, the Brazosport Water Authority issued a do-not-use advisory for eight communities after confirmation of the presence of Naegleria fowleri, which destroys brain tissue, then causes swelling of the brain, known as amebic meningoencephalitis. It urged residents to not use the tap water for drinking and cooking.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) urged people to avoid water going up the nose when bathing, showering or swimming and prohibited children from playing with hoses, sprinklers or any device that may squirt water up the nose. It also advised running bath and shower taps and hoses for several minutes before use and boiling tap water before drinking.

By Monday morning, the do-not-use advisory was lifted in Brazoria County, but a boil notice remained in Lake Jackson, where the TCEQ, along with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency are conducting operations to flush and disinfect the city’s water system where the amoeba was found.

Naegleria fowleri is a type of amoeba that can be managed using standard treatment and disinfection processes,” a statement from the commission said.

To ensure the water distribution system is safe, city workers will convert the disinfectant used in the distribution system from chloramine to free chlorine — a practice known as a “chlorine burn.” Chlorine is more useful in deactivating certain types of bacteria that can make it difficult for the systems to maintain a disinfectant residual, a commission statement said.

Over the weekend, city officials handed out boxes of water for the population of about 27,000 at a temporary distribution center.

The water-loving amoeba is often found in warm lakes, rivers and springs. People usually get infected when swimming in these locations, as the microbe travels up the nose and into the brain, where it destroys tissue, causing brain swelling and death.

Initial symptoms range from headache, fever and vomiting to loss of balance and hallucinations, and infection can lead to death, normally within five days. Although infections are rare, the microbe is usually fatal. There have been 145 reported infections in the United States since 1962, from which only four people survived, according to the CDC.

As of 2018, Texas had the largest number of registered cases in the country, with 36, followed by Florida with 35.

The first documented death associated with exposure to water from a U.S.-treated public drinking water system happened in 2013 in Louisiana, according to a report by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/28/brain-eating-amoeba-texas/

The Value of Investing in Water Infrastructure

Attempted cyberattack highlights vulnerability of global water  infrastructure | CSO Online

In the United States, a water main breaks at least every two minutes. As our nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure ages, the gap between spending and necessary funding for repairs is growing. With the infrastructure funding gap currently at $81 billion, this is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

That’s the message of The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure: How a Failure to Act Would Affect the US Economic Recovery, a new report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Value of Water Campaign. Released against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, the report calls for major increases in government spending to ensure public health and bolster economic recovery efforts.

“Millions of Americans all around the country are really struggling with this dual crisis of COVID-19 and the worst economic crisis that I have certainly seen in my lifetime,” Chief Executive Officer of the US Water Alliance Radhika Fox said during a press conference. “Elected officials are thinking hard [about] what are the best ways to jump start our economy, to jump start growth and to help put people back to work. In that context, the findings of the report … really illustrate that the investment of water infrastructure is one of the best bets that we can make as a nation.”

The study outlines 10- and 20-year projections from econometric models of two future scenarios: one where current investment trends continue, and one where all investment needs for infrastructure are met. What these scenarios show is that appropriate funding for water infrastructure projects has benefits that ripple throughout the economy, touching aspects of nearly all industries — like mining, manufacturing, and health care — that rely on water and wastewater services to function.

“If we fail to act, there [could] be staggering economic losses to GDP, jobs, wages, and increased costs to American families,” Katie Henderson, a senior program manager with the US Water Alliance, said.

If funding needs and infrastructure investment trends continue at current levels, the annual funding gap will grow to $136 billion by 2039. In fact, the U.S. would need to invest a total of $109 billion per year in water infrastructure over the next 20 years in 2019 dollars to close this gap, the report continued.

At a time when our country is struggling, the financial challenges facing water and wastewater utilities will continue to grow due to the revenue losses and increased operational costs incurred during the coronavirus response. According to industry experts, our nation’s drinking water and wastewater utilities will start FY 2021 anywhere from $13.9 billion to $16.8 billion in debt, making the infrastructure picture even more bleak.

“The COVID-19 pandemic only intensifies the need to act and invest across all levels of government. Failing to act now will lead the country into a prolonged era of economic and public health vulnerability,” the report states.

So, what can we do about this issue?

Advocating for investment in infrastructure is important work, and it starts in our own communities. Managing demand through conservation, water recycling, and addressing non-revenue water loss can help extend the life of current systems and should be practiced by water utilities whenever possible. Citizens can turn off taps when brushing their teeth, plant water-wise gardens and lawns, and work with local government to increase awareness of these issues and bolster funding for projects in their community. Finally, with the November elections coming up, we can all use our votes to tell our local, state and federal leaders that water infrastructure is important, vital, and essential to public health and our way of life. I hope you’ll join me in this effort, and as always, thanks for reading.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.waterworld.com/drinking-water/infrastructure-funding/article/14182721/the-value-of-investing-in-water-infrastructure

Water accounting in the Nile River Basin

The Nile River Basin faces a huge challenge in terms of water security. With an expected doubling of the population in the basin in the next twenty-five years, water supply in the basin will be further depleted as demands for agriculture, domestic and industry continues to grow.

Water availability in the basin will also be threatened by climate change and variability and pollution from increased agricultural and industrial activities and from urban areas. However with limited up-to-date ground observations, in terms of duration, completeness, and quality of the hydro-meteorological records it is difficult to draw an appropriate picture of the water resources conditions.

A new report Water accounting in the Nile River Basin describes the water accounting study for the Nile River Basin carried out by IHE-Delft using the Water Productivity (WaPOR) data portal of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

FOR MORE INFO: https://www.unwater.org/water-accounting-in-the-nile-river-basin/

Nestlé Weighs Sale of Water Unit in Push Toward Sustainability

Water bottles in production at a Nestlé plant in High Springs, Fla.

Nestlé is considering selling most of its bottled water operations in the United States and Canada, the company said on Thursday. That business accounts for a significant share of the Swiss food giant’s sales but has also drawn criticism from environmental groups.

The company generated revenue last year of 3.4 billion Swiss francs, or $3.6 billion, from American water brands it owns like Poland Spring, Deer Park and Zephyrhills, and from delivering purified water to homes and businesses. That figure does not include higher-priced import brands like Perrier, S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, which are more profitable and which Nestlé intends to keep.

Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, has come under fire from groups that say it drains natural water supplies to bottle and sell at a profit. Environmental activists regard bottled water as inherently wasteful, at least in countries with drinkable tap water, because of the energy required to transport it to stores. Bottled water also contributes to the global glut of plastic waste.

With corporations under intense pressure to help fight climate change, Mark Schneider, Nestlé’s Tesla-driving chief executive, has been trying to show that the company can be both sustainable and profitable. Nestlé, whose brands of baby formula, ice cream, chocolate, pet food and coffee are omnipresent worldwide, has been moving into plant-based meat substitutes, promising to reduce sugar and fat content in its products, and aiming to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025.

Nestlé announced on Thursday that, also by 2025, it will replenish all of the water it draws from watersheds while taking measures to offset the carbon dioxide produced by bottled water production and transport.

The Nestlé plant in High Springs.

The Nestlé plant in High Springs.Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

During a telephone interview, Mr. Schneider said Nestlé had decided to consider exiting the U.S. water brands in part because they were not selling as well as the company would like. American consumers are less willing to pay for bottled water than Europeans are.

Mr. Schneider acknowledged that environmental concerns had hurt sales. Those concerns are easier to address with imported brands that command a higher price, he said.

“As you go higher in the price range, there is more room to invest in the sustainability goals,” Mr. Schneider said. “The environmental agenda and business agenda are very much aligned.”

Mr. Schneider declined to comment on whether there were any potential buyers for the water business, and noted that there were options besides an outright sale, like a partnership. Last year, Nestlé sold a majority of its Herta lunch meat business in Europe to Casa Tarradellas, a Spanish company, but kept a minority stake.

Zephyrhills water at the Nestlé plant in High Springs.

Zephyrhills water at the Nestlé plant in High Springs.Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

FOR MORE INFO: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/business/nestle-us-water-business.html