Study documents plastic pollution in Thames

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A NASA Earth Observatory shows the discharge of the Thames River into the North Sea. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory page for more information.

Plastic pollution becoming ubiquitous in world’s waterways and oceans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In yet another sign that plastic debris has become a ubiquitous form of pollution, researchers in the UK said they recovered thousands of bits of plastic litter from the bottom of the upper Thames Estuary.

In a press release, the researchers with Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum said the sheer amount of plastic recovered shows there is an unseen stream of rubbish flowing through London which could be a serious threat to aquatic wildlife.

The findings, published online in Marine Pollution Bulletin, highlight concerns,  for ecosystems around the river and the North Sea, into which the Thames flows.

Using nets designed to catch Chinese mitten crabs, Royal Holloway and the Natural History Museum scientists documented rubbish collected during a three-month trial. More than 8,000 pieces of plastic were collected, including large numbers of cigarette packaging, food wrappers and cups. More than 20 percent of the waste was made up of sanitary products. Continue reading

Feds say Oregon must improve coastal pollution controls

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Runoff from agriculture and logging threaten marine ecosystems along the Oregon coast. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

State could lose funding for key water programs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Oregon is at risk of losing federal funding for coastal and Clean Water Act funding if it doesn’t beef up its coastal nonpoint pollution control program, federal agencies said this week.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA say the state plan doesn’t adequately address nonpoint source impacts from agricultural activities. Specifically,

Oregon needs to show how it will control impacts from logging, including measures for protecting small and medium sized streams; measures to protect landslide prone areas; and measures to address runoff from forest roads built prior to modern construction and drainage requirements. Continue reading

Global warming: Parts of Upper Rio Grande Basin could see water supply dwindle by 25 percent

Climate projections include more droughts and floods

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In the summer of 2013, New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir dwindled to its lowest level in forty years. By late July, despite the arrival of monsoon rains, the reservoir was still virtually empty. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory. Click on the image for more information.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Warmer temperatures and earlier spring runoff will cut water supplies by 25 percent in some key parts of the Upper Rio Grande Basin, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

According to the projections used by the agency, temperatures will rise about 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and even though there won’t be a big change in total annual precipitation, the snowpack and runoff will shrink, and there will be more frequent and intense droughts and floods.

“This report uses the most current information and state of the art scientific methodology to project a range of future supply scenarios in the upper Rio Grande basin,” said U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “It is a great first step and a call to action for water managers and users in the basin and the partner federal agencies to move forward and develop adaptation to the challenges this study brings to light.” Continue reading

Environment: Court rejects Las Vegas water grab

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Court rebuffs Las Vegas plan for unsustainable groundwater mining.

Nevada’s fragile desert spring ecosystems safe for at least a little while longer

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Nevada judge this week blocked a Las Vegas water grab that would rob future generations of precious groundwater resources.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority had proposed siphoning 37 billion gallons from remote underground aquifers in a plan that was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies in the Great Basin Water Network, as well as by White Pine County, Nev.

According to federal studies, the groundwater pumping, hundreds of miles north of the city, would destroy more than 137,000 acres of wildlife habitat by lowering groundwater tables by up to 200 feet in many areas — all to fuel unsustainable growth in the desert metropolis.

In 2011, the Nevada Division of Water Resources gave the project a thumbs-up by allocating 84,000 acre-feet of ancient groundwater a year to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for export to Las Vegas, but Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial District Court of Nevada said that allocation is unfair to future Nevadans and not in the public interest. Continue reading

Climate: Canada’s subarctic lakes drying up

Canada subarctic lakes

Some of Canada’s subarctic lakes, seen here from a passenger jet, are drying up in a sign of abrupt climate change. bberwyn photo.

After at least 200 years of stable water levels, sudden dessication sets in

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In another sign of abrupt climate disruption, scientists say some of Canada’s subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen for at least 200 years, as snowfall in the region declines.

A research team studied about 70 lakes near Old Crow, Yukon, and Churchill, Manitoba, most of them less than one meter deep. More than half of the lakes located on relatively flat terrain and surrounded by scrubby vegetation showed signs of desiccation. Continue reading

Report: Unsustainable groundwater pumping leads to record land subsidence in California’s Central Valley

USGS outlines threats to critical infrastructure

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California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Farmers and cities in central California are pumping so much groundwater that the land is rapidly subsiding across a large area, with potentially serious consequences for the region’s water infrastructure.

In a report released last week, the U.S. Geological Survey said the subsidence is occurring in such a way that there may be significant operational and structural challenges that need to be overcome to ensure reliable water delivery. In some places, the land subsided as much as 25 feet between 1926 and 1970.

Delivery of surface water from the north helped relieve pressure on the aquifers, but drought conditions between 1976–77 and 1987–92, and drought conditions and regulatory reductions in surface-water deliveries during 2007–10, once again led to increased pumping and renewed subsidence. Continue reading

House GOP tries to heist federal water rights

Radical anti-environmental GOP leaders seek to privatize water

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Tenmile Creek flows through the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colorado, helping to sustain aquatic ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Anti-environmental House Republicans are at it again, this time trying to pull of one of the greatest heists of all time by passing a law that would ban agencies like the National Park Service and the Forest Service from exerting any control over water flowing off federal lands.

House Resolution 3189, the so-called Water Rights Protection Act, wouldn’t actually protect any water; instead, it would open the door for more private development of water for fracking and urban development by prohibiting “the conditioning of any permit, lease or any other use agreement on the transfer, relinquishment, or other impairment of any water right to the United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture.” Continue reading

Rocky Mountains facing serious global warming impacts

Agency releases draft versions of climate adaptation implementation plans for review and public comment

Looking for unusual tones in that first gleam of morning sunlight along Peru Creek.

The EPA says the Rocky Mountain region is particularly vulnerable to water supply issues as a result of global warming.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The climate in the Rocky Mountains is changing rapidly, outside  the   range  to  which  society  has  adapted  in  the  past, according to the EPA’s draft climate adaptation implementation plan for the agency’s Southwest Region, which covers western Colorado.

Most of the “cascading effects” of global climate change will be felt in the region, including increased air temperature, decreased precipitation in some areas, and more severe storms. Along the West Coast, oceans will become more acidic and warm and sea level will rise. Continue reading

Climate: 4th-driest year on record at Lake Powell

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Lake Powell: Going, going … gone?

High flow experiment planned for early November to restore aquatic and riparian Colorado River ecosystems downstream of Glen Canyon Dam

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even with some bonus inflow in September, the past water year Oct 1, 2012 – Sept. 30, 2013) ended up as the fourth-driest on record for the Colorado River Basin as measured at Lake Powell — the key reservoir on the river that helps balance supply and demand between the upper and lower basins.

Overall water storage in the Colorado River Basin in the last 14 years has ranged from a high of 94 percent of capacity in 2000 to the present low of 50 percent at the start of the 2014 water year.

Continue reading

Global warming to pinch Salt Lake City water supply

Study quantifies impacts to local watersheds

A 2005 image taken aboard the International Space Station shows the Wasatch Range and the sprawl of urban development at the base of the range.

A 2005 image taken aboard the International Space Station shows the Wasatch Range and the sprawl of urban development at the base of the range. For more information on this image, visit this NASA Earth Observatory web page.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By now it’s no secret that global warming will have a significant impact on water supplies in parts of the world, and regions where water is already scarce will be first to feel the pinch

That includes the interior West, where winter snowpack provides critical water storage. Already, projections show that spring runoff is coming much earlier than just a few years ago, and that, in many areas, more of the total annual precipitation is falling as rain.

In a new study, a team of researchers tried to downscale those projections to a local level, finding that, for every degree of warming, flows in the watersheds around Salt Lake City may decline by 1.8 to 6.5 percent. Continue reading

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