Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion


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

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading

Environment: Report spotlights arsenic pollution

Millions of Americans at risk of exposure


Arsenic pollution is widespread across the U.S.

Staff Report

FRISCO — According to scientists, arsenic in groundwater continues to be a major public health threat across the U.S. As many as 8 million people may be at risk of exposure to the toxic substance, mainly because of the lack of any regulations, homeowner inaction and inadequate mitigation measures.

A new report focusing on arsenic contamination wells also helps explain  the geologic mechanisms causing arsenic contamination and come as other studies show that even low doses of arsenic may reduce IQ in children, in addition to well documented risks of heart disease, cancer and reduced lung function. The reports comprise a special section in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Continue reading

Climate: Groundwater temps also going up

Runoff in North Tenmile Creek, Summit County Colorado.

Runoff in North Tenmile Creek, Summit County Colorado.

Rise in groundwater temps reflects surface temperature record

Staff Report

FRISCO — Decades of detailed temperature measurements from around the globe show how the thickening blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollutants is steadily raising surface and water temperatures, but until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of information about ground water. Now, scientists with ETH Zurich say groundwater temperature profiles echo those of the atmosphere, albeit damped and delayed.

For their study, the researchers used uninterrupted long-term temperature measurements of groundwater flows around the cities of Cologne and Karlsruhe, where the operators of the local waterworks have been measuring the temperature of the groundwater for 40 years. Continue reading

Environment: Pharmaceutical pollutants elude water treatment, make their way into groundwater

This Meadow Creek, a wild, free-flowing stream that starts in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area and ends up flowing right past our house before its confluence with Dillon Reservoir, where it's wild no more.

How pure is your groundwater?

Iowa stream sampling shows common drugs turning up in well water

Staff Report

FRISCO — Research in a small stream near Des Moines, Iowa shows how pharmaceuticals and other hard-to-remove pollutants from treated municipal wastewater can travel into shallow groundwater following their release to streams.

“Water level measurements obtained during this study clearly show that stream levels drive daily trends in groundwater levels,” said Paul Bradley, lead author of the new U.S. Geological Survey study. Continue reading

Environment: Water depletion accelerating in key aquifers

Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Data from the USGS

Regions where the water level has declined in the period 1980-1995 are shown in yellow and red; regions where it has increased are shown in shades of blue. Via USGS.

Is the U.S. headed for water bankruptcy?

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With many rivers in the western part of the U.S. already tapped out, the pressure on groundwater resources has been increasing, as shown by new U.S. Geological Survey research documenting accelerating depletion of aquifers around the country.

Groundwater depletion in the U.S. was so extensive between 2000 and 2008 that it accounts for 2 percent of the total observed sea level rise during that period, as the water ends up in the ocean as part of the hydrological cycle rather than remaining locked away underground.

Since 1900, the total amount of water depleted from aquifers was equal to more than twice the volume of water in Lake Erie.

Essentially, the country is frittering away its water savings faster than ever, with no idea how to replace them, or what to do when they’re gone.

Just in the eight years between 2001 and 2008, depletion of the Ogalla Aquifer amounted to 32 percent of the total depletion during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie. Continue reading

Colorado: New rule for sampling groundwater near oil and gas wells wins committee test


New rules would tighten up water testing around oil and gas wells  in Colorado’s Greater Wattenberg area.

Proposed law would end exemption for busy oil and gas fields northeast of Denver

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new measure to protect Colorado water quality from fracking impacts narrowly passed a House committee on a 6-5 vote. HB 1316 requires state regulators to adopt uniform statewide groundwater sampling rules and ends an exemption for the largest oil and gas field in Colorado in the Greater Wattenberg area.

The measure would require sampling of all groundwater sources (up to a maximum of four wells) within a half-mile of proposed oil and gas wells, as well as follow-up sampling after the wells are drilled.

State officials previously said the Greater Wattenberg Are exemption was made because the state already has a robust water quality database for that area. Requiring more testing would put an “undue burden on the industry without providing additional safety benefits,” said Ginny Brannon, assistant director for water and energy at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, in a January interview with Summit Voice.

Brannon said Weld County has a groundwater testing program that  provides water well testing to any well owner requesting it, but conservation groups want more consistent statewide standards for testing. They said the new requirements are a step toward better protection of public health and the environment. Continue reading

Colorado: New groundwater protection rules still contentious

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

State officials claim new rules are pioneering; conservation advocates say rule-making ignored science

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado officials are touting new groundwater protection rules as a pioneering step in the regulation of of oil and gas drilling, but conservation groups say the requirements don’t do enough to protect public health and water quality.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week approved the regulations after months of stakeholder discussions with the goal of protecting well owners and the industry. The rules require drilling companies to sample nearby water wells both before and after drilling. Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place and no other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water samples. Continue reading


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