Four-Day Expert on Iran’s Water Issues: My Radio Farda Interview

March 5, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Four days in Iran. Yes, I am now an expert on the Islamic Republic of Iran’swater issues, especially in Iran-flagEsfahan. So none other than Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Persian language outlet Radio Farda interviewed me on that same topic. So here is my interview, a mixture of Persian and English. It’s a little under 11 minutes: click here.

But I must be an expert – I stayed at the Commercially Important Persons (CIP) Lounge at the Tehran Airport!


“Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.” - Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 21 – 27 February 2015

February 27, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Almost out of February!

Interesting when you learn that short pieces you and six other experts wrote in May 2009 years ago are once again seeing the light of day. And with a nifty graphic, too!

I even had a few more strands of hair!


Check out the weekly water news summary – click here.

“Don’t you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There’s one marked ’Brightness,’ but it doesn’t work.” - Gallagher (thanks to Faruck Morcos)

JAWRA, journal, water

The Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) is seeking a new associate editor (AE) in surface water hydrology. The person in this position will evaluate journal article manuscripts about processes and interactions controlling surface water hydrology and about prediction of surface water hydrology. Surface water hydrology manuscripts submitted to JAWRA span a wide range of spatial scales but often focus on reporting large-scale research. AEs serve as primary advisors to the editor-in-chief and their responsibilities fall into two primary areas: 1) supervising reviews of manuscripts and 2) recruitment of journal articles. The new AE can expect to handle 8 to 15 manuscripts per year. All manuscripts are processed online using the ScholarOne Manuscripts™ system, with the AE selecting reviewers and, when reviews return, making a recommendation to the editor-in-chief. AEs are encouraged to seek out qualified authors in their subject areas and encourage them to submit journal articles to JAWRA. These could be individual submittals or featured collections of topically related articles.

Associate editors are volunteers who earn our heartfelt thanks and are invited to our annual AE luncheon. Serving as an AE also offers the opportunity for an individual to make a difference in advancing the publication of cutting-edge multidisciplinary water resources research. The term of an AE is three years, which may be extended by mutual agreement. Interested individuals should e-mail a statement-of-interest and a CV to Dr. Parker (Jim) Wigington, JAWRA editor-in-chief, at The position will remain open for applications until at least March 31, 2015.

Jessica Owley, an Associate Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School, penned this article, Owley‘Preservation is a Flawed Mitigation Strategy’, published in Ecology Law Currents last month.

Good article. Can you spell ‘L-A-N-D  T-R-U-S-T-S’?

Download Preservation-is-a-flawed-mitigation-strategy


The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. To help achieve that objective, the Act limits the ability to dredge or fill a wetland. To do so, one must first obtain a section 404 permit. These permits, which the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) issues with coordination and oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), require project proponents to avoid, minimize, and compensate the harms of any wetland destruction or modification. Compensatory mitigation is a troubling concept in wetlands regulation because it acknowledges that wetland destruction will occur. Thus, instead of preventing wetland conversion, developers in this scenario compensate for wetlands lost. Compensatory mitigation can come in the form of restoration, creation, enhancement, and/or preservation of wetlands and other aquatic resources. Wetlands are preserved by prohibiting their conversion, often through property encumbrances like conservation easements and deed restrictions. This scenario exchanges preservation of certain wetlands for a right to degrade or destroy other wetlands.

This Article urges the Corps to eliminate its use of preservation as mitigation and to improve accountability mechanisms where private organizations, like land trusts and private mitigation banks, remain involved in wetlands permitting programs. As even the EPA acknowledges that preservation results in a net loss of wetlands, preservation is unlikely to compensate for the loss in ecological function from wetlands destruction. Additionally, because private land trusts commonly manage, monitor, and enforce preservation areas with little to no oversight by the Corps or the EPA, concerns of accountability and democracy arise. Although this Article focuses on the Clean Water Act’s section 404 program, the arguments and lessons discussed here apply to state and local wetland mitigation programs as well. Indeed, these same issues arise in all types of mitigation schemes, from endangered species habitat to prime agricultural soils.


“The impact on industries and farmers of dropping the word ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act could be catastrophic.” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), 2010

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 14 – 20 February 2015

February 20, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Here is the weekly water news – click here.

Seems to be cold weather almost everywhere in eastern North America. Here is a picture of the Canadian Niagara Falls. Not frozen solid but pretty close.


Can’t pass this one up – HRH Bonnie Prince Charlie visits the ‘Cathedral of Sewage’ to celebrate 150 years of London’s sewers. Good for you, Charles!

Here is the weekly water news - click here.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” - Aristotle (thanks @InspiringThinkn)

Why Interdisciplinary Academic Programs Don’t Work The Way They Should

February 18, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Some of us had a meeting yesterday in which the new Marine Studies Initiative was discussed. The MSI is a proposed interdisciplinary (ID) program here at Oregon State University.

As usual, some in the group commented on how tough it is to maintain ID programs, that the academic landscape is littered with failed ID programs, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I suppose Hpstackthere are some that are well-supported and have done well over time. The Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia comes to mind, established in 1969 by combining the Departments of Geology and Geography. Believe me, as a graduate of the College of William and Mary, I find it tough to toss bouquets UVA’s way. But in this case, ‘The University’ is deserving.

Fortunately, our discussion did not go on for too long. But it prompted me to search for a WaterWired post I wrote a while ago about ID programs. It was prompted by an interview with Jared Diamond in the Financial Times. Diamond addressed ID and academia, among other things. I don’t usually repeat my posts, but I will in this case.

The last part about being ‘so high that there is nothing they can do to you’ is instructive. What that means is that if you are a tenured full professor (or at least a tenured professor) then you can start doing interdisciplinary work without (too much) fear of being fired (assuming you are still produtive, of course). Your dean or department head/chair can still make life miserable for you, however, by burdening you with excessive teaching loads, committee work, assorted menial tasks, giving you a broom closet for an office, etc.

It’s no coincidence that I’ve heard the same mantra from many colleagues when they finally become tenured full professors: ‘Now I can do stuff that really matters!’ Often times, that means exploring other areas.

What all the above means is that you have a lot of OWGs (‘old white guys or gals’) like me doing ID work in academia. Nothing wrong with that (experience does count), but it would be nice to have more young, vibrant, diverse folks tackling the great ID issues.

When I was running an ID program in water resources at the University of New Mexico I once had a department chair tell me, ‘Keep your hands off my young professors, because they need to publish in their disciplinary journals to get tenure.’ Funny thing was, this fellow was an active participant in that same program. He had the power to change the P & T (promotion and tenure) metrics, but didn’t.

On the other hand, while at UNM I dealt with enlightened chairs like Tim Ward of Civil Engineering, who encouraged his young (and old) water faculty to stretch themselves. But ones like Tim were the exception rather than the rule.

Universities seem inclined to promote their interdisciplinary (ID) programs and degrees but seem disinclined to support ($$$) such programs adequately. When budgets get tight, deans and similar administrators often look to cut ID programs to protect their disciplinary programs.

The real dilemma is where you put ID programs in an institution that is organized around disciplines. I once had a dean start a discussion about ID programs with: ‘The problem with ID programs is that…’ That is how he envisioned them – as ‘problems’.

The answer to the dilemma is simple: the message has to come from the very top that these programs are a valued, permanent part of the university and that they will not be sacrificed on the altar of disciplinarity. Deans in particular need to understand this. The problem is that deans are often very powerful and higher administrators (provosts, presidents, chancellors, et al.) are often fearful of them because deans can often marshall the support of powerful alumni and donors.

And lest you think that just because a program is ID in nature that it deserves to exist, think again. Like their disciplinary cousins, ID programs must be monitored and evaluated. Crappy ones need to be canned; good ones nurtured. And remember that you need good disciplinary programs to have good ID programs.

Are things changing? Yes, to some degree things are better. But I have been involved in ID programs for close to 40 years and I suspect that we will still be having these discussions long after I’ve departed the scene.

But I, for one, would not trade in those 40 years for anything. It’s been worth it. Has it ever!

I should note that for the early part of my career I thought doing groundwater and surface water hydrology constituted ID water work. By the time the early 1990s struck, I realized that ‘real’ ID water work also included planning, law, sociology, economics, biology, ecology, anthropology, psychology, public health, etc.

Your thoughts?

Once again, I’ll ask, ‘Your thoughts?’

Check out some of the comments from the previous post.

Oh, BTW, can you spell ‘political will’? And remember that ‘multidisciplinary’ and ‘interdisciplinary’ are quite different animals.

For what it’s worth, ID programs work far better at OSU than at other universities with which I have been affiliated (U of NM, U of NV-Reno) and others that I have reviewed. I attribute that fact to the faculty and faculty leadership here.

“‘Boldly going where hundreds have gone before’ does not make headlines.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 7 – 13 February 2015

February 13, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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13It’s not a good day for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia —fear of Friday the 13th. So just take it easy. Or not. And there are two more this year – March and November – a total of three, just like 2012. But relax – you will have a respite from another threefer till 2026.

But it wasn’t a bad week for friend, colleague, and fellow Long LennyIslander Leonard F. ‘Lenny’ Konikow, retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrogeologist extraordinaire. Lenny was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

UnknownAlso elected was Canadian hydrogeologist R. Allan Freeze, one of the smartest guys in the room and co-author of the classic textbook, Groundwaterthe best groundwater book ever written.

Two nice guys get rewarded! Congratulations to Lenny and Al!

Click here to enjoy the weekly water news summary!

Could I get in your backpack so you could take me to America?” - Young (c. 12) Iranian schoolgirl, who asked me this through a bilingual friend, Esfahan, Iran, 12 January 2015. 

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 31 January – 6 February 2015

February 6, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Several weeks ago I never figured that the next ‘hot item’ would be measles and the vaccination issue. For an old (66) guy, who participated in the original Salk polio vaccine trials (so my parents told me) and whose cousin died from measles and Randneighborhood best friend still limps from polio, vaccinating children is a no-brainer for me. The measles vaccine was not around during my childhood but I got all the others.

And don’t forget, vaccination is a public health issue. Here is a tongue-in-cheek infographic designed to ‘help’ you with vaccination issues.

MeaslesInteresting to see Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) rush to get a Hep-A booster to show he’s not an anti-vaxxer.

Then there is this book by Stephanie Messenger.

Lastly, we have Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) who wants to deregulate handwashing for food service employees and let the free-market dictate matters. Go figure…

I will get off my soapbox.

I’ve got a couple of links under the ‘Science’ category if you want to read more.

So enjoy the weekly water news - click here.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass 


by John Tracy, AWRA President

There is a quote that was made by President Woodrow Wilson many years ago that I feel embodies much of what we need to understand about the planning and management of our country’s natural resources.  I think this quote is particularly relevant to the discussion surrounding Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), and one that we should keep in mind as we try to further define IWRM as a concept and process.

“What I fear, therefore, is a government of experts. God forbid that in a democratic country we should resign the task and give the government over to experts. What are we for if we are to be scientifically taken care of by a small group of gentlemen who are the only men who understand the job? Because if we don’t understand the job, then we are not a free people. We ought to resign our free institutions and go to school to somebody and find out what it is we are about.” -Woodrow Wilson

AWRA IWRM Case Studies Report
In recent years AWRA has spent a significant amount of time and energy forwarding the discussion of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), attempting to define what it is, and how it can be implemented in water resource planning and management efforts.  This has led to AWRA sponsoring two specialty conferences, creating a new IWRM technical working group, and the development of an IWRM Case Studies Report and subsequent IWRM Webinar Series based on the case studies within the report.

AWRA IWRM ReportThe IWRM Case Studies report provides several examples of the development of IWRM plans, and provides a summary of the lessons learned based on the experiences and outcomes of these efforts.  Several key elements were identified in the Case Studies report as being critical to effectively forwarding IWRM strategies, these being the need to focus on: Sustainability; Adaptive Management; Collaboration and Funding.

Even though these efforts have helped advance the use of IWRM concepts, it is clear that there is much more discussion needed to understand how to embrace IWRM, in addition to making sure that these concepts are effectively used to aid water management and planning efforts across the United States.

The Yakima IWRM Plan
One of the case studies that was included as part of the AWRA IWRM Case Studies that could provide a demonstration of how difficult it may be to move an IWRM effort from planning to implementation, and prove how important these overall themes  are in successfully implementing an IWRM plan, is the Yakima IWRM Plan, which was recognized by receiving AWRA’s first IWRM Award in 2012 at our annual conference in Jacksonville, FL.

I am guessing that the majority of the AWRA readership is not familiar with the Yakima River basin, nor the efforts that have been recently made to advance a water plan that would address many of the issues the basin faces. Briefly, the Yakima River basin is located on the eastern drainage of the northern Cascade mountain range in the state of Washington. In many respects, the Yakima River basin is a microcosm of water management issues in the western United States. The management of the Yakima River basin occurs through a mixture of private, local, state and federal infrastructure and decision making processes, which for the most part were developed in an incremental manner over the last century.

Over the years, conflicts have arisen between the beneficiaries of the hydro-services provided through management of the river basin (water supply, recreation, hydropower, fisheries, etc.) with these conflicts being exacerbated by population growth in the basin, and periods of drought.  To help address the significant management challenges in the basin, a collaborative effort was initiated in 2009 to bring the diverse interests in the basin together to attempt to identify a path forward.  This eventually led to the development of the Yakima IWRM Plan.

A summary of the Yakima IWRM Plan can be found in the AWRA IWRM Case Studies report, and more detailed discussions on the Yakima River basin and the IWRM Plan can be found in the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Washington Department of Ecology.  In 2012 the Yakima IWRM Plan was essentially completed through the issuance of a joint Programmatic EIS by WA DOE and Reclamation, and the development of the Yakima IWRM Plan Implementation Framework.

Recent Dust Up Around the Plan
Recently, however, there has been a bit of a dust up in the local and regional press regarding the plan, related to an economic study prepared and released by the Washington Water Resources Research Center (WWRRC) at Washington State University.  The Washington State Legislature directed the WWRRC “to prepare separate benefit-cost [B-C] analyses for each of the projects proposed in the 2012 Yakima River basin water resource management plan [IP].

The analyses in this particular study indicate that several of the elements of the overall IWRM plan would not be considered cost effective, if undertaken as single project elements. Through discussions primarily in the local and regional press, the WWRRC study appears to be being used to contradict and undermine the analysis and findings of the Yakima IWRM Planning documents, even though the study clearly points out that the economic feasibility analyses approach in the WWRRC report uses significantly different assumptions than the economic analyses performed in the IWRM Planning documents.

How WWRRC Study and Yakima Plan Differ
Since the WWRRC and the Yakima IWRM studies are underlain by entirely different principles and assumptions, it is not terribly surprising that they arrive at different findings.  This situation would be akin to asking two hydrologists to predict future flows in a river, but telling one hydrologist to assume there is no interaction with the groundwater in the region (incremental analysis), and telling the other hydrologist to assume that the river is connected to the regional aquifers (integrated analysis). The studies would most likely arrive at significantly different predictions of future river flows, even though both studies got the math right.

From a technical point of view, to make use of studies whose results provide contradictory findings requires an understanding of the principles and assumptions in each of the studies, and whether these principles and assumptions properly inform decision making processes. Thus, the technical processes of an IWRM plan would suggest the appropriate manner in which contradictory studies and findings should be assessed is through scientific advisory or review bodies, not the popular press.

Trial by Media
However, what appears to be happening is that much of the discussion regarding the economic feasibility of the Yakima IWRM is taking place in the local press, with arguments and cited studies being aimed at swaying public opinion, rather than targeted at providing useful technical information to guide decision making by the agencies responsible for implementing the Yakima IWRM plan.

Overall, this is not a surprising development, since ultimately the decision making bodies that will determine whether this plan moves forward are the legislative bodies (which are representatives of the people) that must appropriate funds to allow the IWRM plan to be implemented. Thus, in this situation it appears that technical studies that are vetted through public discussion will exert a significant amount of influence over governmental decision making bodies as compared to those that are vetted within the scientific and technical community.

What Now?
The current discussion regarding the Yakima IWRM plan highlights the need to go beyond focusing on the development of technical processes to implement IWRM Plans, and enhance our focus on two of the key elements identified in the AWRA IWRM Case Studies report, these being: Collaboration, by viewing collaboration as a broader based program of social engagement of both the direct project beneficiaries and the public at large, with the goal being to create informed constituencies; and Funding, by understanding the necessity to ensure that requests for appropriations meet all of the rules and requirements that exist for the cognizant governmental entities, and that these governmental bodies are answerable to their constituencies.

For IWRM to succeed as a legitimate and useful approach for water resources planning and management in the future,  as much time and effort that is spent on creating the technical components of an IWRM plan must be spent in addressing the political and social elements, which will determine whether an IWRM plan will eventually be implemented.

AWRA member John Tracy is AWRA president and Director of the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Idaho in Boise. Email:

JAWRA HIGHLIGHTS – February 2015

February 2, 2015 | Posted by Susan Scalia
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JAWRA HIGHLIGHTS – February 2015

McLellan et al. use SPARROW to examine nitrogen export from the corn belt to the Gulf of Mexico.

Rosgen discusses some points of stream restoration in an urban setting.

Podolak and Doyle review the legal basis for conditional water rights and demonstrate the potential uncertainty they introduce to current water users.

Christensen and Maki evaluate changes in the trophic state of Voyageurs National Park’s large lakes to assess a 2000 water-level management plan and prepare for adaptive management.

Yang et al. use the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model to investigate the spatial and temporal variability of runoff and river discharge during 1901-2010 on the North American east coast.

Doll et al. apply the The Stream Performance Assessment (SPA), a new rapid assessment method, to streams with some incision throughout North Carolina.

Callahan et al. investigate the controls on stream temperature in salmon-bearing headwater streams in two common hydrogeologic settings on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.

Bailey et al. investigate the groundwater resources of the Republic of Maldives.

Waldron and Larsen examine an issue of transboundary water transfer near Memphis, Tennessee.

Juracek looks at issues of aging reservoirs.

Russell et al. describe a cost-effective method for mapping the location, length, and flow classification of headwater streams that can be directly incorporated in a regulatory context.

And … Book reviews!


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