TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 16 – 22 August 2014

August 22, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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The truth will out. This graphic explains why I REALLY use Twitter (click to enlarge). Thanks to phdcomics.


Click here for the weekly water news summary. Lots of jobs – scroll to ’Positions Open.


“Cell phones are getting thinner and smarter – not so with people.” - Jim Estill

Who listens to young farmers, especially when it comes to Western water issues? Not I, that’s for sure! Here is something that might change your mind; it changed mine. Read on, gentle reader!

1328113715_Bates SFI try to read most of the reports I post here but generally fail miserably at that task. However, when Sarah Bates, Senior Fellow at the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy (CNREP) at the University of Montana, recently sent me the following report, Sustaining Farming in the Arid West: Stories of Young Farmers, Water and ResilienceI read it immediately. Sarah is one of the best thinkers and writers on Western land and water issues and I have been a fan of hers since Overtapped Oasis: Reform or Revolution for Western Water that she co-authored with Marc Reisner in 1990. When she sends me something I read it, usually right away.

The report is by the National Young Farmers Coalition, a group I’d never heard of. It’s a different kind of report. Not a bunch of the usual ‘experts’ pontificating on water or bombarding us with figures and models. It’s the story of people on the front lines of the ‘drought war’ in the arid West. They tell us an important story.

Sarah included a message from Kate Greenberg of the NYFC:

Farmers and ranchers in the arid West know that water isUntitledessential. Despite over a decade of increasingly dry times, producers are constantly churning up new solutions for our collective drought toolkit.

The National Young Farmers Coalition released a report today [14 August 2014] highlighting innovative farmers who are adapting to this record drought. Sustaining Farming in the Arid West: Stories of Young Farmers, Water and Resilience, demonstrates how Western farmers are saving water, stewarding the land and enhancing productivity in increasingly dry times.

Here it is:

Download NYFC-Sustaining-Farming-in-the-Arid-West

Here is the press release:

DURANGO, CO – The National Young Farmers Coalition released a report today highlighting innovative farmers who are adapting to record drought in the arid Southwest. Sustaining Farming in the Arid West: Stories of Young Farmers, Water and Resilience demonstrates how Western farmers are saving water, stewarding the land and enhancing productivity in increasingly dry times.

“All too often, water is taken off the land for growing cities at the expense of agriculture, the health of the land and the economic vitality of rural communities,” says Kate Greenberg, Western Organizer for the National Young Farmers Coalition. “Irrigated agriculture is central to our communities in the Southwest. We need to keep it productive, vibrant and viable for today and the generations ahead while responding to existing and future pressures on our limited water supply. We all have a shared responsibility to protect this critical resource, and these farmers are helping lead the way.”

Highlights from the report, which profiles farmers from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, include:

  • Marana, AZ: Jason Walker, cotton-turn-grain farmer. Walker irrigates through a combination of wells and surface water provided by the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water from the Colorado River. Spurred by drought, Walker laser-leveled 175 acres of his 2,850-acre operation, a practice noted to be 20-30% more water efficient. Walker is lining ditches, reducing run-off and utilizing conservation tillage to save water, retain topsoil, and enhance his grain crops and what remains of his cotton crop. As Walker says, “It’s absolutely our responsibility to conserve our finite resources. Farming takes everyone. We are all in this together and we have to protect the opportunity for the future.”

  • Bosque Farms, NM: Mike De Smet, organic, raw dairy farmer. In response to drought, De Smet laser-leveled all his fields and transitioned to no- and minimum-till planting to support the productivity of his herd and save water. Mike says, “We have changed our entire operation due to the lack of water. Our planting dates have changed, double cropping wheat and corn have stopped, and we are planting shorter maturity date varieties.” By enhancing his irrigation efficiency and stewardship, Mike expects to grow his herd to full capacity—around 100 head—in the next five years while simultaneously saving water.
  • San Luis Valley, CO: Brendon Rockey, certified seed and specialty potato grower. When drought hit hard seven years ago, Rockey replaced his barley rotation with a cover crop. Not only did this reduce that years’ water use, but also reduced the water needs of the following potato harvest as the cover crop retained moisture in the soil throughout the year. His healthy soil also enhanced the effectiveness of his center pivot irrigation. In the last seven years, Rockey’s pumping costs from the shallow aquifer have decreased—his cumulative annual consumptive use cut nearly in half—while his crop quality increased. What income he lost from his barley crop he more than makes up for in reduced input expenses due to enhanced nutrient availability in healthy soil. His neighbors now come to him for advice on maintaining a productive business through drought. As Rockey says, “Farmers need to become biologists again,” as supporting life in the soil builds resilience.


The Colorado River is one of the most dammed, diverted and in-demand rivers in the world. From its headwaters in the Rockies to its dry Delta, the Colorado travels through seven states, two countries and brings water to over 36 million people. In addition, it provides irrigation for nearly one fifth of our nation’s produce, including 80% of winter vegetables. Now entering its 14th year of drought, residents of the Colorado River Basin face challenging questions of what kind of West we want and can sustain.

The agriculture industry is the largest user of water in the West, consuming over 70% of surface water. As precipitation patterns shift, climate trends lean toward hotter, drier times, and cities continue to grow, many are looking to farmland for new supplies of water.

But taking agriculture out of the West is not the answer. Alternatives to what is known as “buy-and-dry,” or buying water from agriculture, which leaves the land unproductive, exist. These alternatives promote a vibrant agricultural economy and land that is being made better for the next generation of farmers and ranchers who grow our food.

It is a Herculean achievement that farmers and ranchers are able to save water while enhancing productivity in a period of unprecedented drought. As stewards making a life and a living off the land, these producers are exploring solutions to some of the most daunting challenges facing the Colorado River Basin and the West as a whole. It is time we work together as farmers and ranchers lead in the innovation and stewardship of the Wests’ most valuable resources.

You’ll enjoy this one.

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” - Aldo LeopoldA Sand County Almanac

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 9 – 15 August 2014

August 15, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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SATELLITEThere was a huge tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley gold/copper mine in British Columbia on 4 August. An estimated 10 million cubic meters (2.64 billion gallons) of water and 4.5 million cubic meters of sediment were released.

I’ve got a bunch of Tweets under the ‘Canada’ category if you’re interested.

Above is a satellite photo showing the extent of the breach. Below is a photo of the breach itself. Here is a video.

And the California legislature finallyBu8nuZHIAAEclF- passed a $7.5B water bond. The voters will have their say this November.

Enjoy the news…not all of it good.

Click here to access the weekly summary.

“You do not achieve noble ends with ignoble means.” - Gandhi

More thoughts on pricing water

August 12, 2014 | Posted by cmccrehin
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AWRA webinar Pricing Drinking Water for Conservation & Fiscal StabilityIn response to the large volume of questions following the AWRA webinar “Pricing Drinking Water for Conservation & Fiscal Stability,” presenter David Zetland agreed to answer several additional questions.

The questions and his answers follow:

In the complex web of CA water regulation, and many water utilities, who actually makes the decisions on how water pricing is set? You mentioned LA, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Metro Water District – who makes the decision? Is it the city council? Does it have to be voted on? or does it differ from municipality to municipality? Generally speaking, the municipal city council sets prices when they run a water utility and the public utilities commission sets prices for investor-owned operations. There are many variations that will depend on local laws, state regulations, and other governance factors. This book examines “special districts” in the US, which include utilities, flood control districts, etc. Remember that there are “countless” (~3,000) bodies managing water in California and over 50,000 in the US (drinking water only).

What do you think about pricing water at long run marginal cost and using general funds derived from taxes to cope with the high fixed costs? So you’re suggesting that taxpayers cover fixed costs and users pay long run marginal cost (LRMC). These ideas are mutually exclusive, I think. After outright grant funding, taxpayer funding is the oldest way of paying for water services (many places in England and Wales still pay for water via property taxes). Taxes were replaced by charges linked to house size or charges linked to metered use.* The system of charges often depends on politics (i.e., social funding versus user fees) that I discuss in a paper I need to revise. Pricing based on LRMC, on the other hand, really means charging for the cost of acquiring new water. Economists define LRMC to include fixed costs, since ALL costs are marginal if you make the long run long enough. So you’re faced with backwards- or forwards-facing choices. Payment by taxes means users can use as much water as they want from expensive systems that others pay for. Payment linked to LRMC incentivizes conservation, since the charges reflect to (usually much higher) cost of getting more water. LRMC is better from that standpoint of efficiency (and it’s done in Israel, as I will explain later this week), but it’s politically unpalatable because revenues will be much greater than actual costs and — more relevant — it interferes with the “cheap water” rhetoric that politicians and real estate developers love. Addendum: This post explains why LRMC must also consider risk (variability), which implies higher prices now and a smaller chance of needing to spend $$ on new supplies sooner.

Can a scarcity charge be assessed in periods of abundance so that scarcity is negated in the future? Coupled with weather, it seems that the lack of a scarcity charge, or low cost, can encourage overuse and contribute to scarcity. For an answer to this question and two others, see David’s blog post at:

Access the webinar archive.


TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 2 – 8 August 2014

August 8, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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The Lake Erie algal bloom took center stage on the US water scene this pastBuN7B4eIgAEk2zX week. Even the California drought played second fiddle. I did not realize how many Tweets I did on this topic till I listed them all in a separate category, right at the top of this post.

This photo from a NASA satellite shows the bloom.

There’s also a disastrous tailings pond breach at the Mt. Polley mine in British Columbia. Check out entries under the ‘Canada’ category.

Click here to read weekly water news summary.

As always, scroll down to ‘Positions Open’ to check out the jobs.

 “We are as gods and have to get good at it.”Stewart Brand (tnx @tmtall & @edge)


March 2014 Water Resources IMPACTWhat does an Associate Editor do? They work with the Editor-in-Chief of IMPACT to develop a set of issue themes/topics for the upcoming calendar year, they also take responsibility for the oversight of bringing a particular issue to print. Tasks include:

  • Identify potential authors with expertise in the subject of the issue who can write in a popular press style, i.e.  non-technical journal style; Newsweek, Time, Scientific American with the broad AWRA membership as the main target audience.
  • Recruit/persuade authors to volunteer to produce a solid three to four page article on time.
  • Provide timely reminders.
  • Edit/revise/work with authors to have articles meet the above stated criteria.
  • Working with staff and the EIC to format the issue.
  • Write a brief introduction paragraph and a detailed table of contents.
  • May help select potential images for cover.
  • May be called upon to team with guest editors on issues.

We are looking for associate editors from a wide range of water resources backgrounds:  from law and politics to water supply & quality to integrated water management and beyond. Diversity of knowledge and skills amongst the editors helps keep IMPACT relevant and timely.

Interested in getting onboard or in nominating someone? Contact Eric Fitch, Editor-in-Chief of IMPACT,  by August 22, 2014.


AWRA Awards $7500 in Scholarships

August 7, 2014 | Posted by cmccrehin
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AWRA Scholarship winners

2014 AWRA Richard A. Herbert Scholarship winners (L to R): Natalie Nelson, Emma Mendelsohn and Peter Bauson

AWRA is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2014 Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Fund awards. Considered by AWRA and our members to be one of the organization’s greatest accomplishments, the scholarship fund, established in 1980, has helped 41 students continue with their studies in water resources management.

“The 2014 Herbert Scholarship applicant pool was most impressive,” according to Martha Narvaez, chair of the selection committee. “If this pool of applicants is any indication, the field of water resources will benefit greatly from the next generation of water resource professionals.”

Application packets for 2015-2016 may be submitted starting in January 2015. For more information on our scholarship program email

The 2014 AWRA Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Fund winners are:

Natalie Nelson, University of Florida – Graduate (Ph.D.) Student Award ($2,000)
Natalie is a Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Her academic platform also includes certificates in Hydrologic Sciences and Wetland Science. A diverse plan of study, including Wetland Hydrology, Marine Ecological Processes, Wetland Restoration and Management, Geographic Information Systems, and Wetlands and Watersheds Law, supports her interdisciplinary research.

In 2012, Natalie was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which has enabled her to pursue research focusing on understanding algal bloom development in freshwater systems. For the past two years, she has been a member of the First Place team in the Large Institution Category of the national EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge, a “green” Stormwater management design competition. She is the co-lead of “AquArts,” an educational program that utilizes artistic teaching methods to inform first and second graders of the urban water cycle and sustainable water practices that can be implemented at home.

Emma Mendelsohn, Duke University – Graduate (M.S.) Student Award ($2,000)
Emma is currently studying sustainable water quality management as a master’s candidate. Her studies include hydrology, water pollution, and geospatial analysis from a management perspective; bridging science, economics and public policy and the day-to-day realities of water resource management. She also works as a Watershed Hydrology and Biogeoscience Field/GIS Assistant, researching the hydrologic connectivity between headwater streams and downstream waters. For her capstone masters project, she intends to study how storm events impact aquatic biota downstream from coal ash ponds.

Peter Bauson, Manchester University – Undergraduate Student Award ($2,000)
Peter is currently majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology. In addition to his academic curriculum, he has participated in several research projects related to water resources. One of his first projects was a diurnal study of the Eel River, which entailed monitoring pH and dissolved oxygen.

In addition, due to the overwhelming generosity of AWRA members, the Board of Directors and Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce three ancillary scholarships. Recipients are:

  • Asia Dowtin, University of Delaware – Ph.D. Student ($500)
  • Willa Paterson, Pennsylvania State University – M.S. Student ($500)
  • Ariel Nautch Edwards, Western Washington University – Undergraduate Student ($500)

If you would like to show your support for our next generation of water resources managers, please consider making a donation to our scholarship program. You do not need to be a member of AWRA to donate.

Congratulations to the winners of the Student Presenter Competition from AWRA’s 2014 GIS and Water Resources VIII – Data to Decisions Conference, which was held in Salt Lake City, Utah May 12-14. Twenty-one students participated and were scheduled throughout the conference technical program. Conference attendees were given the opportunity to judge the students during their scheduled sessions. The following criteria was used for all competitors:

  • Efficient use of allotted presentation time or poster space.
  • Quality of responses to audience questions in oral or at poster sessions.
  • Effective integration of audio-visual materials.
  • Perceived preparedness.
  • Logic and understandability of material (problem, methods, results, conclusions).
  • Adequate description of context for material – conveyed purpose of paper, identified relevant literatures, etc.
  • Overall style and presence; effective communicator – enthusiasm or persuasiveness
  • Suitability for AWRA/professional audience.
  • Significance and originality of the material presented.

Everyone did a terrific job and made the decision difficult.  However the following individual was selected as the outstanding winners:

Oral Student Presenter:  Zachary Benedetto, Lafayette College, Easton, PA
Development of GIS-based surface water and groundwater transport models for Lower Saucon Township, PA (co-authors: Dru Germanoski, John Wilson, David Brandes and Rachel Brummel)

Poster Student Presenter:  Celena Cui, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO
GIS-based nitrogen removal model for assessing vulnerability of Florida’s surficial aquifer from Onsite Wastewater Systems (co-authors:  Wendy Zhou, Mengistu Geza)

Again, our congratulations on a job well done to all those students who were in the competition and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.  We look forward to hearing more from everyone at future AWRA conferences!

Zachary Benedetto Bio

benedettoZack Benedetto was a Senior at Lafayette College at the time of the AWRA GIS conference, and has since then graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors in both Civil Engineering and Geology. At the conference, he presented his Senior thesis research which consisted of developing GIS-based surface water and groundwater transport models for a township in Pennsylvania to use in the future to simulate contaminant flow. Other activities Zack was involved in at Lafayette included the Outdoors Club, a co-ed a cappella group, and intramural sports. He enjoys hiking and traveling and he spent a semester abroad in New Zealand. Zack starts working full time in July at Arup, an engineering firm in NYC that focuses on sustainable land development and infrastructure projects. He may attend graduate school in the future.

Celena Cui Bio

cui Celena is from San Diego, CA and has always been interested in our surrounding environment. This interest motivated her to study environmental systems at the University of California, San Diego, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. Afterwards, Celena continued her studies at the Colorado School of Mines in the Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program. As a part of her master’s thesis work, Celena collaborated with Dr. Wendy Zhou and Dr. Mengistu Geza on developing a GIS-based nitrogen removal model for assessing Florida’s surficial aquifer vulnerability from onsite wastewater treatment systems. It was her pleasure to present this work at the AWRA conference as it concluded her graduate studies this spring. Celena now looks forward to new goals and challenges in the environmental field.


August 2, 2014 | Posted by admin
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Featured Collection: Clinch River

 The Clinch River of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee is arguably the most important river for freshwater mussel conservation in the United States. This featured collection, put together by guest associate editors Carl Zipper, Jennifer Krstolic, Bill Wolfe, and Greg Cope, presents investigations of mussel population status and habitat quality in the Clinch River. Collectively, these studies identify major ions and metals as water- and sediment-quality concerns for mussel conservation in the Clinch River.

Other Technical Papers:

Collins and Gillies examine removal effectiveness of constructed wetlands.

Chu et al. explore techniques for detecting shifts in rainfall and runoff.

Royer et al. examine conjunctive water use in confined basalt aquifers.

Long and Dymond examine bioretention as a strategy to reduce thermal impacts of urban stormwater runoff.

Robertson et al. use SPARROW to look at nutrients in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya basin.

Habberfield et al. compare stream restoration assessment techniques.




TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 26 July – 1 August 2014

August 1, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Welcome to August!BtlxJ_ECAAEnLmr

Did you hear about the recent ‘Math Lab Bust’ in Laurel County, KY? The perps were caught red-handed with the tools of the trade - Klein bottles and Riemannian manifolds!

Picture courtesy of WLEX-18 in Lexington, KY.

Click here for the latest summary of water news.


“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” -Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (thanks to @BlueWaterBmore)


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