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

November 13, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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13Third and last Friday the 13th of 2015. Triskaidekaphobes, beware!

I will be in Denver at the AWRA Annual Water Resources Meeting next week so I won’t be doing as much Tweeting (famous last words). The meeting’s hashtag is #AWRA2015.

OMG? LMAO! What’s this?

Splash-title-029See here (thanks Dave Gunderson).

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“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggettie beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.” - Scottish prayer

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 31 October – 6 November 2015

November 6, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Final-ProgramHad a great time at the GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore and am now looking forward to the AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference in Denver, 16-19 November. Looks like we will have a record attendance. Here is the final program:

Download Final_Program_AWRA2015

See you there!

If you have a nominee for the best water-smart city in the developing world, let Guardian reporter Katherine Purvis know. She would like to write an article on the ten best such cities. Her piece will have a format similar to this articleYou can email her at

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It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.’ - Edwin Land (tnx @LifelongAttempt)

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 24 – 30 October 2015

October 30, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Big weekend here in the USA. It’s Halloween tomorrow and on 1 November @map1 2 AM many of us will have to switch from daylight saving time to standard time. So we’ll ‘gain’ an hour of sleep Saturday night.

If you don’t turn your clock back you’ll be an hour early (right?) for your Sunday meeting, or in my case, my Sunday flight to Baltimore for the Geological Society of America meeting.

map2And speaking of geology, here are a few ‘Halloween-themed’ maps from the USGSYou might have to enlarge them (click on the image) to see what I mean.

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“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


November 2015 AWRA President’s Message

October 30, 2015 | Posted by admin
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Tracy photo

John C. Tracy, AWRA President

November 2015 President’s Column, Water Resources IMPACT

I can’t believe my year as President of AWRA has gone by so quickly. One of the benefits of being President of AWRA is that I have been made more aware of national water resource issues, rather than focusing only on issues that directly affect the community or region that I live and work in. This awareness was enhanced by being able to spend most of the last year working and living in the Washington, D.C., area, which also helped me learn more about water resource issues that affected communities across the United States (U.S.).

I am not sure if the last year was any more unusual than previous years, but from my perspective, it seems like it has been quite an eventful year for water resources, and not just because AWRA is starting its second half-century. The main headline for almost the entire year has been the continuing drought in California, which has now reached critical stages. Entire communities have had their wells go dry, losing the ability to provide any water to homes in their service area. For several decades we have been hearing about the need to repair and improve our water resource infrastructure, and now we are seeing the impacts. While there are questions surrounding the resiliency and robustness of some our nation¹s water infrastructure, it is clear that many of the communities relying on community well systems in California¹s Central Valley water infrastructure have clearly failed. However, the communities themselves are demonstrating a tremendous resiliency by providing a subsistence level water supply by setting up alternative methods to meet their most basic water needs.

While the California drought seems to have caught all of the headlines, as the latest maps have shown, there have been growing drought conditions across much of the west. Parts of Texas went from drought, to significant flooding in the late spring, with many areas returning to drought conditions by the end of the summer. Most of the water supply reservoirs in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado are at levels where they will not be able to carry over much water into the next irrigation season. If precipitation levels and snow pack are below normal this winter, almost the entire western U.S. could experience severe water shortages in the coming year. However, recent climatological reports indicate that the current El Niño condition is one of the strongest on record. This could mean higher than normal precipitation this winter for the entire southern U.S., which in turn could trigger significant flooding events, similar to those that occurred in the winters of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 in the southwestern U.S. On the other side of the country I was able to experience first-hand some of the record breaking weather this winter in the Northern Atlantic states. While Washington, D.C., did not receive record snow fall, Boston did, with snow piles not completely melting until almost July. The extreme weather conditions did not seem to slow down as we headed into fall, with record rainfall (over 20 inches in a day in some places) leading to unprecedented flooding in South Carolina in October. These types of weather extremes seem to be becoming the norm, rather than the exception, and water managers now have the unenviable task of needing to prepare for severe drought and flooding simultaneously throughout the west, and in many other areas of the country.

To complicate matters for water managers along the Animas River in southern Colorado, an accident at a retired mine site managed to turn a clear mountain river orange, when contaminated water spilled into the river from a gold mine treatment pond. This spill affected both municipal and agricultural water supplies for many miles downstream in Colorado and New Mexico. The accident that led to the spill highlights the need to address not only cleanup efforts on the hundreds of thousands of abandoned mine tailing sites across the west, but also how agricultural, municipal, industrial, and ecological water managers need to incorporate man made hazards when developing resilient and robust water management plans.

I am sure I have missed some good water resource stories, but just from these events it seems clear that there is more to talk about water than ever before, from water supply to flood hazard management, managing the quality of our nation¹s rivers and lakes to developing more robust and resilient water infrastructure. Thus, more than ever I find that AWRA provides a valuable forum for learning about these issues, discussing their impacts, and working towards developing solutions. The AWRA Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado, November 16-19, will be a great opportunity to learn about all of these issues, and join in the conversation on how to address them (Registration Form for this conference can be found online at

I want to thank everyone for giving me the chance to serve as President. It has been great working with the AWRA staff, the AWRA Board, and everyone that contributes to making AWRA the effective organization that it is. I look forward to seeing you all at the conference in a few weeks, and continuing to work with you in the coming years.

John C. Tracy

AWRA is pleased to announce that the Integrated Water Resources Strategy of the Oregon Water Resources Department is the 2015 winner of the Association’s prestigious Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Award. AWRA is also excited to announce its first ever IWRM Special Recognition Award winner ONE DROP’s Project Burkina Faso.

Both awards will be presented during the Annual Awards Luncheon at the Association’s Annual Water Resources Conference, November 18, 2015, Grand Hyatt Denver, in Denver, CO.

“Oregon is honored to receive the 2015 IWRM Award and greatly appreciates the Association’s commitment to and recognition of Integrated Water Resources Management,” Tom Byler, Director of the Oregon Water Resources Department remarked. “The state’s first water strategy was developed collaboratively, resulting in a long-term blueprint for meeting Oregon’s water quantity, water quality, and ecosystem needs. The Water Resources Department and its partners are gearing up for the 2017 Update to Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy. Receiving this award is a positive reminder to continue fostering collaborative planning across different sectors and institutions.”

Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy was adopted by Oregon’s Water Resources Commission in August 2012. The Strategy provides a roadmap for meeting the state’s instream and out-of-stream water needs, including water quantity, water quality, and ecosystem needs.  The 2013 Oregon Legislature strongly supported implementation of the state’s first water strategy, providing more than $30 million in funding across agencies, leading to greater collaboration between Oregon’s natural resources agencies.  The 2015 Oregon Legislature continued its support, investing an additional $54 million for water infrastructure projects.

“We at ONE DROP are both proud and humbled to accept this award,” said Catherine B. Bachand, CEO, One Drop. “It is extremely encouraging to know that our unique approach to sustainable water access – which was on full display in Burkina Faso – has been recognized at the highest level by a leading technical organization in the field. If we are to solve the water crisis permanently, making universal and sustainable access to water and sanitation services a reality, it will require from all stakeholders at every level to factor-in behavioral insight into infrastructure-related policies and programs and we are happy that through this award, this is being recognized.”

ONE DROP started Project Burkina Faso in 2012 in the region of Cascades and Hauts-Bassins. Developed using a systematic approach called The ABCs for Sustainability; the project uses three complementary components: access to safe drinking water and sanitation (“A”), behavior change using social art (“B”), and access to capital/entrepreneurship (“C”). Deployed over five years, this project will improve the living conditions of 100, 000 people.

AWRA will also present several other awards during the November 18th Luncheon, including:

Outstanding AWRA State Section Award
Washington State Section

Outstanding AWRA Student Chapter Award
DE AWRA Student Chapter

JAWRA W. R. Boggess Award
William P. Anderson, Jr. and Kristan Cockerill
Paper Title:  “Creating False Images: Stream Restoration in an Urban Setting”

Fellow Member
Ge Sun
C. Mark Dunning

Icko Iben
Richard A. Engberg

Sandor C. Csallany Institutional Award for Exemplary Contributions to Water Resources
Sacramento Water Forum

David R. Maidment Award for Exemplary Contributions to Water Resources Data and Information Systems
Anne J. Castle

Each year, AWRA gives several awards and scholarships. Nominations for 2016 will open in the new year. For more information visit the AWRA Annual Awards page, IWRM Award page, or the AWRA Scholarships page on our website.

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 17 – 23 October 2015

October 23, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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To the Cubs’ faithful, wait’ll next year really means Unknownsomething these days. But the Cubbies couldn’t overtake the New York Mets, who will face the Kansas City Royals for North American baseball supremacy. Go Mets!

While you’re waiting for the World Series to start, click here to read the weekly water news.

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Edgar Allan Poe

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 10 – 16 October 2015

October 16, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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The AWRA 2017 Annual Water Resources Conference will return to bbPortland, OR.

Tentative dates are 6-9 November at the Red Lion Jantzen BeachDr. Brenda Bateman of ORWD and I will once again co-chair.

I will NOT be donning my emperor’s outfit. Promise!

The 2015 Annual Water Resources Conference is in downtown Denver at the Grand emperorHyatt Hotel, 16-19 November.

The 2016 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference will be in Orlando at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, 14-17 November.

Click here for the weekly water news.

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” - John Archibald Wheeler 

Book Review: ‘Water Runs Through This Book’ by Nancy Bo Flood

October 15, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Disclosure notice: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Fulcrum Publishing.

Cutting to the Chase:
Read it! Well-written, unique perspective in a single book, great for all ages.

FloodThis review may seem a little different from my normal attempts because the book is different from most I review. Water Runs Through This Book by author, educator, and psychologist Nancy Bo Flood (with beautiful photos by Jan Sonnenmair) is ostensibly aimed at children ages 7 -12 (grades 2  - 7) – at least that what it says on the WWW site. I would take that advice with a kilogram or two of salt, because I am long past those age and grade ranges yet I enjoyed and learned from this remarkable little book.

Here is the blurb from the WWW site:

This book and the photographic images presents a sense of wonder and mystery about water, presenting unusual information – regional, global and Water-runs-coverastronomical – and then describes ways to conserve this resource that is essential to life – from birth to death. Water Runs Through This Book is written for readers, young and old, “green or not yet green” who are interested in participating through art or action to increase water awareness and water conservation. Through photographs, verse, and narration, this book celebrates the most essential ingredient to life: water. Author and educator Nancy Bo Flood and award-winning photographer Jan Sonnenmair combine imagination and information to explore this ever-changing yet essential element. Water Runs Through This Book is much more than an exploration of how water impacts life on Earth. It is a guide for how readers of all ages can become conservationists and protectors of this endangered resource.

The description is spot-on; it’s a book for readers of all ages, geared towards those with a ‘green’ or ‘near-green’ perspective. I doubt the Koch brothers have the book on their ‘must-read’ lists or will give it to their grandchildren. But they should.

The writing is fluid (no pun intended) and lyrical. Flood sprinkles her poems (and those of others) throughout the text. She includes quotes (Yes!) and perspectives from religion, indigenous peoples (she lives on the Navajo reservation) and those from the developing world. The role of, and impact on, women and girls in collecting water are highlighted.

She encourages her readers to take action to protect water but she does so without being preachy.

Flood discusses water in the human body and some of the things it does in our bodies and those of other creatures. She also presents the unique vantage point: our body as a watershed. Think about it; I still am. And she acknowledges groundwater (page 50) as being far more abundant than surface freshwater. Way to go, Dr. Flood!

Several boo-boos/omissions (no showstoppers):

1) The photo on page 4 is of Glen Canyon Dam, not Hoover Dam.

2) On page 8 there is the statement: ‘There is a theory that says too much manganese in our bodies affects our moods’. I checked the University of Maryland Medical Center and found no such support for that statement, although it said that manganese can interact with certain drugs to produce hallucinations – certainly mood-altering.

3) Figure on page 14: limestone is not a good example of an impermeable rock. Some of the world’s most productive aquifers are limestones - think of the Edwards aquifer in Texas. You want ‘impermeable rock’? Try shale or, better still, granite.

4) Figure on page 28: ‘Run off’ and ‘ground water’ are each one word. Elsewhere she does use ‘groundwater’ as one word.

5) Page 30: ‘in underground lakes’. I don’t think so.

6)  The book would have benefited from a graphic showing the distribution of water on Earth, such as the ones found here orhere.

7) No mention of the role of dams in producing electricity.

8) No mention of dam removal to renaturalize (aka ‘restore’) ecosystems.

The book has good references, a brief glossary and index.

Water Runs Through This Book is a beautiful little (small format, 64 pages) book. It has science, poetry, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, physiology, water rights, history, conservation, etc.

This is not a book for children; it’s for all of us. I am toying with using it in my undergraduate course, Introduction to Water Science and Policy. Its perspective is like that of no other water book I’ve read.

Kudos to the author and photographer!

Crackle of ice skin as I step, step, step
Snow melts, freezes, melts
I spy a lost mitten
Left long-ago
By whom?
- ‘Ice Skin, Winter Memory’  by Nancy Bo Flood (page 16)

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 3 – 9 October 2015

October 9, 2015 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Latin 101: The graphic below was sent around  on Twitter:

RT @groundwaterfdn Friday Fun Fact: “Aquifer” comes from 2 Latin words: Aqua (water) and ferre (to bear or carry).

I am wrote another Tweet explaining the etymology of ‘groundwater’ – you know, ‘ground’ = ‘on the ground’ and ‘water’ = ‘water’. So ‘groundwater’ is ‘water on the ground’.

Friday Facetious Fact: ‘Groundwater’ comes from 2 English words: ‘ground’ (ground) & ‘water’ (water) = ‘water on the ground’ @groundwaterfdn

That’s one of the many things I remember from my PhD advisor, the late Gene Simpson, who was also an English scholar.


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“Minutes that feed on simple pleasures … Reading comics on the patio,
Cool breeze, warm sun, I weep with delight.
My wife, my brother, here with love and comfort. My pipe … a simple pleasure.”
 Eugene S. Simpson (1917 – 1995)

Disclosure Notice: I purchased my copy of the book. Friend and colleague Todd Jarvis, who suggested I read it and initially lent me his copy, dubbed it Cadillac Contamination. One might also call it An Uncivil Action. The map of Toms River is from the New York Times

Cutting to the Chase

Read it! Toms River by Dan Fagin, a journalism professor at NYU who directs the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), sets a new standard for environmental reporting. Simple as that. Details? Read on, my children.


Coal tar. Even the name sounds dirty. It’s the gooey brown liquid that remains after DanSmilingCropped-283x300
coal is burned at high temperature in the absence of oxygen.  As author and master raconteur Dan Fagin notes, it was arguably the first major industrial waste. And a couple of hundred years ago people were trying to find uses for it. Did they ever.

Personal Encounter

I first knowingly (forgetting aspirin, shampoo, dyed clothes, medicines, adhesives, etc.) encountered coal tar in the form of coal tar epoxy or CTE, a substance used as a plug in the stemming of boreholes used to emplace thermonuclear devices (not ‘bombs’, if you please; they are called ‘bombs’ only when they fall from the sky) for underground testing. I had no idea that crappy coal tar had such an important societal use – preventing underground thermonuclear explosions from venting radionuclides to the atmosphere. Little did I know.

History LessonBook

Fagin starts by taking us back a few hundred years or so. After a brief history of of Toms River, he introduces us to coal tar and those who first tried to find a use for it. Leave it to a tinkering teenager.

In an attempt to synthesize the malaria medicine quinine from coal tar components, young (18) British chemistry student William Perkin discovered a substance at the bottom of his test tube that, when treated with alcohol, imparted a brilliant blue color to his cleaning cloth. No quinine, but Perkin knew he was onto something: the makings of the modern dye industry.

An aside – what happened to dyes? Didn’t the Romans, Phoenicians and others have beautifully-dyed garments? Sure they did. Fagin explains what happened.

Perkin’s work opened the door. By isolating coal tar’s components, chemists isolated a number of organic compounds. Some of these – aniline, especially – produced bright colors that transferred easily and permanently to fabrics. No more dull greys and browns, mind you, but bright reds, yellows, purples, blues, etc. Firms, initially mainly German and Swiss (Ciba-Geigy, BASF, Bayer, Agfa and others) – prospered over the next 100-150 years producing not only dyes but many other chemicals – paints, aspirin, solvents, resins, cosmetics, etc. from coal tar. Yes, better living through chemistry was born in Perkin’s test tube.

Going Down the Shore

Fast forward to Toms River, NJ, a town ‘down the shore’ as New Jerseyans are wont to 0319-sci-SCIBOOKS-articleInline-v2say. It’s about 55 miles east of Philadelphia ad 70 miles south of New York City. In 1952 the chemical company Ciba (later Ciba-Geigy after a merger) located a large factory complex on a two-square mile parcel on the outskirts of town. The hamlet was elated to have the plant, as it meant lots of good-paying jobs, prosperity and all that other stuff public officials, merchants, and community boosters crave.

What they didn’t know at the time was that their air, beloved river, aquifer, soil, and nearshore saltwater would be polluted with all sorts of coal tar derivatives. Water would taste funny and look odd. Worst of all,  friends, neighbors and children would be afflicted with cancer. Ah, but when the Toms River turned a color, it was a really pretty color.

Most people looked the other way and the good folks at the plant denied any that the pollution was harmful. No, the groundwater was not contaminated. Besides, if it were, it was caused by the other company’s (Union Carbide) drums at a leaking landfill.

You know the drill. Some mothers and cancer ward nurses get curious about all the Toms River children showing up in the cancer wards of hospitals. Who listens to them? Doctors? The NJDEP? A cancer cluster in Toms River? What exactly is a cancer cluster? It’s not as straightforward as one might think. Maybe someone knows someone who has a sister who works for EPA who knows….Personal connections loom large.


So Fagin tells us another story about industrial pollution and dying children? As one politician might say, ‘Stuff happens.’ Besides, didn’t Jonathan Harr do this with Woburn, MA, and TCE in A Civil Action? Heck, that was a made into a movie with John Travolta!

But Fagin did not win a Pulitzer Prize for Toms River by rehashing the SOS. Yes, he tells the Toms River story: the chemicals, the company, the cancer, and most of all, the people. But his book does for occupational health and environmental epidemiology what Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert did for Western US water: it put those topics on the map.

Throughout the book, as Fagin spins his tale about Toms River, he periodically indulges in sections about the historical development of cancer studies, environmental epidemiology, and toxicology. He talks about waste management and public health. It’s a history lesson  on the development of those fields and the personalities (believe me, there are some real characters) involved. His approach is not only educational but also results in a book that tells multiple, interrelated stories.

So you’re probably thinking that Fagin’s book is like one of the time-travel shows where you go back and forth in time so often that you get terribly confused. What is the story? Which timeline am I on? That’s where Fagin’s skill as a writer and communicator comes to the fore. His approach enhances the narrative and provides extraordinary context. It’s a brilliant literary tool. It’s not original, but I don’t recall ever seeing it in a book in this genre – or done so seamlessly.

One bonus: for fans of A Civil ActionJan Schlichtmann, the flamboyant, combative attorney played by John Travolta in the film, returns from the dead, but with a new gig that proves instrumental in negotiations. No, it’s not an AK-47.

My Takeaways

1) Personal connections count; when regulators drop the ball or can’t find it, these count.

2) It’s unlikely that we’ll see many technical contamination studies as detailed and expensive as this one. Who’s going to pay? But perhaps this book will have an effect on the need for such studies.

3) This book has changed the ways I look and think about things. When I see a brightly-colored fabric, I often think of children with cancer in Toms River and elsewhere and wonder if my garments contributed to some child’s agonizing death. I can’t get Michael Gillick out of my mind.

4) Many plants like the Toms River one have relocated to Asia. The Asian workers have less protection than Americans do. Good luck!

5) Thank heavens for a free press and investigative reporters. The latter are waning, although maybe Dan Fagin’s SHERP can stanch the decline.

6) Incredible documentation and indexing. What a source!

7) New Yorkers rarely feel any compassion towards New Jersey. Hey, c’mon, the entire state’s a landfill!  That’s changed.

Read it!

“A good working definition of a public health catastrophe is a health effect so large that even an epidemiological study can detect it.” – David Ozonoff, Boston University (page 442 of Toms River.) 


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