August 16, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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It is with heavy hand that I must report that it is indeed a sad day in print journalism: V.A. ‘Vinnie’ Musetto, the man who wrote one of the greatest headlines in tabloid history, was sacked from his freelance gig by the New York Post. Here’s the story.
And don’t forget – we are ready to go now! The AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference is just about three months away! The Preliminary Program is ready: check out the oral andposter presentations. Super Saver registration expires on 31 August.
Follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #2013AWRA.
Note: Effective 12 August 2013 I will archive all job Tweets (including grad student TAs & RAs, paying internships) at#JobWaWi
Here we go! Enjoy! Click here.
“State-federal cooperation is much easier to come by in water development than in pollution abatement, because development means expenditures and more business while abatement often means new restrictions and higher costs.” -Sen. Frank E. Moss (D-UT, 1959-1977), The Water Crisis, 1967, p. 261 (thanks to Matthew G. Heberger, P.E. The Pacific Institute)
August 9, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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What’s this? A water well guidleines publication in Swahili? You bet! Steve Schneider’s opus has just been translated. Check here.
I am still distributing Joshua Newton’s ‘Water Jobs’ list but am posting each one (approximately weekly) on my blog instead of emailing them. You will find a single link to each list. See ‘Positions Open’ below for the lists dated 8 August and 28 July.
Here we go – click here! Enjoy!
“One zinger is worth twenty ‘Attaboys!’” – Unknown
Bounds v.New Mexico Domestic Well Decision: Summary & Analysis by Jesse J. Richardson & Tiffany Dowell
August 7, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Attorney Jesse J. Richardson, Jr., advisor to the Water Systems Council and an Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech, and his colleague Tiffany Dowell of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M, have prepared an excellent summary and analysis of the recent Bounds v. New Mexico decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court. They have graciously allowed me to post their work here.
Here is a copy of the New Mexio Supreme Court’s decision:
I have pasted the Richardson-Dowell document below; here is a PDF:
Summary of Bounds v. New Mexico
New Mexico Supreme Court
Decided July 25, 2013
Jesse J. Richardson, Jr.
Disclosure: Jesse J. Richardson, Jr. and Tiffany Dowell authored and filed a “friend of court” brief in the Supreme Court of New Mexico in this case on behalf of seventeen clients, supporting the position of the State Engineer.
On July 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of New Mexico released its much awaiteddecision in Bounds v. State of New Mexico. Bounds, a farmer with senior water rights, challenged the legality of the domestic well statute (DWS). The DWS requires the State Engineer to issue a permit for domestic water wells when an application is filed, without any further analysis or consideration. In short, the court found that the DWS does not violate the prior appropriation doctrine or the due process clause of the New Mexico Constitution. This summary briefly discusses the main points in the court’s decision.
As Applied v. Facial
Before delving into the case itself, one must understand the distinction between “as applied” and “facial” legal challenges. Most cases involve “as applied” challenges. In these cases, the complaining party acknowledges that the law is generally valid, but asserts that as applied to their particular situation, the law violates either the state or U.S. Constitution, or another law that takes legal precedence. In deciding an “as applied” challenge, court look at the specific facts of the case before it.
“Facial” challenges argue that the law itself “on its face”, without looking at a particular situation, violates the state or U.S. Constitution or a superior law. Facial challenges are rare and very difficult to win, since these challenges are only upheld if there are no circumstances under which the law could be constitutionally applied.
Here, Bounds brought a facial challenge. The court found, in a unanimous decision, that the statute was facially constitutional. However, the court added an unusual twist. Instead of merely finding the statute facially constitutional, the court further analyzed the case assuming application of the statute in a fully appropriated and fully adjudicated basin. This addition is powerful. Going forward, it is likely that for anyone to successfully challenge the statute in an as applied situation, they will be required to show actual impairment, regardless of the overall status of water allocation in the basis.
Prior Appropriation and the Bounds Case
This case involves interpretation of the prior appropriation doctrine. This doctrine is used by most Western states to allocate water during times of scarcity. In essence, prior appropriation means “first in time, first in right”. The first person that establishes a regular use of water for a beneficial purpose has first priority for that water. The second person has second priority, and so forth. During times of scarcity, water is allocated to the most senior users, each in their full amounts, until no more water is left. If water runs out before a junior user’s share is given, he or she receives no water.
Facts and Background
Bounds is a rancher and farmer in the Mimbres Basinin southwestern New Mexico. The basin is fully appropriated and adjudicated. This means that all of the water in the basin has been allocated to users and the order of priority has been established. Bounds and the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau filed this lawsuit, claiming that the DWS, which requires the State Engineer to issue a permit for a domestic well for anyone requesting one, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit claimed several constitutional violations, but the only claims considered in the Supreme Court of New Mexico are claims that the DWS violates the prior appropriation doctrine and the due process clause of the New Mexico Constitution. In its most basic form, Bounds’ argument was that if the Mimbres Basin was fully appropriated, all water in the basin is allocated to an existing user. No excess water exists for new users. When the State Engineer grants domestic well permits, as he is required to do, the domestic well users harm his rights as a senior water user by taking his water, even though the new users are less senior. In essence, the Bounds argued that the domestic well users are “butting in line”.
Bounds could not show impairment (that the issuance of domestic well permits reduced the amount of water that he received under his senior water right), so the case proceeded as a facial challenge. The District Court ruled in favor of Bounds. On appeal, the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the DWS did not violate the prior appropriation doctrine or the due process clause. Bounds and the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau appealed to the Supreme Court of New Mexico. Oral arguments were held in October of 2011.
Supreme Court of New Mexico Decision
The Supreme Court considered two issues on appeal. First, the court addressed whether the DWS “creates an impermissible exception” to the prior appropriation doctrine in New Mexico because the State Engineer must issue the permit when requested, regardless of whether unappropriated water is available. The second issue involved the question of whether the failure to provide notice to and opportunity to be heard PRIOR to issuance of a domestic well permit violates due process rights.
Does the DWS Violate the Prior Appropriation Doctrine?
As to the first issue, Bounds claimed that since the Mimbres Basin is closed, no water exists to appropriate. Therefore, issuance of a domestic well permit must infringe upon existing senior water rights in the basin in violation of prior appropriation. The prior appropriation doctrine is part of the New Mexico Constitution, which provides that “priority of appropriation shall give the better right.”
When a Constitutional challenge is mounted, the court will uphold a statute “unless [the court is] satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the Legislature went outside the bounds fixed by the Constitution in enacting the challenged legislation” (Slip Opinion ¶ 11). The court relied heavily on Mathers v. Texaco, Inc., 77 N.M. 239, 245-46, 421 P.2d 771, 776-77 (1966), a case cited only by the Water Systems Council brief, and the ruling in Mathers that impairment cannot be assumed, but must be shown as a matter of fact in each particular case.
The Court found that language in Article XVI, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution —“[p]riority of appropriation shall give the better right”— describes how water should be allocated in times of shortage, not to how one acquires a water right or to a particularpermitting procedure” (Slip Opinion ¶¶ 26-27). On the other hand, domestic well permits are administered in exactly the same manner as other water rights. All water rights in the state are conditioned on the availability of water, including rights under the DWS (Slip Opinion ¶ 31). Thus, although domestic wells may be administered in a different procedural manner, the water from these wells remains subject to the prior appropriation doctrine.
In reaching this conclusion, the court recognized another point that the Water System Council brief focused on– that “exempt well” is a misnomer. “Today, domestic well permits are more regulated and integrated into the administrative system than ever before” (Slip Opinion ¶ 32). Domestic wells are not exempt from permitting or regulation, they are merely excused from certain onerous requirements of the permitting process under New Mexico law.
The court also explained that a host of options are available to a senior water user who is able to show actual impairment, including a priority call, requesting curtailment of domestic wells by the State Engineer, creation of domestic well management areas, or by bringing “as applied” legal challenges. The court also pointed to legislative and administrative action that has already been taken to protect senior water rights holders from domestic wells, including regulations restricting the amount of water allowed to be taken from a domestic well to 1 acre foot/year and new legislation preventing issues surrounding subdivision developers utilizing domestic wells. These limitations are discussed more fully below.
In summary, the court found that “[t]he Legislature codified this simpler permitting process as a policy choice, something that the New Mexico Constitution generally empowers our Legislature to do” See N.M. Constitution art. XVI, § 2 (“[U]nappropriated water . . . [is] subject to appropriation for beneficial use, in accordance with the laws of the state.” (emphasis added)) (Slip Opinion¶ 40). Therefore, the DWS statute does not violate the prior appropriation doctrine.
Does the DWS Violate Due Process?
The court quickly dismissed the notion that the DWS violates due process rights. Due process rights only exist where a person has been deprived of property. Bounds was unable to show that the DWS impaired his water rights. Therefore, no due process right existed here (Slip Opinion ¶ 52).
Caveats to the Court’s Decision
As mentioned above, the court emphasized the plethora of laws and regulations that give the State Engineer authority to limit domestic wells. By regulation, the State Engineer has already reduced the default maximum allowable diversion from three acre-feet to one acre-foot per year and per well per household. See 22.214.171.124(D)(1) NMAC (Slip Opinion ¶ 33). Regulations also provide for the creation of “Domestic Well Management Areas,” (Slip Opinion ¶ 34). Domestic wells are “subject to curtailment by priority administration as implemented by the state engineer or a court.” 126.96.36.199(B)(11) NMAC (Slip Opinion ¶ 35).
“The drilling of the well and amount and uses of water permitted are subject to such limitations as may be imposed by the courts or by lawful municipal and county ordinances which are more restrictive than the conditions of this permit and applicable state engineer regulations.” 188.8.131.52(B)(6) NMAC (Slip Opinion ¶ 38). Senior users also may make a priority call against junior users if actual impairment or impending impairment is shown. In that situation, an as-applied challenge to the statute can also be made (Slip Opinion ¶ 45)
In addition, the court recognized two recent legislative enactments. The first requires “either State Engineer approval of sufficient water or proof of water rights acquired by means other than a domestic well permit, before a subdivision plat may be approved if water rights have been severed from the land upon which the subdivision will sit” (NMSA 1978, Section 3-20-9.1; Slip Opinion ¶ 42). This statute appears to address the “double-dipping” problem, where a landowner strips the property of water rights, then develops the property using exempt wells.
Another legislative action, an amendment to NMSA 1978, Section 47-6-11.2,“requires proof of service from a water provider and approval from the State Engineer, or a right to use water other than by a domestic well, for any subdivision of ‘ten or more parcels,any one of which is two acres or less,’ before the subdivision can be approved” (Slip Opinion ¶ 43). This provision prevents dense developments that rely on exempt wells.
Finally, the court addressed a portion of the Court of Appeals’ opinion that had caused quite a stir in the water law community. Namely, the statement that “[t]he Constitution’s priority doctrine establishes a broad priority principle, nothing more” (See Bounds v. New Mexico, 2011-NMCA-011, ¶ 37). The Supreme Court opined that that statement “goes too far” and that the priority doctrine is more than just an “aspiration, subject to legislative whim” (Slip Opinion ¶ 47).
The Supreme Court of New Mexico unanimously ruled that the DWS does not violate the prior appropriation and does not violate due process rights. Further, the statute is constitutional even when applied in a fully appropriated, fully adjudicated basin.
In our opinion, future litigation over the DWS in New Mexico is unlikely. Challengers face the difficult, if not impossible, task of proving impairment by a single domestic well pumping a small amount of groundwater. The huge cost of litigation, along with the long odds on prevailing, will shift the focus to the legislature and the State Engineer’s Office. The result may also discourage litigation on exempt wells in other states.
In other states, like Washington and Montana, the battle has already shifted to the legislature and the regulators. In Bounds, the court made a point of essentially transferring these matters to the Legislature and State Engineer in New Mexico. “We urge our Legislature to be diligent in the exercise of its constitutional authority over—and responsibility for—the appropriation process. We equally urge the State Engineer to fulfill its superintending responsibility by applying priority administration for the protection of senior water users. Our courts remain available, based upon sufficient evidence, to intervene in appropriate cases to ensure that “priority of appropriation shall give the better right.” (Slip Opinion ¶ 46).
One should also consider the recent regulatory and legislative changes in New Mexico that vitiated many of the largest concerns with respect to exempt domestic wells. The amount of water allowed to be used was reduced from 3 afy to 1 afy, the problem of “double dipping” was addressed and the State Engineer was granted extensive authority to further regulate exempt wells in many situations.
The Supreme Court of New Mexico recognized, as the writers here have said before, that “exempt well” is a misnomer. Most states impose extensive regulation on exempt wells, but regulation that is less burdensome than the regulation imposed on other water withdrawals. As in most states, the court also reaffirmed that domestic wells are not “exempt” from priority, but merely administered in a different way.
The unusual decision of the court to consider some facts in addressing a facial challenge strengthened the result for the owners of domestic wells. However, the court made clear that domestic wells remain subject to regulation and subject to priority. In conclusion, a unanimous, powerful decision, tempered by caveats that the domestic wells in New Mexico are far from “exempt”.
“Battles over water in the West are always about something more. At their most elemental, they are about survival.” -Bettina Boxall, 2007 (thanks to the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4)
Shuster et al. look at the quality of water in residential rain barrels.
Desai and Hanadi show important observations of a diurnal sag in E. coli concentrations.
Johnson et al. show an example of distributing bacterial sources spatially based on land use data.
Chen et al. examine approaches for modeling post-fire runoff.
Fritz et al. examine some of the problems in using the National Hydrography Dataset to define headwater streams.
Grady et al. compare methods for verifying Best Management Practices.
Tavernia et al. look at water stress projections for the northeastern and Midwestern United States.
McLaughlin et al. discuss managing forests for evapotranspiration.
Discussion and Reply: Auerbach discusses the 2013 Boggess Award winning article, “America’s Rivers and the American Experiment” by Martin W. Doyle, and Doyle replies to the discussion.
August 5, 2013 | Posted by LHooper
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Addressing seasonal flooding and environmental justice in Denver
by Lydia Hooper
As a city in the semi-arid West, Denver experiences strange paradoxes. Summers bring seasonal droughts and also the unexpected flash floods. On one particular day just two summers ago, Denver had localized rains greater than 3.25 inches an hour, for example. Planning for these types of floods is paramount as these sorts of events can cause serious danger. As the city continues to grow and develop, there are also more paved surfaces creating runoff.
But in Denver, these floods aren’t just about public and environmental health and safety, they are also about fairness. Equity wasn’t much of a concern when city infrastructure was established decades ago. Westerly Creek is a waterway that demonstrates how this has presented challenges today. It is part of a greenway that provides 500-year-flood protection to a nearby, recently-developed upscale neighborhoods. However, it disappears into pipes underground in a more commercial and low-income residential area where tight development makes homes built close to the creek more vulnerable to floods. Those most affected by these floods are also the least protected by flood insurance as well, and are often not as educated about these issues. This area has become a resting place for refugees and immigrants, and due to numerous language and cultural barriers, as well as preoccupation with the day-to-day concerns of low-income living, the majority of local residents remain unaware of flooding dangers.
These concerns aren’t easily resolved. The creek crosses the municipal boundary, requiring cooperation with the city of Aurora. After a few iterations, plans have been adopted for a greenway along the entire creek, but since such a major re-engineering project costs about $1 million per block, it has been very difficult to secure funding. Various funding sources–local, state and federal–have been identified that will allow both cities to execute a few different projects in sections, eventually making the greenway vision a reality.
Until the larger drainage issues are fully addressed, Denver Public Works has been using outreach efforts to educate local residents about this issue. Through their partnership with Earth Force for their Municipal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Program’s outreach and education component, they are working with various schools in the area. Local students are learning about and confronting the problem themselves as part of educational programming. Last summer a group of students from Fletcher Middle School located nearly 100 homes most vulnerable to flooding and distributed brochures to educate their neighbors about local flooding dangers. A group of students this summer investigated how local development has impacted fish populations and water quality. They presented their findings to a Westerly Creek stakeholder group in order to inform their continuing decisions.
“I do think we made a difference,” ninth-grader Cynthia Casillas told the Denver Post last summer. “I think we spread awareness.”
This blog is the second of a monthly series that will offer ideas other cities can consider on addressing water issues through collaboration and creation of exciting educational opportunities. Next month, I will outline how Denver’s MS4 priorities have shaped their “Keep It Clean” outreach and education campaign.
Lydia Hooper is the “Keep It Clean” Communications Liaison for Denver Public Works’ Wastewater Management-Water Quality Division and Earth Force, a non-profit that focuses on community partnership and facilitation of environmental service-learning projects for youth nationwide.
August 2, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Let me just put in a pitch for Todd Jarvis’s impending (Spring 2014) book, Contesting Hidden Waters: Conflict Resolution for Groundwater and Aquifers. It’s a seminal book, the first ‘conflict book’ to deal entirely with groundwater. Boy, what a concept!
How can I plug something I haven’t read? Simple. I know the guy writing the book.
Here we go – click here. Enjoy!
“What we obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly.” –Unknown
August 1, 2013 | Posted by admin
Water Management, The Economy and National Security
Carol R. Collier
I’d like your opinion on a topic that I think is growing in importance. That is the need for some sort of national water policy, strategy, or vision ……. whatever you feel comfortable calling it. I know there are concerns that “top down” mandates might impede regional, state or local planning initiatives and that differences in eastern and western water law and management make setting a nation-wide course impractical.
HOWEVER, without some national direction on water planning and management, will we have a secure economic future? A secure future as a unified nation? Can we answer the questions: will we have enough water in 2040 or 2060? Where will the problems be? Is this Nation more vulnerable since we are not adequately planning for the future of our water resources? Most importantly – what are the solutions and how will we pay for them?
The USGS Water Census program was developed to assess national water availability and use at the regional and national scale. The USGS is preparing watershed budgets and identifying areas of concern. In many areas of the country, this type of assessment has never been done before. While this initiative and other research studies and water assessments are helping to fill the gaps in our understanding, most water management is still conducted within silos (e.g. with a focus solely on surface water or groundwater) or by political jurisdictions. If more growth is projected for a municipality or region, the directive is often just to find new water. The question should be – do we currently have or in the future will we have enough water to provide an adequate supply? How do we balance supply and demand in the light of uncertain weather patterns?
Management of water cannot and should not come under federal control because there is no one agency responsible for all aspects of water and the nation’s water issues are too diverse. The 30 + federal agencies that have a role in water management can provide vital support in planning, implementation and funding, however, their efforts will be far more effective if there is better coordination among them. On the other hand, the piece meal approach to water management that we currently have in the country is not cost effective or sustainable.
There are signs of cooperation. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing a “tool box” of ways federal agencies can assist states and inter-state agencies. The Western States Water Council (WSWC) has a Water Vision and works with The Western States Federal Agency Support Team (WestFAST), a collaboration among 12 Federal agencies with water management responsibilities in the West. However, this initiative is not duplicated in other regions. We need an umbrella policy from the federal government, with the tools and resources to implement it on a basin scale, not by political boundaries. This point is important. Political subdivisions need to work together to develop implementation strategies within a hydrologic context – defined by watersheds and basins.
There are many ways to address the issue. Here is one to consider:
Washington (Executive Order possibly) calls for integrated water resources management across the Nation. An U.S. Water Resources Council is created to set policy objectives and provide funding and incentives for the development of strategies to address supply and demands for humans and ecological communities at a basin-scale under future scenarios. Federal, state, inter-state, and NGO teams prepare water management plans for single or multiple basins, such as basins west of the Rockies, the Mississippi River basin, Northeast U.S. basins, and Southeast U.S. basins. Alternatively, a finer scale is used. A key point is that implementation of the national policies and goals occurs at the watershed or basin level. Changes in water management will only work if there is buy-in from decision makers and local communities. There needs to be a national push for “WHAT” needs to be accomplished, but the “HOW” it will be accomplished should be dictated at the basin- scale.
If you are interested in more background on these issues, the Pacific Institute recently published the book – A Twenty-First Century U.S. Water Policy, by Christian-Smith and Gleick, Oxford University Press, 2012.
We can have our political independence and still have a more cost-effective and secure water system if we plan now for the demands of the future. I know it is a controversial issue, but I’m hoping we can find our way. Please provide your opinions on the AWRA blog. I’ll be looking forward to reading your responses.
July 26, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Finally got around to reviewing William (Bill) and Rosemarie Alley’s excellent book, Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste. It does an exceptional job documenting the difficulty we have had trying to figure out what to do with high-level nuclear waste. Sadly, we still have no plan.
Even if you have no interest in the HLW issue, the book is worth your time. Its lessons learned will aid us in grapping with other highly technical, contentious issues we now face – climate change, for one. Enjoy!
Now, here is this week’s summary – click here.
“Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.” - Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman, AEC, 1954
July 25, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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What does ‘Yucca Mountain’ mean to you? To many of us, it conjures a number of things, most of them unfavorable. A nondescript ridge along the western boundary of what used to be called the Nevada Test Site. Government incompetence and duplicity. DoE SNAFU. Political payoff. Screw Nevada bill. Boondoggle. FUBAR. Politics. Gravy train. WTF? Good science. Here’s my take.
You get the picture. But whether you do or not, Too Hot To Touch by William M. (Bill) Alley (herein referred to as WA) and spouse Rosemarie Alley (herein referred to as RA) is must reading (don’t confuse it with the bodice-ripper (??) of the same name). Trust me – I was involved in nuclear waste, nuclear weapons, and the like at various stages of my career, yet I still learned a lot from this book.
And if you think the issue of high-level waste (HLW) disposal/storage is settled…well, read the book.
The title of the book reminds me of an M.C. Hammer hip hop tune or two; I was tempted to write the blog’s title as ’2 Hot 2 Touch 4 U’. But the full title of the book dispels any notion of pop culture or my feeble attempt at being a smart-ass: Too Hot To Touch: The Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste.
Disclosures: I worked on various DoE Nevada Test Site (since renamed the Nevada National Security Site) projects while working at the Desert Research Institute from 1976 through mid-1989. None of this DoE work involved the Yucca Mountain HLWrepository, which straddles the western border of the NNSS. However, DRI did have a project, on which I worked, funded through the State of Nevada’sAgency for Nuclear Projects (then called the Nevada Nuclear Projects Office, if I recall) which provided oversight for the Yucca Mountain work. In New Mexico I also did some minor consulting work for one of the WIPP subcontractors. I was provided a free copy of the book by the publisher, Cambridge University Press. I have known the senior author, Bill Alley, for about 25 years, and greatly respect his scientific abilities and integrity.
Bill recently retired from the U.S. Geological Survey, where he most recently served as Chief of the Office of Groundwater, which was two words when he started; budget cuts forced the merger of ‘ground’ and ‘water’. He oversaw the USGS activities on the Yucca Mountain Project from 2002 until 2010. He is now Director of Science and Technology for the NGWA. Spouse Rosemarie Alley is a literacy specialist and writer.
Here is a tag-team video of a recent talk the Alleys gave at the USGS in Menlo Park, CA.
1) Well-written, well-organized, even-handed, and extremely well-documented. These aspects do not surprise me, given the talents of the authors. Even a Member of Congress (well, some anyway) could understand the book.
2) The perspective. The policy and political aspects (most interesting to me these days) and the scientific/engineering aspects are both addressed. More importantly, so are their interactions.
3) The history is there – is it ever – from the very beginning. Didn’t think there was any deep-well radwaste injection in the USA? How about ocean dumping? Dry storage?
4) The ‘tag-team’ authorship seems to be a true collaboration in every sense of the
word, with WA and RA bringing different skills to the table. But the book reads as though one person wrote it, unlike some recent ones I have read. Great editing by the Alleys and editor Laura Clark.
5) Great discussion questions in the appendix. Some seem worthy of MS or PhD theses. These were framed by Dr. Deserai Crow at the University of Colorado.
6) Although the book’s title alludes to HLW, other types of radwaste and their storage/disposal sites are discussed: Ward Valley, Hanford (enough liquid waste to fill the tank cars in a 26-mile-long train), Beatty, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. They also discuss why WIPP (bedded salt repository) would not work for the HLW from commercial power reactors.
7) Discussion of what some other countries are doing.
The book is very reasonably priced for a 370-page hardcover from Cambridge – $22 ($13 for the Kindle edition) from Amazon.com. Affordable for classes!
9) Great title – true on a number of levels.
10) Some good things did emerge from the YMP (pages 305-306). Like what? Incredible enhancement of our knowledge of unsaturated fracture flow and mass transport. Interdisciplinary science. Seismic hazard evaluation. Volcanic hazard analysis. Natural analogues. As one of my colleagues said, “DoE was hydrogeology’s NSF.” Not that it wanted to be.
11) Part III – ‘No Solution in Sight’
1) No answers for the discussion questions! Only semi-joking.
2) WA’s stint as the Director of the USGS’s Yucca Mountain work may cause some to question his objectivity. But the USGS was ‘just’ a DoE YMP contractor and I know from experience that they and the YMP folks did not always see eye-to-eye. I think I also recall an issue with QA/QC and a USGS infiltration estimation. But I don’t have a problem; WA is critical of the DoE YMP when he needs to be.
What stood out is the Alleys’ treatment of the ‘certainty’ required by society. Ensuring that no radioactivity from the YM repository reaches the ‘accessible environment’ in 10,000 years? 1,000,000 years? C’mon, man!
I am also amazed on how the disposal/disposition of wastes and health aspects received such short shrift when the commercial nuclear age began in 1954. The ‘experts’ seemed to believe the disposal problem to be ‘unimportant’. Yes, that’s the word J. Robert Oppenheimer used.
The press was often times unhelpful in elucidating the facts and seprating them from opinion. But newspaper articles are not peer-reviewed. The Alleys brought this home with the story of DoE geologist Jerry Szymanski, who stirred the pot in the mid-1980s, claiming that earthquakes had periodically caused catastrophic water table rises beneath Yucca Mountain. You don’t need a PhD to imagine what this would do to the radwaste stored in the repository. Szymanski was treated by the press as some sort of folk hero. I recall being asked by the State of Nevada to review part of the ‘Szymanski ‘report’. I found it wanting. No matter…even the New York Times drank the Kool-Aid.
For good measure, to illustrate the foibles of the press when it comes to science, the Alleys recount the tale of the ‘expert’ who predicted a major earthquake along the New Madrid (Missouri) fault zone that would be caused by alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. It would occur on 3 December 1990. Seismologists discounted it, but it persisted in the press. Nothing happened.
The Alleys lament the lack of the public’s ability to place much value on facts. As they say on page 327:
It is extraordinarily difficult (if not impossible) to address the problem of high-level nuclear waste in a society where a large percentage of the public places little or no value on facts. Today’s culture of infotainment, sound bites, fundamentalist religion, ideological extremism and rigidity, and the politics of fear and hate impairs reasoning and thoughful debate. As an astounding case in point, contemporary Americans are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution. Depending upon how the questions are worded, roughly 30 to 40 percent of Americans believe in each.
This passage appears on page 328:
Without their cooperation, State and local interests odften prevail over national needs. This lesson has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout the history of nuclear waste disposal. To move this mountain of instinctive opposition, citizens of the State and local jurisdiction must see a clear benefit, feel empowered to voice their concerns and have them seriously addressed, and have a basic sense of trust and fair play as the process moves along. People also need to know why it matters. This involves more than an information campaign whereby the operating agency tries to educate the public. What is long overdue is a mature dialogue, as equal partners, between an informed public and the operating agency. Short of this, it is doubtful whether the public will ever come to appreciate why it matters for society to take responsibility for its high-level nuclear waste.
This book is more than about nuclear waste disposal; it is parable for yesterday, today and what lies ahead of us. It likely could have been written about the effects of climate change, the debacle that was Hurricane Katrina, or even a discussion about a national water policy/vision. The nuclear waste issue will get ugly by 2050 when all today’s commerical power reactors will be offline. So will these other things. Our work is cut out for us.
Read this book. It’s an object lesson.
More than I wanted to know about our HLW program. But in this case, ignorance is not bliss.
“The [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission apparently has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository.” -U.S. Court of Appeals, June 2012
“If you produce nuclear power, you just leave it where you produce the energy.” – Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
“Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.” - Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman, AEC, 1954
July 19, 2013 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Lots of stuff to catch up on, and jobs, too! Just click here!
“In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.” ~ Nigerian proverb