World’s Groundwater Supplies Draining Fast, NASA Study Says

June 17, 2015

Using a new approach — employing satellite data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) — NASA researchers concluded that 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are being depleted faster than they can recharge, posing a long-term threat to the world’s freshwater supply, according to the study released Tuesday.

Areas with aquifers under the most stress include India, northern China, the Middle East, Saharan Africa, and California’s Central Valley.

“Most of those aquifers are the ones that support the world’s major food production,” Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-author of the ground water study, told ABC News.

Researchers blame agriculture, population growth, climate change and water-intensive industries such as mining, for the alarming rates of groundwater depletion seen during the decade-long study period.

“Humanity has done a terrible job with groundwater stewardship,” Famiglietti said.

Groundwater is the primary source of freshwater for approximately two billion people worldwide, supplying 35 percent of the water used by humans, according to the NASA report. Underground aquifers come under increased stress during drought periods.

“Because of climate change, we will be seeing even less replenishment of those aquifers,” Famiglietti said.

As the world’s middle latitudes become drier, their aquifers will replenish less often, Famiglietti said. Combine that with an increasing demand for groundwater as the world population grows, and there may be a serious problem.

“It really paints a compelling picture for the problems of the future,” Famiglietti said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Source:http://www.mycentraloregon.com/2015/06/17/worlds-groundwater-supplies-draining-fast-nasa-study-says/

Anacortes Election to Induce City Council Members to Terminate Water Agreement?

Anacortes, Wash.

A letter of  request to the Anacortes City Council for a written termination of the Tethys Enterprises water agreement that would have resulted in a one-million-square-foot bottling plant–the largest in North America–entitled up to five million gallons of water per day. Tethys CEO Steve Winter withdrew from the agreement and moved to Ireland.

TO: Council Member Ryan Walters, Council Member Eric Johnson, Council Member Cynthia Richardson, Council Member Erica Pickett, Council Member Brad Adams, Council Member Brian Geer, Council Member Bill Turner

Dear Council Members:

The muddlement of the City of Anacortes-Tethys Enterprises water agreement stands for a city process gone wrong during this mayoral and city council election. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust by voting to terminate the Tethys water agreement in writing.

The city council voted to approve the agreement, voted for its extension and now needs to vote to terminate the agreement, lest a loophole remain, allowing Tethys to assign its water agreement to another corporation.

Mayor Dean Maxwell stated in a KUOW Radio interview aired on Sept. 23, 2013, that, “he believes the deal is dead.” In the people’s eye, his belief is no guarantee that the deal is dead. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust, guaranteeing no loophole that will carry mistrust and fear and continue to paralyze our town.

Tethys was secretly brought to town, negotiations among the mayor, city council and Tethys occurring secretly and citizens given one day’s notice in the Skagit Valley Herald of the agreement before city council discussion and voting approval.

I was among ten citizens who personally approached Mayor Maxwell at city hall before he signed the agreement. We requested a public hearing. Mayor Maxwell refused, saying that the agreement was “the city’s business.”

This year’s election is about “the people’s business.” Candidates are quick to promise respectful citizen involvement regarding development and the town’s vision. Anacortes needs a fresh start.

Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin requests, on behalf of Anacortes citizens, that you put a written termination of the water agreement with Tethys on your agenda and vote to terminate the agreement by Oct. 14, 2013. Now is the time to rekindle citizen trust in the city council to perform “the people’s business” during this election.

Sincerely,

Sandra Spargo
Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin/The Alliance for Democracy

Cc: Mayor Dean Maxwell

Tethys’ Pullout of Bottling Plant Draws Mixed Response

Anacortes American
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Tethys’ pullout draws mixed response
BY KIMBERLY JACOBSON

Reactions are mixed to the announcement last week that Tethys Enterprises backed out of its plans for a bottling facility on the island.

Some residents were pleased the proposed 1-million-square-foot plant is off the table while others are lamenting the potential jobs lost. But all are looking to the future and how Anacortes could plan to best utilize the property — and how to attract a business that more people can get behind and support.

In a letter sent to Mayor Dean Maxwell last week, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the project was viable, but the company and its principals had other opportunities come up over time. They opted to halt their efforts on the bottling plant project.

Tethys has worked on the project for several years and signed a water contract with the city in late 2010.

Winter has not answered requests for further comment.

Sandra Spargo, who organized Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin, said she’s received about 200 emails since the announcement last week.

“I am getting a lot of emails from people who are happy about this,” she said. “I am relieved but cautiously relieved because I don’t know what this means.”

She has heard from residents who still have questions: Can Tethys sell the water contract to another company? Has Tethys reimbursed the city for all expenses? Will the city still pursue the urban growth area expansion request?

Mayor Dean Maxwell said the contract is “dead.” In order to transfer water rights, Tethys would have to make a request and it would have to be OK’d by the City Council. He said there’s been no request. He said a new company couldn’t meet deadlines built into the contract anyway.

“It’s just not going to happen,” he said.

Tethys has one more small payment to the city to reimburse it for all expenses, Maxwell said.

He said the city will discuss the UGA expansion request after the November election. It could be rolled into the city’s 2016 comprehensive plan update — but that’s up to the City Council.

“There’s no urgency now,” Maxwell said.

City Council member Ryan Walters said he’d like the city to send a letter to Tethys thanking them for their time and indicating the contract is terminated because they say they will not fulfill their side.

“I think we need to clean that up,” he said.

Walters said he wasn’t surprised Tethys backed out. He said the idea didn’t seem conceivable. The plant was proposed to be the largest in the country, but Tethys hadn’t bottled beverages before and it didn’t appear to have any real assets, he said.

“It didn’t really strike me as a very serious effort,” Walters said.

Peggy Flynn, who met Winter in an MBA program in 1986, introduced him at some of the community events he attended.

She said Anacortes has lost the economic benefits of a construction project that would have hired 250 workers and spent $500 million to build the facility as well as the potential for a significant number of well-paying jobs.

“We’ve lost what would have been the most environmentally and technologically advanced beverage manufacturing plant in the world,” Flynn said — citing plans for biodegradable and recyclable packaging materials, reduced and recycled wastewater, and the use of rail instead of trucks.

She said the good news is that Anacortes still has water rights and can look for other economic opportunities going forward.

Spargo said now is the time for a community discussion.

“I think this is an opportunity for the community to come together and give their vision of what they would like to see out there as possibilities,” she said. “We need a plan. We need a plan for all our city.”

She sees the grassroots Defending Water group continuing to have a voice in the process.

Walters said he’d like to see the city continue to explore the current comprehensive plan proposal that would limit the size of facilities on industrial property.

“If something is going to be massive, 1 million square feet, then we need to look at it and it needs to be not outright allowed,” he said.

The approval process wouldn’t have to take long, he said. As it is now, a massive facility could come in for a building permit with environmental review, but without council consultation. He said in the future water shouldn’t be the focus.

“When we look at economic development look for industries that provide good jobs — not industries that use water,” Walters said.

Tethys timeline

• April 2008 — Tethys Enterprises is formed.

• April 12, 2010 — Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, in a letter to Tethys CEO Steve Winter, says the city will discontinue any further work on the proposed agreement to build a bottling plant there. He cited a concern that Tethys refused to link water provided to the number of jobs created.

• Sept. 13, 2010 — The Anacortes City Council approves a contract to provide up to 5 million gallons of water a day to Tethys. The contract, dated Oct. 1, 2010, requires the company to provide a legal description and map of property for the development. It must be at least 30 acres, served by rail and within the city limits.

• October 2010 — Defending Water in the Skagit River Basin was formed as a “grass-roots educational influence to promote citizen input regarding the contract signed between the City of Anacortes and Tethys Enterprises.” It is associated with the Alliance for Democracy.

• Sept. 26, 2011 — The City Council approves a contract extension, requiring Tethys to find property by Dec. 1, 2012.

• July 31, 2012 — The City of Anacortes requests adding about 11 acres off Highway 20 near Stevenson Road to its urban growth area. The site was being eyed for Tethys. At the time, Mayor Dean Maxwell said the city will benefit from the added industrial property no matter what ends up there.

• Oct. 10, 2012 — The county requests more information from the city about its UGA request.

• Nov. 29, 2012 — Tethys gets title commitments for 30.33 acres of property at Highway 20 and Reservation Road near Stevenson Road. At the time, Winter told the American the 30.33-acre site was just part of the plan. It also proposed to use about 11 acres the city requested to be added to its urban growth area and, at the time, Tethys was in discussion with other property owners.

According to the contract, Tethys then had two years to complete the necessary studies and apply for permits. The plant was required to be up and running by June 1, 2018, according to the contract.

• April 9, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners hold a public hearing on the city’s UGA expansion request. Speakers brought up issues including traffic concerns, the size of the proposed Tethys plant, the city infrastructure to support any amount of acreage outside the presently designated city limits and the Tethys project being out of scale for the site and nearby communities.

• July 10, 2013 — Skagit County commissioners voted unanimously to docket the City of Anacortes UGA expansion request, allowing the review process to continue. An environmental review process was the next step.

• Sept. 10, 2013 — The city announces Tethys has backed out of its proposal.

Monterey citizens group eyes ballot measure for public buyout of private water company

By Jim Johnson. Crossposted from Monterey County Herald

A citizens group in Monterrey is putting forward a ballot that would require the water district to draw up plans for taking water services back into public hands. Services are  controlled currently by private company California American Water. Their exorbitant profits and mismanagement, including a failed desalination project and an expensive dam removal, have led to growing anger against the company and provide an opportunity to put water back under public control. Continue reading

The Reporter editorial: Delta Plan misses main point

Vacaville’s The Reporter printed the following editorial that reinforced some of the arguments we have been making against the ill-conceived Bay Delta Plan,, although the proposed solution of desalinization is not a good one:

Editorial: Delta Plan Misses Main Point

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan took a dramatic turn last week, acknowledging some of the concerns of Delta farmers by re-routing a proposed massive tunnel system to affect a smaller area and stay mostly on public land.

That the concerns of those who live in and rely on the Delta are being acknowledged as valid is a welcome change of pace. But the whole process still sidesteps the main point: It is folly to keep trying to take water from where it occurs naturally and send it to places where it doesn’t.

Southern California and the Central Valley are, by nature, deserts. Trying to keep them lush and fertile by relying on dwindling supplies of Delta water disregards the lessons of Mother Nature.

For a prime example, look no further than the Owens Valley, which decades ago was raided of its water by Los Angeles. Today, Owens Lake has become a lake bed and Mono Lake is a mess because more water continues to be taken out than can be replenished.

If less snow in the Sierras and less rainfall in general is a trend, it seems probable that the Delta will have less water flowing into it than in the past. The idea that it can be tapped in the same way as it has been — or even more so — bodes badly for its ecological health.

It’s time to stop trying to siphon off Delta water and start focusing on other ways of getting water where it’s needed. Start with conservation. Those who live in a desert shouldn’t expect to have grassy green lawns or grow water-intensive crops.

Desalinization — removing salt from seawater — is another promising option, given the state’s long coastline. Yes, it’s still prohibitively expensive, but if more effort were put into developing it, the price would come down.

And what about developing more water storage, so that the rain that does fall can be captured before it runs into the ocean? In recent years, some have proposed building underground storage systems rather than dams, and that seems like a great idea. But building a pair of 30-mile-long, $25.7 billion tunnels to divert water around the Delta does not.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was right on Friday when he said that the new route for the tunnel system announced last week doesn’t get at the fundamental problem.

“What really needs to be discussed and resolved are the operating conditions for the Delta over the next five decades,” Steinberg said.

The Legislature needs to re-engage, he says, and make sure all of the key players have a voice in what happens.

It’s also critical to have the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office study the project. It’s the public’s best chance for an objective assessment of costs and benefits — if there are any.

Acid joins water as contaminants in planned fracking boom

An article by David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, Acidizing could rival fracking in the Monterrey Shale, has pointed to a growing practice of using powerful acids to dissolve rock and free petroleum within. In addition to the high volume of water that is frequently used, it poses yet another dangerous risk to groundwater from contamination. As usual the companies refuse to reveal what acids are used and how. Continue reading

Peak water in the American West

In an excellent blog on scienceblog.com, Peter Gleick argues that the plethora of stories of droughts, dropping reservoir levels and irrational water engineering projects point to the need to:

  • acknowledge that we’ve reached peak water in the American west. We have promised more water to users than nature provides. Until demand and supply are brought back into balance, groundwater levels will continue to drop and our rivers will continue to run dry, destroying natural ecosystems.
  • Agree that there are limits to new supply and that we must turn to the demand side of the problem. This means figuring out how to use water more efficiently and productively, and thinking about moving some water-intensive activities and products to more water-abundant regions. Maybe it is time to grow less rice, alfalfa, cotton, and pasture with flood irrigation. It is past time to retire the green lawn as an acceptable landscape option in arid climates. All toilets and washing machines should be water- and energy-efficient.
  • Stop assuming that the water available for future use is the same as in the past. Climate change ensures that it won’t be, but until politicians start to heed the warnings of climate scientists and the on-the-ground evidence of the current water situation, our water problems in the west, and elsewhere, will worsen.

Read the full blog here: http://scienceblogs.com/significantfigures/index.php/2013/08/19/peak-water-in-the-american-west/
Photo by flickr user (cc) TimPearce.

Let the river flow: victory for indigenous people and salmon

By Terry Winckler: There are few victories sweeter and more dramatic than the one just wrested by Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman and his tribal allies in a Fresno, California courtroom last week. They did nothing less than save an entire run of chinook salmon from a corporate grab of the water needed by those fish to survive their spawning run up the Klamath/Trinity rivers system.

The drama–and believe me, it was a mix of theater, unexpected turnarounds, and life-or-death arguments–climaxed late yesterday when a judge agreed that these salmon need the water more than the mega-farms which wanted it as a hedge against next year’s bottom line.

Dozens of Native America tribal members demonstrated outside the courtroom as U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill heard the warning of what happened 12 years ago during a drought year like this on that same river system. That year, a water grab authorized by the Bush administration left as many as 70,000 salmon dead in the rivers, with the next generation rotting in their bellies.

Years later, those rivers were empty of salmon, as were the larders of tribes along the river, and the future of the commercial/recreational fishing industry that depends on healthy salmon runs. The collapse of the fishery was so severe that California and Oregon declared formal states of emergency, and Congress appropriated $60 million in disaster relief for fishermen.

The spectre of the 2002 disaster and scientific testimony that showed it could happen again this year convinced Judge O’Neill to let the Trinity River flow into its natural bed, rather than allow its diversion hundreds of miles south to Central Valley mega-farms.

If it sounds like a no-brainer, consider what Hasselman, the tribes and the fishing industry were actually up against. The courtroom in Fresno is right in the heart of corporate farming territory. Those business interests, which are politically powerful in California and pretty omnipotent in that particular part of the state, are what Hasselman faced off against. They wanted that Trinity water to ultimately flow through Fresno County into their back pockets–and initially the judge sided with them last week by granting a temporary restraining order on releasing water.

But here’s the real bottom line…Hasselman et al prevailed, and because of that, in the next few weeks one of the biggest chinook salmon runs on record will race up the re-invigorated Trinity/Klamath rivers with a much-better chance of giving life to the next generation.

The case will continue to wind its way through the courts, with important implications for the government’s authority to protect salmon in other years and in other places. Nor are this year’s salmon assured of success. So stay tuned as we follow the fish home.

P.S. Read our press release for quotes from the court and our allies on this great day for Pacific Northwest salmon: http://action.earthjustice.org/site/R?i=DwHxMw48m3ikK_RDBz8MzA

Feds give away fish water to same growers suing over Trinity releases

Post by by Dan Bacher cross-posted from fishsniffer.com. Over 60 members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe rallied in front of the federal courthouse in Fresno on August 21 as U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill held a hearing regarding the temporary restraining order obtained.  by Westlands Water District and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority to block a plan to increase flows on the Trinity River.

They and members of the Klamath Justice Coalition held signs proclaiming, “Westlands Sucks the Trinity Dry,” “Remember the Fish Kill 2002,” “Save the Trinity,” Save the Fish – Release the Dam Water,” and “Un Dam the Klamath.” Wearing bright green shirts stating, “Save the Trinity River,” the Tribal members traced chalk outlines of salmon and people on the pavement showing what would happen to fish and people if the flows aren’t released.

“When the fish are gone, we will be gone too,” explained Dania Rose Colegrove, Klamath Justice Coalition organizer and member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. Continue reading