Waterblogged.info is slammed!

fandWWWhat does a water blog worthy of the name do when the editor-in-chief is slogging through the swamp of endless demands that constitutes an annoying yet relatively lucrative day gig? Why, said water blog links to a really great site like Food & Water Watch–and lets said really great site do the heavy lifting.

But Waterblogged.info, asks the intrigued reader, what is Food & Water Watch all about? Say, intrigued reader, isn’t that what About pages are for? So I don’t personally have to explain every little thing to you? I’m on deadline here.

I can say that, unlike the weepy whiners here at Waterblogged.info, the folks at F&WW are activists, and only to happy to help you be one, too.

Good stuff, with a pile of information about all sorts of water issues.

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Toxic Water

An effort most likely to win a Pulitzer Prize by journalistic award magnet Charles Duhigg: Toxic Water, a series about the continued and worsening pollution of U.S. water. Nationwide, there have been over 500,000 violations of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Some are minor, but 60 percent were categorized as significant, and the vast majority go unsanctioned.

Duhigg and team have done a great service to all of us. Not only have they exposed and scrupulously documented an outrageous situation, they’ve developed a powerful tool to help us deal with it. From the article (italicized emphasis ours):

The Times obtained hundreds of thousands of water pollution records through Freedom of Information Act requests to every state and the E.P.A., and compiled a national database of water pollution violations that is more comprehensive than those maintained by states or the E.P.A. (For an interactive version, which can show violations in any community, visit www.nytimes.com/toxicwaters.)

Happy anniversary, Atrazine!

Candles from Waterblogged.info's gala invitation-only celebration of Atrazine's 50th anniversary!

Candles from Waterblogged.info's gala invitation-only celebration of Atrazine's 50th anniversary!

Everyone’s favorite herbicide (except for the EU) has, according to its Swiss producer Syngenta, been used safely by farmers for 50 years. Obvious cause for celebration, at least for Syngenta, which has no doubt enjoyed huge profits from its sales over those five decades.

The chemical giant has invited us to share their joy by placing a festive banner ad atop an online New York Time‘s story about atrazine*. The article, part of a series on toxic substances in drinking water, basically questions the science that “proves” that the weed-killer is safe for human consumption in minute quantities.

Our most recent post, Hooray for the EPA!,  demonstrates that the amusingly named Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t agree more with Syngenta: When the levels of atrazine in the drinking water of several midwestern communities exceeded the legal limits, the EPA ignored it completely and failed to notify the affected populations, even though the agency is required by law to do so.

*Why this ad placement is considered ethical is beyond the ken (not to mention the barbie) of the puzzled peeps at Waterblogged.info.

Also celebrating her fiftieth this year.

Also celebrating her fiftieth this year.

Hooray for the EPA!

EPA Deputy Liar, Steve Bradbury, who is either very tall, or the people he is lying to are very short.

EPA Deputy Liar, Steve Bradbury, who is either very tall, or the people he is lying to are very short.

Thanks to the Huffington Post, the ironically named Environmental Protection Agency will be getting credit for a modestly unannounced act of kindness. The folks living in some communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas–states where farmers rely heavily on the herbicide atrazine–are no doubt spamming the EPA with thousands of animated e-cards of appreciation as I write.

In their compassionate wisdom, the federal agency’s officials decided not to add to the worries of economically terrorized citizens by informing them that the amount of the weed-killer floating around in their drinking water exceeds federal limits–even though they are required by law to do so.

Says Steve Bradbury, deputy office director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs:

“We have concluded that atrazine does not cause adverse effects to humans or the environment,”

Bradbury is full of shit, like many arrogant EPA officials, all of whom should be fired and possibly prosecuted for their failure to do their duty as prescribed by law, not just in this case , but in  a host of other  as well. They do not have the right to arrive at any conclusion that allows them to break the law.

As the article indicates, there is not scientific basis for the EPA’s rash conclusion nor a defensible reason for failing to alert the affected communities.

Waterblogged, waterblogged, fly away home!

Dead steelhead trout, killed by chloraminated water accidentally dumped into a creek near San Mateo, California

Dead steelhead trout, killed by chloraminated water accidentally dumped into a creek near San Mateo, California

This morning, Waterblogged.info is bogged down in the arduous process of moving its operations back to Northern California–San Mateo, California specifically, approximately 20 miles south of San Francisco. It’s a difficult undertaking because it involves cramming souvenirs and gifts into imaginary spaces in luggage that was way overpacked in the first place.

Serendipitously, or coincidentally–but not ironically, for god’s sake–early morning research on our new favorite drinking water additive, chloramine–essentially a compound of chlorine and ammonia–turned up in this recent article about a fine levied against a San Mateo water supplier for accidentally dumping chloraminated water into a local creek, thereby killing 30-plus federally-protected steelhead trout.

It’s a typical tale of the kind of corporate malfeasance that so closely resembles the charmingly clueless behavior of mischievous children–a careless accident followed by the agreement not to tell Mommy and Daddy Regulatory Agency in the absurd hope that they won’t notice, and, after being caught, the desperate placing of easily disproved blame on something else, and finally complaining that the punishment–in this case a $200,000 fine–is just not fair.

The trout succumbed because, as all aquarium owners know, chloramines are deadly to fish and reptiles–this is not disputed. But what worries publicly-minded folks like the members of Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC), based in San Francisco, is that chloramines, for a variety of reasons, pose a danger to human beings as well. (For the sake of Waterblogged.info’s famous concern for balanced reporting, a rosy assessment of the use of chloramine here, brought to us by the city council of nearby San Bruno, California.)

New York City water: Where does it come from and where does it go?

crotonThe wife of the editorial staff of Waterblogged.info turned us on to this cool interactive animation that gives the inside scoop on the ginormous NYC water delivery system. It was posted by the American Museum of Natural History.

Somewhat sketchy and basic, it nonetheless demonstrates the complex immensity–not to mention the immense complexity–of the largest water-delivery system on the planet.

Hello Golden Age Lake

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow's name has eleven syllables.

Turkmenistan's President (digging) Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow's name is really long.

Yesterday we posted an elegiac farewell to the venerable Euphrates River, or at least the Iraqi portion. Today it is our happier task to welcome the nascent  man-made Golden Age Lake into the family of planetary bodies of water. (See the essential WaterWired on the same topic, but proper netiquette requires that you read this first, of course. More resources below.)

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Recently conceived in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan (you can locate it with the très cool Platial map in the right column), the lacustrine fetus is now in a lengthy period of gestation–to be slowly nourished by a intricate system of umbilical canals–in the sandy womb of the Karashor depression. (And with that, we drop the ridiculously overwrought birth metaphor.)

Eighty percent of Turkmenistan–which is roughly the size of California–is the black-sand Karakum desert. It’s understandable that the former Soviet republic would both want to “bring life” to the sand-covered immensity and to carry out what the AP article accurately calls “a Soviet-style engineering feat” to accomplish the transformation. What’s puzzling is why they think it will work.

You can read the article and the resources listed below for details. Broadly speaking, the Turkmen plan to create the lake by transferring excess water from the country’s soggy cotton fields to the northern Karashor depression via an enormous network of irrigation canals. Per the article:

Turkmen leaders say the massive lake will help drain water-logged cotton fields and encourage plant life and attract migratory birds to the desert.

And the hapless migratory birds will probably die, because, as critics of the project note, runoff from the cotton fields is heavily laced with toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

There is a long history of massive water transfers like this carried out by the Soviet Union that have devastated Central Asia’s water ecology. From the article:

For decades, Central Asia’s environment has suffered as a result of Soviet-era irrigation projects. The Aral Sea, which once lay on the border between the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was the world’s fourth-largest lake, but has since shrunk by almost 90 percent, devastating fisheries as salinity levels spiked.

Please see our two-part ranting and raving about the Aral Sea calamity here and here: a brief and bitter history of a beautiful lake-based ecological system teeming with life, now, despite current efforts at revivification, remain a wasteland of  brackish  lifeless “water” and sand.

See WaterWired for a more detailed explanation of the Turkmenistan project, written in a sardonic voice that rivals our own. It’s the work Michael E. ‘Aquadoc’ Campana–hydrogeologist and Professor of Geosciences at Oregon State University–who writes on 6/9/09 that the project may be shelved due to almost unanimous global dismay and scorn, but it looks like the bulldozers and shovels are up and running at this point.

Resources:

Michael provides this link to an excellent comprehensive Science magazine article on the project.

A four-page report that looks to have been done by a French organization tied to UNESCO. Maps and charts.

Other articles:

Turkmenistan to create desert sea

Turkmenistan tries to green its desert with manmade lake

Giant Turkmen Lake Sets Off Environmental Alarms