Category Archives: ISSUES

Issues about water

Water Labeling Systems under Consideration

February 25, 2011

Some experts are now calling for a labeling system so that consumers can have a better idea of how much water is used to grow agricultural products or manufacturer goods.

One of the leaders of the movement is Dr. Brent Clothier of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd., whose specialty is plant water use. He urged the introduction of a water labeling system at the Australian Society of Agronomy conference, held in Lincoln, New Zealand, toward the end of 2010.

Clothier believes a water-labeling system would increase consumer awareness of water use and encourage manufacturers to use less water to manufacture products.

“ENERGY STAR and WaterSense has been very successful in this way,” says Klaus Reichardt, founder and CEO ofWaterless Co. Inc., manufacturers of no-flush urinal systems. “They have made consumers much more energy and water conscious and encouraged manufacturers to make products that are more efficient.”

Reichardt cites two key reasons we are now hearing calls for a water-labeling system.

“The first is because we are becoming much more concerned about water shortages around the world and the other is due to recent studies that surprised many people, indicating just how much water is used to manufacture products we use every day,” he says.

Reichardt is referring to studies released in the past year that indicate:

  • An estimated 39,000 gallons of water are used to make one car;
  • Two thousand gallons are used to make tires for the car;
  • More than 1,800 gallons of water are necessary to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans;
  • One pound of plastic requires 24 gallons of water; and
  • One latte requires 53 gallons of water, which includes the water necessary to grow the coffee as well as to make the paper and plastic for the cup.

Although the water-labeling idea has not garnered government interest as yet, it is getting attention in private industry. Corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Coca-Cola Co. are getting much more water conscious.

Sustainable Facility

No Water Grabs!

Georgia is home to more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, but with a population of 9.8 million people these abundant water resources are being strained, especially in Metro Atlanta where more than 4 million of Georgia’s citizens reside. Unfortunately, Georgia’s largest metropolitan area sits in North Georgia near the state’s mountains where several of Georgia’s rivers begin, and where water is less abundant.

For example, each day on average, about 1.6 billion gallons of water flows by the City of Atlanta in the Chattahoochee River—the area’s primary drinking water source. By contrast, about 4.5 billion gallons flow by the City of Augusta in the Savannah, more than 3 billion gallons flow by Columbus in the Chattahoochee and some 4.4 billion gallons flow by Rome in the Coosa.

Because Georgia’s residents are not where Georgia’s water is, some special interests want to pipe or transfer the abundant water resources of Georgia’s smaller cities to Metro Atlanta to support that region’s continued economic growth. This process is usually referred to as “interbasin transfer” because water is moved from one river basin to another and not returned.

Interbasin transfers create conflicts between communities because water removed from a river and not returned is no longer available to sustain the economies of downstream communities or protect the health of the river and the wildlife that depend upon it.

Interbasin transfers currently take place in many parts of the state but most notably on the Chattahoochee and Coosa rivers. In 2008, the Chattahoochee lost 46.7 million gallons each day (MGD) while the Flint lost 11.7 MGD and the Coosa lost 9.7 MGD.

However, recent proposals for meeting Metro Atlanta’s water demands include the transfer of up to 150 MGD from the Savannah River system, 200 MGD from the Tennessee River system and even 200 MGD from South Georgia wells.

Such massive transfers could significantly impact the economic future of Georgia’s smaller communities and threaten our state’s natural resources.

Georgia needs to regulate interbasin transfers to protect our rivers and the future of all Georgia communities.

The state’s current laws regulating interbasin transfers are weak and should be strengthened.

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Find Water Polluters Near You

From Toxic Waters a NY Times series about the worsening pollution in American water and regulators’ responce.

Across the nation, the system that Congress created to protect the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act of 1972 today often fails to prevent pollution. The New York Times has compiled data on more than 200,000 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants and collected responses from states regarding compliance. Information about facilities contained in this database comes from two sources: the Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board. The database does not contain information submitted by the states. Full Story »

Washington State DOT held liable for Stormwater Runoff

Washington State Dept of Transportation held liable for Stormwater runoff under CERCLA

Started by Jeffrey Sutton P.E.,M.ASCE, Staff Engineering at Erlandsen & Associates

Federal Court Holds Washington State Liable
Under Superfund Law for Stormwater Runoff
In what may be a first case of its kind, a federal district judge has ruled that the Washington State Department of Transportation is liable for cleanup costs under the superfund law for highway stormwater runoff that contained hazardous substances (United States v. Washington State Dept. of Transportation, W.D. Wash., No. C08-5722, 6/7/10).
Judge Robert J. Bryan of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held in a June 7 order granting partial summary judgment to the federal government that the state was liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act because it arranged for the disposal of hazardous substances by designing the drainage systems for three highways—I-5, State Route 705, and State Route 509.
The runoff from the roadways drains into the Thea Foss and Wheeler Osgood waterways, which are located within the Commencement Bay-Nearshore Tideflats superfund site on Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash.
The state Transportation Department “arranged for disposal of hazardous substances. It is undisputed that [the department] designed the drainage systems at issue,” Bryan wrote. “Designing is an action directed to a specific purpose. The purpose was to discharge the highway runoff into the environment. [The department] had knowledge that the runoff contained hazardous substances, and there was an actual release of the hazardous substances into the environment.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commencement Bay-Nearshore Tideflats Superfund Site in Tacoma occupies 12 square miles and includes more than 300 active businesses, with almost 500 sources of contamination (142 DEN A-7, 7/28/09).
Bryan wrote in his order that highway runoff from the three highways contained the following hazardous substances: phthalates, cadmium, lead, zinc, nickel, and petroleum hydrocarbons.
Deborah L. Cade, state assistant attorney general, said the opinion is the first of its kind in using CERCLA to control stormwater runoff.
“There is no evidence in his case that the stormwater runoff is anything other than stormwater runoff. It’s just rainwater that falls on the highway,” The United States brought suit against the state transportation department on Dec. 2, 2008, seeking to recover its costs incurred in response to the releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances to the two waterways, located in Tacoma.
Response Costs Set at $6.8 Million
The United States alleged that, as of June 30, 2008, it had incurred at least $6.8 million in unreimbursed response costs linked to the Thea Foss and Wheeler Osgood Waterways.
Because the court found the department to be an arranger under CERCLA, Bryan wrote that he did not need to address whether the department was an owner or operator of the superfund site.
Arranger liability under CERCLA provides that one who disposes of or treats any hazardous substance will be liable for a subsequent release of such hazardous substance into the environment.
The state agency defended itself against the allegations of the federal government by claiming that it did not fall under one of the classes of responsible parties under the superfund law.
The United States countered that by claiming the department “arranged for disposal by designing, constructing, and operating drainage systems whose sole function was to collect highway runoff and dispose of it into nearby water-bodies,” according to the June 7 decision.

Find Water Polluters Near You

Not in my backyard. Check out your state from the list below

Search data on more than 200,000 facilities around the nation permitted to discharge pollutants.

From an article by the New York Times

Toxic Waters

A series about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators’ response

Pool Evaporation

Pool Evap ChartTo prevent hundreds of gallons of water from being wasted, MMWD recommends installing a pool cover. Water is lost during the day due to evaporation, and at night, because of evaporation lost through nighttime temperature drop.

To use the chart, measure your weekly water loss at the pool’s tile line (a grease pencil works well to mark the level). Then look up the pool size and amount evaporated on the chart to determine the approximate evaporation loss. For example, 1″ decrease per week from a 16′ x 32′ pool equals 320 gallons of water lost per week.

Please note that this chart does not include “splash out.”

House Passes Landmark Legislation Addressing the Integration of Energy and Water Research

Alliance for Water Efficiency News Update

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On Tuesday the House of Representatives approved by voice vote H.R. 3598, the Energy and Water Integration Act, which addresses the critical nexus between energy and water resources. The bill was introduced by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and directs the Department of Energy to better integrate water into existing federal research, technology and development efforts.

In a recent letter to Chairman Gordon, AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson wrote that, “the bill would provide a much-needed research focus on the connection between water and energy, requiring strategic examination of the critical energy-water connection. Water efficiency has historically received little attention in federal policy initiatives. H.R. 3598 changes that.”

The legislation directs DOE to advance energy efficiency technologies and practices that would minimize water consumption, increase water use efficiency, utilize nontraditional water sources, consider the effects climate change may have on water quality and quantity, and improve understanding of the energy required to provide water supplies and the water required to provide energy supplies. Two hundred forty million dollars of funding would be authorized between 2011 and 2015 for energy and water related research.

The Alliance will continue to monitor this legislation.

More information can be found on AWE’s Legislative Watch Page and on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology Press Release Page.

Updated Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies

On December 3, 2009, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released a proposal to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for their review that would significantly change the principles and guidelines that govern America’s water resource planning.  The proposal would require that such projects help to improve the economic well-being of the Nation for present and future generations, better protect communities from the effects of floods and storms, help communities and individuals make better choices about where to build based on an understanding of the risk, and protect and restore the environment.

The proposal calls for the development of water resources projects to be based on sound science, increased consideration of both monetary and non-monetary benefits to justify and select a project, improved transparency, and consideration of nonstructural approaches that can solve the flooding problem without adversely impacting floodplain functions.  The proposal would also expand the scope of the Principals and Guidelines to cover all Federal agencies that undertake water resource projects.

The Administration sent the new draft Principles and Guidelines to both the Federal Register for public comment and, in accordance with WRDA 2007, to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for its review.  The NAS review is expected to be completed by November 2010.  Additionally, CEQ is taking public comment on the new draft Principles and Guidelines for 90 days.

Federal water planning has been guided by a process that has remained largely unchanged for over twenty-five years. The first set of “Principles and Standards” was issued in September 1973 to guide the preparation of river basin plans and to evaluate federal water projects.  Following a few attempts to revise those initial standards, the current principles and guidelines went into effect in March 1983.

In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress instructed the Secretary of the Army to develop a new Principles and Guidelines for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (section 2031).  In an effort to modernize the approach to water resources development, the Obama Administration is expanding the scope of the Principals and Guidelines to cover all federal agencies that undertake water resource projects, not just the four agencies (i.e., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority) which are subject to the current Principles and Guidelines.

The revised Principles and Guidelines include a number of important changes that modernize the current approach to water resources development in this country, which include:

Achieving Co-Equal Goals: The Administration’s proposal reiterates that federal water resources planning and development should both protect and restore the environment and improve the economic well-being of the nation for present and future generations. While the 1983 standards emphasized economic development alone, the new approach calls for development of water resources projects based on sound science that maximize net national economic, environmental, and social benefits.

Considering Monetary and Non-Monetary Benefits: The revised Principles and Guidelines shift away from the earlier approach to project selection.  Specifically, this revised version will consider both monetary and non-monetary benefits to justify and select a project that has the greatest net benefits – regardless of whether those benefits are monetary or non-monetary.  For example, the monetary benefits might capture reduced damages measured in dollars while the non-monetary benefits might capture increased fish and wildlife benefits, or biodiversity.

Avoiding the Unwise Use of Floodplains: The new Principles and Guidelines represent significant progress in the way we manage our floodplain resources. The decision to modify water resources and floodplains will be based on evaluations of the services gained and lost by such an action.   Only those actions that provide a net benefit will be further pursued or recommended for construction.  For the first time such evaluations must give full and equal consideration to nonstructural approaches that can solve the flooding problem without adversely impacting floodplain functions.

Increasing Transparency and “Good Government” Results: The revised Principles and Guidelines are intended to significantly increase the transparency of the planning and implementation process for water resource development projects in this country.  The proposed changes were made to deliver “good government” results for the American people.  It is expected that the use of best science, peer review, and full transparency will ensure that projects undergo a more rigorous study process, which should inform authorization and funding decisions.

Moving forward the interagency work will focus on the development of the “Procedures” which lay out the detailed methodology for conducting implementation studies under this new Principles and Guidelines.  The interagency process to develop those procedures will begin almost immediately and will likely take more than a year to complete.

Each agency will develop its own “Implementation Guidance” to outline how the new Principles and Guidelines apply to their agency-specific missions completed in late 2010.


Proposed Revisions to the National Objectives, Principles and Standards for Water and Land Resources Implementation Studies for review within 90 days (pdf)

2008 work on the revision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which includes the current 1983 version of the P&G

Public Comments on the Revision of the 1983 P&G

A webinar was held on July 13, 2009 to explain and receive comments on the revision of the 1983 P&G. The following documents are available:

July 1, 2009 Federal Register Notice

Webinar Presentation (ppt)

Webinar Attendees (xls)

Public Comments on the Webinar (pdf)

Homeowners Lack Knowledge of Green Yard Practices

According to a 2008 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), many homeowners aren’t up to speed on the benefits of sustainable landscape practices — but they’d be willing to try if given more information. The survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASLA, showed that while 96 percent of U.S. adults have adopted sustainable or energy-efficient practices inside the home, only 58 percent use energy- or water-saving techniques in their yard, lawn or garden.

Of those involved in the care of a residential yard, lawn or garden, only 29 percent planted shade trees to lower energy costs; 23 percent used maintenance methods that reduce fuel consumption, exhaust and emissions (such as using a rake instead of a leaf blower); 15 percent harvested rainwater or used recycled water to water plants; and 11 percent used drip irrigation.

The survey also examined these homeowners’ attitudes about sustainable landscape practices. Only 13 percent disagreed with the statement “I would use more ‘green’ yard practices if I knew more about them.” Sixteen percent disagreed with “Using ‘green’ practices in my yard takes little extra effort and time,” and 19 percent disagreed with “Using ‘green’ practices in my yard saves me money.”

“You probably see a similar gap in consumer awareness as you do with builders and some of the other groups in the design and construction industry,” says Nancy Somerville, ASLA’s executive vice president and CEO. Clearly, there is an opportunity here to enlighten both the housing industry and the public.

© 2009, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.


U.S. Department of Energy/Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy/Building Technologies Program/Residential Buildings (climate zones)

Building Science Corp. (building homes in different climate zones)

Background on synthetic turf

Membrane bioreactor system (advanced water treatment technology)

GreenScapes web site (tips for contractors, homeowners)

Forbes: Atlanta the ‘most toxic’ U.S. city

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Forbes magazine has ranked Atlanta the nation’s “most toxic” city.

“In Atlanta, Ga., you’ll find southern gentility, a world-class music scene–and 21,000 tons of environmental waste,” noted. “In spite of its charms, the city’s combination of air pollution, contaminated land and atmospheric chemicals makes it the most toxic city in the country.”

Forbes said it looked at the country’s 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas based on data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It then counted the number of facilities that reported releasing toxins into the environment, the total pounds of certain toxic chemicals released into the air, water and earth, the days per year that air pollution was above healthy levels, and the total number of Superfund sites (contaminated areas that the federal government has designated for cleanup efforts) in each city.

According to the data, Atlanta has 58 Superfund sites, 277 facilities releasing toxic chemicals, 41.5 million pounds of released toxic chemicals, and the 28th-worst air quality.

The least toxic was Las Vegas.