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2005 U.S. Regional Water News


December, 2005

Some residents of the area around Kingman, Arizona fear major planned developments spell trouble for region's water supply

A group that opposes any changes to the area's master plan says the 100-year water supply from the local aquifer could be reduced by more than ten years if planned projects are approved. AP/KVOA_ 12/27/05

Lack of water inhibits development in southwest Minnesota; it's a growing U.S. issue

In southwestern Minnesota, a lack of water has been thwarting the development of new factories and ethanol plants and forcing utilities to pump water through thousands of miles of pipelines just to meet existing demands. The water shortage in the farming region of the state foreshadows problems that are expected to become common throughout the United States in coming decades, water resource experts said. The water supplies in the region are stressed by farmer's needs for irrigation and livestock while at the same time pesticide runoff has polluted groundwater, diminishing supply. Furthermore, slaughterhouses and the plants to make ethanol and process soybeans use hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year. AP/Grand Forks Herald_ 12/26/05

Nebraska Legislature parched for ideas on reaching compliance with the Republican River compact

Lawmakers from border to border wondered how to resolve Nebraska's overuse of Republican River water, and at what price. Last week, the Nebraska Water Policy Task Force strongly recommended that the Legislature explore the potential for a ballot referendum to create a source of funding to provide millions of dollars for water and environmental issues, including the Republican River problem and the state's water law. The task force said it favored sales taxes as the funding source. The State Department of Natural Resources acknowledged in November that Nebraska is on track to use more Republican River water than allowed under a 1943 agreement with Kansas. If Nebraska is judged to be out of compliance, the state could be fined millions of dollars, and a large number of irrigated acres of southwest and south-central Nebraska cropland could be shut down. Compliance begins next year, under terms of a 2002 out-of-court settlement in a U.S. Supreme Court case. Omaha World-Herald_ 12/26/05 (logon required)

Report: Few Great Lakes cities push water conservation; Chicago is the exception to the rule

Chicago's easy access to the vast blue waters of Lake Michigan is enough to make Las Vegas and Phoenix green with envy. The Windy City and its suburbs draw about 900 million gallons from the lake every day under a unique arrangement sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It virtually guarantees the biggest metro area on Great Lakes a reliable, seemingly inexhaustible water source.  But that hasn't stopped Chicago from waging one of the region's most aggressive campaigns for conservation. It began two years ago, when Mayor Richard Daley warned that relentless development and wasteful habits could jeopardize a water supply long taken for granted.  He proposed a wide-ranging strategy, with conservation as a centerpiece. Many of the Great Lakes region's public water systems encourage efficiency, said David Koch, who heads the Michigan section of the American Water Works Association. But a 2004 study by the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission suggests that comprehensive strategies such as Chicago's are the exception, not the rule.  Lansing State Journal_ 12/14/05

Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers sign water sharing agreement

The Great Lakes governors or their representatives signed an unprecedented agreement Tuesday that could legally obligate their eight states to keep the lakes' water from going to other states and countries thirsty for fresh water supplies. The premiers of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario signed a companion agreement that requires them to be consulted on large water diversion decisions, but would not be legally binding. The agreement allows water to be transferred from the lakes only to communities within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. The compact requires the approval of legislatures in all eight states before Congress could consider making the agreement law. AP/KARE 11_ 12/13/05

New Mexico state engineer's office holds hearings on new rules for declaring and extending 15 underground water basins

The purpose of the basin declarations and extensions is to provide for the statewide administration of underground water and to accurately account for and administer the resources to users. Without the new rules in place, the office says it fears New Mexico's access to valid and existing water rights will be impaired. The areas being declared and extended encompass approximately 11,500 square miles. The new rules give the state engineer jurisdiction over all underground waters in the state. New Mexico Business Weekly_ 12/9/05

November, 2005

Cut Bank, Montana offers water assistance to Blackfeet Tribe

The Blackfeet Tribe is undertaking a $1.5 million Phase II Water Project. Cut Bank City Attorney Robert G. Olson said the city could share technical expertise with the tribe and save it "many thousands of dollars" in areas such as ensuring everyone who draws water from the system is on a meter. Cut Bank Pioneer Press_ 11/30/05

For high-dollar rights to water, Colorado's the place: Feature included in Part 3 of Denver Post series

When Idaho bought water rights on the Snake River this year to protect trout, it paid farmers $325 per acre-foot - about 326,000 gallons. In Colorado, cities buying water for human use have paid farmers as much as $20,000 per acre-foot. A series of studies based on available sales reports has ranked Colorado at or near the top of the price chart, even in comparison with desert states. One study published last year showed Colorado water sales prices averaging three to seven times the prices paid in most Western states. Denver Post_ 11/22/05

Records sketchy on who owns Colorado water: Part 2 of Denver Post series

Though the right to use water is treated like property, it's not recorded like property. Changes in ownership often are not recorded publicly anywhere. The fog this creates benefits lawyers, engineers and title companies that get paid to ferret out the identities of the owners and the values of their rights. Those experts don't come cheap, and their bills contribute to the high price of Colorado water. Denver Post_ 11/21/05

Denver Post series: 1st of four parts: Turning water into gold

Everyone who buys a house in Denver's growing suburbs pays a hidden price for water. That first twist of the faucet in a new suburban home costs as much as $24,424 - more than twice the amount charged in any U.S. city outside metro Denver surveyed last year by the American Water Works Association. In Colorado, water is property, and in much of the state, somebody already owns a right to use every gallon. Getting that water requires entering a volatile market where prices can double in an instant. The competition for water to fuel metro Denver's growth has created an unregulated and often untraceable commodities market in Colorado - one that is making a lot of people wealthy and has encouraged private investors to look for new and profitable ways to deliver water to the Front Range. Denver Post_ 11/20/05

Negotiators reach deal on Great Lakes water protections

After four years of talks, negotiators have reached a deal aimed at preventing outsiders from raiding Great Lakes water and encouraging more efficient use of the coveted resource within the region. The agreement was motivated largely by fears that states in the booming _ and arid _ Southwest will try tapping into the lakes, which hold 90 percent of the nation's fresh surface water, as their populations and political clout grow. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the agreement, which would outlaw most new or increased diversions of water _ including groundwater, inland lakes and rivers as well as the Great Lakes _ from the basin.

Regulation of water use within the basin would be left up to each state and province, in keeping with standards designed to protect the ecosystem. They would be required to adopt conservation programs. They also would set their own policies on bottling water from the Great Lakes region, a particularly contentious issue. Many environmentalists say bottling water and selling it outside the basin is no less a diversion than shipping it away in tankers or through pipes. AP/Newsday_ 11/18/05

Southern California water leaders adopt new long-range plan

San Diego regional water officials adopted a new 25-year water supply plan Thursday that counts heavily upon residents cutting water use more than ever before. The plan also will rely on the building of plants to turn seawater into drinking water and boosting ground water and waste-water uses. The 191-page plan, approved by the San Diego County Water Authority board, spells out exactly how and from where residents can expect to get all the water they will need through 2030. The Water Authority supplies nearly all the water county residents use each year, mainly by buying and importing water from the Colorado River and Northern California.  North County Times_11/18/05

New U.S.-Canada study says no invasive species in Devils Lake, North Dakota water

But the Manitoba government says it remains concerned, because the study found some types of algae and fish parasites that might harm aquatic life in Canada. North Dakota started draining water this year from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne River, which empties into the Red River and Lake Winnipeg. Manitoba tried to block the project in the courts, but lost. The new study by U.S. and Canadian scientists was aimed at addressing Manitoba's concerns that the lake water might contaminate Canadian waterways. Manitoba Water Stewardship Minister Steve Ashton says the results are encouraging, but he wants the U.S. and Canadian governments to continue negotiations on a new filtration system that could keep algae and parasites from flowing northward. CP/Grand Forks Herald_ 11/15/05

California's Lake Arrowhead water use argued

In a state office filled with men and women in suits - the dress type, not the sort one swims in - Lake Arrowhead residents and officials argued whether man made their mountaintop lake simply to play in or to sustain an ever-growing community. Tuesday was a history lesson on the century-old lake. At stake is whether the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District can continue sticking its straw into the reservoir and deliver water to its 11,000 customers who depend upon the pristine liquid to bath in and drink. The state board's investigative staff says the district has been illegally diverting water for 27 years to customers instead of leaving it as a recreation-only lake. Lawyers and experts for the district counter that the lake has always been used for domestic purposes, and what sense, both rationally and financially, did it make to overturn all of that history.  San Bernardino County Sun_11/9/05

Water agreement declared in California's Lake Arrowhead--or maybe not
An agreement announced Saturday between well-heeled homeowners and a water district is being portrayed as cooperation that gives the resort community one united voice. It came just two days before community services district board elections and a crucial water-rights hearing in Sacramento. But a Lake Arrowhead Community Services District board member says that while the agreement itself is a great idea, it was reached illegally, without public vote or public input. And a state hearing on rights to drinking water from the man-made reservoir will take place Tuesday as planned, said Liz Kanter, spokeswoman for the State Water Resources Control Board. Responding to a complaint made by district board member Ted Heyck and the Arrowhead Lake Association, the Water Resources Control Board issued a preliminary order to the district in August to stop drawing water from Lake Arrowhead and to impose a temporary injunction on new water hookups, pending the outcome of Tuesday's water-rights hearing. San Bernardino County Sun_ 11/6/05

Wyoming Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to issue temporary Teton River Basin decree by Dec. 29

The decree is part of the state's water adjudication process to define pre-1973 water claims. The document contains more than 2,500 existing water rights and "issue remarks" that must be removed before Chief Water Judge C. Bruce Loble issues the final decree. Along with issuing the temporary preliminary decree, the Water Court will hold several meetings and will open a comment period for objections to the water-right claims. Choteau Acantha_ 11/2/05

Raleigh, North Carolina enacts mandatory water conservation; Durham may follow

Raleigh residents can water their lawns only three days a week and can't wash sidewalks, patios and parking lots under mandatory restrictions imposed by the City Council. The new rules also allow car washing only at professional facilities. Violators can be fined up to $500. The council took conservation measures after Falls Lake, the city's drinking water reservoir, fell 7 feet below its normal level. The eight Wake County towns that buy water from the city must also adhere to the restrictions. Mandatory restrictions also are being considered in Durham and they could come next week, said Vicki Westbrook of that city's Department of Water Management. Durham's two sources are down -- Lake Michie is 12 feet below normal and Little River Reservoir is down nearly 20 feet. The Raleigh-Durham area is 7 1/2 inches short of its normal 37 inch rainfall for the year. Herald-Sun_ 11/2/05

October, 2005

California Water Wars: The flow is to farms
After 50 years of legal infighting, a victor has emerged in California's water wars -- agriculture. A decade after environmentalists prevailed in getting more fresh water down the north state's rivers and estuaries to improve fisheries and wildlife habitat, farmers are again triumphant. Central Valley irrigation districts are signing federal contracts that assure their farms ample water for the next 25 to 50 years. The Bush administration is driving the trend, reversing Clinton-era policies that eased agriculture's grip on the state's reservoirs and aqueducts. But the Central Valley's largest irrigation districts have also extended their influence by mending alliances with the south state's big urban water districts, repairing a rupture that environmentalists had exploited. San Francisco Chronicle_ 10/23/05

Wyoming judge: State owns methane water

Landowners have no right to prevent waste water from coal-bed methane wells from flowing through established waterways on their property, a state judge has ruled. In a written decision last week, District Judge Keith G. Kautz said, "Any water within a natural stream belongs to the state, whatever the source of that water." The judge ruled that the state retains an easement over all watercourses that includes the right to allow water to flow over private property. Some landowners don't want the coal-bed methane water, particularly from upstream activity where the downstream landowner doesn't have any say over the development. Environmental groups say a decision that gives industry the right to water easements over private property would amount to giving it condemnation powers, particularly given the poor quality of coal-bed methane water. However, Kautz ruled that the quality of coal-bed methane water is not an issue in the case before him. AP/Billings Gazette_ 10/17/05

September, 2005

State Engineer acts to add underground water basins to New Mexico control
The New Mexico State Engineer's Office has identified and declared six regions in the state as new underground water basins and has extended the boundaries of nine existing underground water basins, actions which give the state agency jurisdiction over the appropriation and use of those waters. The newly identified basins, as well as the ones being extended, encompass nearly 11,500 square miles and cover nearly 9.5 percent of the state. The State Engineer's Office has had jurisdiction over the appropriation and use of surface waters in the state since 1907. New Mexico Business Weekly_ 9/27/05

Michigan Senate GOP offers plan to regulate state groundwater

The state would have oversight of some Michigan farms, businesses and other groundwater users that withdraw more than 100,000 gallons a day under a plan outlined by Senate Republicans. The legislation, which will be introduced next month, could require state permits for new and expanding large-scale groundwater users but only if their withdrawals would hurt key natural resources. Unlike a plan proposed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the GOP legislation would not apply to surface water. Concerns have risen that the region's waters are vulnerable to diversion outside the basin. AP/Lansing State Journal_ 9/16/05

Rural Nevada county OKs developer's water plan

One step closer to moving rural water to 50,000 planned homes near Las Vegas

Commissioners in nearby Lincoln County have approved a deal that could help powerful Nevada lawyer, lobbyist and developer Harvey Whittemore use a Las Vegas water agency's planned pipelines to move water about 130 miles to his new development. But the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is to build the pipelines to carry water from rural Nevada to the urban area in the south, isn't a party to the agreement. The agreement passed last week by the Lincoln County Commission, acting as the county's water district, states that the county would support the pipeline project - if the Water Authority agrees with the district "to provide water developed and produced within Lincoln County to the Coyote Springs Development."  Las Vegas Sun_9/13/05

Everglades water plant $5 million closer

The 30,000 people living around polluted Lake Okeechobee could not afford to build a water treatment plant when bidders in April said it would cost at least $25 million. They still cannot afford to build the Lake Region Water Treatment Plant now that new bids came in last week $5 million cheaper. But the savings demonstrate that the county is being prudent in its efforts to provide safe drinking water to Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay and surrounding areas. That should matter to taxpayers — and, especially, to the South Florida Water Management District.  Palm Beach County water utility officials were forced to tweak the design and other requirements for the plant after state lawmakers agreed to spend just $200,000 — instead of the requested $2.5 million. Belle Glade also recently refinanced a $9.6 million water and sewer bond, to save $360,000 a year in interest payments. The costs of the water plant are so great — at least $44 million, including land, wells, pipelines and construction — that the savings look better than they feel. Opinion_ Palm Beach Post 8/30/05

Wisconsin water hearing draws hundreds

Lake Michigan water debate

Water-starved Waukesha will cap its daily water consumption at about 20 million gallons daily if a draft agreement that protects Great Lakes water regulates ground water, and not just surface water, the city's top water official said Monday.
Dan Duchniak, manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, said the draft agreement must recognize that many Waukesha County communities already use Lake Michigan water by tapping into the same deep aquifer that replenishes the lake.

"We already use Lake Michigan ground water," Duchniak said. "And we believe the use of Great Lakes ground water should be regulated with the same protections as Great Lakes surface water." The Great Lakes Council of Governors, which oversees water use of the lakes, is revising a draft agreement released last year on how it can best rehabilitate the Great Lakes environment and prevent its water from being piped to thirsty Western states or even bottled for other countries.  Journal Sentinel_8/23/05 logon required

Illinois drought task force sees little relief in sight, but drinking water supply OK

The task force met for the first time to look at the drought that is sweeping across Illinois and could get worse in the next two weeks. The task force reported that the state's drinking supply is not in danger. So far, 89 of the state's 102 counties have reported drought conditions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 37 percent of the state's corn crop is being rated poor to very poor, 27 percent of the soybean crop was given a similar grade. Herald & Review_ 7/8/05

California county set to adopt water management plan

A regional plan for the implementation of Proposition 50, the Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act, will go before the Lake County, Board of Supervisors.  The proposition provides $500 million for water management projects that "protect communities from drought, protect and improve water quality, and improve local water security by reducing dependence on imported water. Lake County Record-Bee _7/5/05

Judge threatens Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power with sanctions over Owens River flow

After chastising the DWP for "piddling around," Inyo County Superior Court Judge Lee F. Cooper ruled that the agency should face sanctions for missing a series of deadlines to restore a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River. Proposed sanctions will be considered at a hearing scheduled for July 25. They could include a fine or limitations on the DWP's pumping of Owens Valley groundwater to Los Angeles. Such limits could cost about $7.5 million a year, roughly the amount that Los Angeles saves annually by delaying the Lower Owens River Project. DWP officials said they would have no comment until they reviewed Cooper's written decision. The project is more than two years behind schedule. The river was reduced to a nearly dry channel in 1913 when the Owens River Aqueduct began delivering water to Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times_ 6/25/05 (logon required)

Wyoming Water Development Commission considers huge pipeline to move Green River water across the Continental Divide to the North Platte River

Such a project could aid growth in Cheyenne, Casper and Laramie while protecting irrigators' water rights, commission Director Mike Besson said. But opposition has already arisen among environmentalists and southwest Wyoming residents, and the estimated costs range into the hundreds of millions. Denver Post_ 6/16/05

Southern California's Metropolitan Water District approves $1.69 billion budget for 2005-06

From July 1 to June 30 of next year, the capital budget is $500.6 million, covering more than 30 major construction contracts and 340 projects, according to MWD officials. Key system improvements will include the construction of the Inland Feeder and two other new major imported water lines; expansion of a water treatment plant serving southwest Riverside and San Diego counties; and the addition of ozone treatment facilities at two district filtration plants, which are needed to meet increasingly rigorous water quality regulations, according to the MWD. MWD is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies. North County Times_ 6/14/05

May, 2005

Extra water flows down California's San Joaquin River, allowing groundwater recharge

The fresh flowing water is also letting farm representatives and environmentalists involved in a court battle over the best use for the river's water to study its flow, and understand what it would take to bring back the San Joaquin River's long-dead salmon runs. The 17-year court battle over the San Joaquin will come to a head when the trial starts in February, pitting a coalition of environmental organizations led by the NRDC against the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Friant Dam, and other agricultural water agencies. The case is being watched closely by farmers and environmental advocates, but it's resolution could impact water consumers around the state. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/31/05

North Dakota's Devils Lake flood project spurs US-Canada dispute

North Dakota says it has a solution to the lake's spread and beginning July 1, wants to divert water ultimately to the Red River in Canada. But that $25 million plan has caused an uproar across the border, where Canadian politicians worry the water will bring pollution that will harm a valuable fishery. In Canada, the Red drains into Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg, the world's 10th largest freshwater lake. Although its water quality has not been extensively studied, critics say landlocked Devils Lake has especially high concentrations of pollutants because runoff from farms and populated areas accumulates there. Reuters_ 5/30/05

Heavy rains in April raise Lake Erie water level 1 foot

Lake Erie is a foot higher than a year ago, thanks to heavy rains in northern Ohio last month. Plus, the upper Great Lakes, which drain into Lake Erie, are slightly higher than in the past few years, so they are sending more water into Erie.  "This happens," said George Cotroneo, a hydrologic engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. "The lakes go up and down a bit. It's not unusual. There's nothing we can do but watch." 

Cleveland Plain Dealer_5/17/05 logon required

Wet year in California sparks battle over water basin

A battle between cities and Southern California's large regional water agencies is looming over whether more water --as much as double the current amount -- can be stored in the region's underground basins. The issue will come to a head Wednesday when the replenishment district's board considers an ordinance setting up interim rules dealing with the process of approving water storage projects.  The basins are 420 square miles in area, from the Los Angeles International Airport to the Orange County border and from the Whittier hills to the coastline. Long Beach Press Telegram _ 5/15/05

Water for wildlife is water for people

The No. 1 wildlife conservation issue facing Texas today is making sure there is enough clean water flowing in our rivers and into our coastal estuaries. It's a topic that affects all Texans today, and all those who will come tomorrow.  It's an urgent challenge, because the water in many river basins is already appropriated -- in some cases, over-appropriated. This means that if every water-right holder fully exercises those rights, there could be no river flow in times of drought.  But we have time to make decisions that will make a difference.  For the first time in 150 years of Texas water law, a bill would actively set aside a certain amount of water for wildlife and environment before it is all permitted for other uses.  Star-Telegram (Opinion)_ 5/15/05 Logon Required

Fear prevails, cuts clean-water effort

Fear is powerful. Feed it with misinformation, and it can do horrible things.  It almost destroyed efforts to protect water quality in southwest Missouri. Those efforts were diminished, not for any rational reason but because legislators would not stand up to rumors and paranoia.  News-Leader (Opinion)_5/15/05

Full reservoirs scuttle Arizona's zeal for longterm water planning

This was supposed to be the year when a devastating drought forced state lawmakers to join hands with Gov. Janet Napolitano and pass legislation that ensured a long-term water supply for Arizona. It never happened. Most of the 10 water-conservation and planning bills that were proposed were either scuttled or diluted because of opposition from rural lawmakers and small-government advocates. Backers of the measures feared that if the Legislature couldn't enact major changes this year, after nine years of drought and support from Napolitano, the ideas might not gain a foothold in future sessions. The ability to manage water use outside Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and other urban areas was considered crucial to ensuring a water supply for coming generations. Arizona Republic_ 5/5/05 (logon required)

Federal hearing draws flood of testimony against Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to pump water from rural Nevada to Las Vegas

The Bureau of Land Management conducted the hearing as part of its environmental impact statement analysis of the water authority's effort to bring as much as 200,000 acre-feet of water from rural Nevada to Las Vegas. The local agency hopes to begin importing the water by 2015. The meetings have generated nearly unanimous opposition to the wells and pipelines in what could be a $1 billion project. Environmentalists have not always agreed with ranchers from the West Desert, but the two groups are united in their opposition to the plan. Even ranchers from Utah made the long trek to Las Vegas to let Southern Nevada know of their concerns. Las Vegas Sun_ 5/5/05

April, 2005

Michigan Senate Democrats to hold hearings on Great Lakes and other water bills

Michigan is the only state in the region that hasn't passed laws to regulate large-scale withdrawals from the Great Lakes. A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema said the chamber won't take up the legislation until its sees the results of a law requiring an inventory of the state's groundwater. Democrats will also push for legislation to prevent sewage from entering lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to allow new federal standards that would let communities dump partially treated sewage into local waterways during heavy rainfalls. AP/Detroit News_ 4/23/05

New Mexico and Navajo Nation reach water rights settlement for San Juan Basin

To go into effect, the agreement asks Congress to pay for the $800 million settlement. Gov. Bill Richardson, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and other officials signed the settlement, the product of several years of negotiations over water rights in northwestern New Mexico. But Republican Sen. Pete Domenici said "the harsh truth is that legislation authorizing the Navajo settlement will be very difficult to fund given the huge budget deficit confronting the nation." Under the pact, the Navajo Nation will have rights to about 56 percent of the projected water in the basin that is available for use in New Mexico. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 4/20/05

Raising the Colorado River by razing the trees
Still struggling with drought on the Colorado River despite a winter of bountiful storms in the Southwest, water managers are dusting off provocative ideas for filling the river — among them, logging mountainsides to wring more runoff out of national forests and seeding clouds to pull more snow out of the sky. But logging has critics cringing. Officials are also talking of reactivating a much criticized desalting plant near Yuma and building new storage basins along a Southern California canal that draws from the Colorado, one of the West's main water supplies. About 25 million people from Colorado to Southern California depend on the river for at least some of their water. Los Angeles Times_ 4/17/05 (logon required)

March, 2005

Colorado House OKs round-table water talks to end conflict

The House gave its final approval to a bill that would establish round-table talks in each water basin to encourage cooperation rather than conflict on water. Colorado history is rife with tales of water wars, of accusations of water grabs and of Western Slope residents accusing the Front Range of stealing water. Rocky Mountain News_ 3/31/05

Nez Perce Tribal Executive Council OKs $193 million Idaho Snake River water agreement

The council's approval was the last step needed to ratify the agreement, which was negotiated over five years with the federal government, the state government and Idaho water users. The tribe's claims were based on the Nez Perce Treaty of 1855, when the tribe retained fishing rights in exchange for giving up millions of acres. Idaho Statesman_ 3/30/05

Moab, Utah's mound of radioactive waste should be moved to protect Colorado River: Water officials

The 12 million-ton pile of radioactive goo, including uranium, radium and radon is a nuclear pile that sits 750 feet from the Colorado River and, water officials say, threatens downstream water supplies in Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. But with a summertime deadline for a decision drawing near, U.S. Department of Energy officials who will decide the pile's fate have refused to endorse the idea of moving it. Instead, department officials say they're also studying the idea of covering the pile with a liner or burying it. North County Times_ 3/16/05

Colorado state senate passes bill limiting water rights for recreational use
Supporters say it will level the playing field among all water users. Opponents, however, say the bill would lower the status of recreational water rights and have far-reaching effects on Colorado’s system of prior appropriation in water law. Senate Bill 62 would make recreational water rights subordinate to other water rights, in particular future upstream water storage and water development projects, and limit the maximum water quantity of a recreational in-stream diversion to 350 cubic feet per second. Grand Junction Daily Sentinel_ 3/2/05

Michigan Congresswoman seeks $2.5 million federal study of Great Lakes' water loss

An engineering study commissioned by a homeowners group concluded earlier this year that lakes Michigan and Huron have permanently lost a foot of water since 1970. Ongoing erosion in the St. Clair riverbed, caused in part by dredging shipping lanes and other manmade changes, has allowed more water to rush downstream, said W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers of Toronto. The study cast doubt on the prevailing theory that recent low lakes levels are due solely to long-term fluctuations, which typically run in 30- to 40-year cycles. The federal study proposed by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township would be conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers and the International Joint Commission, a binational group assisting U.S. and Canadian governments in managing boundary waters. Detroit Free Press_ 3/3/05

February, 2005

Las Vegas: A city that bets on water


In this city of histrionic architecture, the building that matters most may be the bland, low-slung headquarters of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The general manager since the authority was formed in 1991, the elegant, no-nonsense Pat Mulroy, 52, is determined to prevent a water shortage from inhibiting the growth of this city, which is dedicated to the proposition that inhibitions are sinful.

The Washington Post_2/26/05

State water board approves logging plan on north coast

Firm threatens bankruptcy

California water officials agreed Friday to allow Pacific Lumber Co. to conduct limited logging in environmentally fragile areas after the timber giant threatened to declare bankruptcy if it wasn't allowed to cut more trees.  The decision by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board allows the company to cut up to 50 percent of the annual 1,100-acre harvest limit in two Humboldt County watersheds. Residents there had complained that logging operations have caused flooding and property damage.  Residents told the water board that they believe logging in the two watersheds, has ruined water supplies, damaged septic tanks and caused flooding that trapped them in their homes.  Mercury News _2/26/05 (Logon Required)

Denver-area water plan sets regional limits but Western Slope lawmakers wary

The long-awaited legislation would set up a regional board to oversee the delivery of water to Arapahoe and Douglas counties through billions of dollars' worth of plumbing and reservoirs. The bill was introduced after months of bickering about its language. Legislators outside metro Denver have been wary of efforts by the urban region to buy water and drain farms and small towns. Still, they have quashed bills that mandated water conservation and mitigation for river basins that provide water to other areas. Denver Post_ 2/22/05

Bush administration to sign contracts allowing California's Central Valley growers to reap substantial profits for decades selling water rights to metropolitan areas

The more than 200 contracts — governing most of the water from the massive federal Central Valley Project — will give the valley's agribusiness interests control over the single largest allotment of water in the state for the next 50 years. The pacts will commit the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to deliveries that have harmed the environment in Northern and Central California. And they will pledge to farmers the same amount of water that they received four decades ago, despite projections that Central Valley agriculture will use less water in the years to come because of more efficient irrigation and the spread of cities into farm regions. Environmental organizations, groups that monitor federal spending and congressional critics contend that the Bush administration has crafted the new contracts to benefit big farmers. Bennett Raley, who oversaw negotiations for the new contracts as the assistant secretary of Interior for water and science before resigning late last year, defended the plans. The contracts were designed to "provide for stability and functioning markets," he said, adding that they are the least contentious, most efficient way to realign water use in the West. Los Angeles Times_ 2/16/05 (logon required)

New York congressmen to push for federal funding of the Highlands Conservation Act

President Bush signed the act in November, but included no money for it in his recent budget proposal to Congress. The New York lawmakers' bill calls for spending as much as $10 million a year, for 10 years, to preserve land in the Highlands, which provides drinking water for millions, as well as recreational uses and wildlife habitat. The Highlands are a portion of the Appalachian Mountains in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Poughkeepsie Journal_ 2/15/05

The Highlands Region USDA Forest Service site

New study gives Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming tools to manage groundwater in the Platte River Basin

The western model of the Platte River Cooperative Hydrology Study (COHYST) was released last week and the eastern model, which covers the Central Platte NRD, is expected to be released this week, said Duane Woodward, Central Platte Natural Resource District hydrologist, who worked on the study. The study gathered data in order to better understand the impact groundwater pumping has on river and stream flows in the Platte River Basin. Grand Island Independent_ 2/6/05 (logon required)

January, 2005

Tennessee Valley Authority looks at water transfers

“There is a lot of concern about inter-basin transfers, not unique to the Tennessee Valley,” said Gene Gibson, TVA’s manager of water supply. “TVA’s position is basically non-committal,” Gibson said. “We have a process in place. Anyone who wants to transfer, building an intake structure to pull water out of the Tennessee River system must go through a permitting process, which looks at possible environmental and operational impacts. Public input will be essential." TVA would discuss the matter with all valley states since the river system belongs to all seven states. Sand Mountain Reporter_ 1/25/05

Erosion at the bottom of Lake St. Clair lowers water levels on Lakes Michigan and Huron, report says

The dropoff, apparently caused by dredging and other human activities on the river, has caused the two lakes to decline 32 inches since around 1860, according to a $200,000 study funded by by the research arm of the Georgian Bay Association, a group representing about 17,000 people who live on the islands and coasts of the sprawling bay on the eastern side of Lake Huron. The dropoff of 8 to 13 inches since a shipping channel was dug in the river in 1962 has gone undetected until now, said the report by W.F. Baird & Associates, a coastal engineering firm. It indicates that continuing erosion is punching an ever-larger hole at the foot of the river, allowing water to rush from Lake Huron faster than anyone knew. AP/Detroit Free Press_ 1/24/05

New Jersey close to water sharing deal to ease state's northern water problems

After months of quiet negotiations, officials from two state agencies, the city of Newark and two other key water suppliers are poised to sign an agreement to head off the next water supply emergency. The plan is to share some of Central New Jersey's surplus water with  thirsty northern New Jersey. Discussions continue over pricing, with officials in North Jersey concerned they might wind up paying for water they don't need. Star Ledger_ 1/18/05

Las Vegas home builders to sharply cut water use in new homes with 'Water Smart' patterned after 'Energy Star' conservation

The Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Southern Nevada Home Builders Assocation will roll out the proposed program to dramatically increase the efficiency of water use in new homes. It's patterned after Energy Star, a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry that allows businesses to brand energy-efficient products with the label. Among requirements are restrictions on multiple shower heads and body spa systems, lower home water pressure than is permitted now in codes, no ornamental water features and a maximum 1,000 square feet of turf or pool area in the backyard. Last year, the region saw about 26,000 new homes come on the market. If all the homes were able to save 75,000 gallons, it would total 1.95 billion gallons, or about enough water for 8,000 more homes each year.  Las Vegas Sun_ 1/17/05

Despite hurricane, Southwest Florida faces worst drought index in more than 10 years

Rainfall totals for the year were nearly normal, overall, but most of that rain fell during the early summer months. Since then, only a few inches of rainfall have been recorded for the region. Naples Daily News_ 1/1/05


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