Microbeads Fight Goes To Washington


Congress is jumping into the fight to ban plastics in toothpaste and face scrubs, already the subject of state-level laws because they are harmful to the water supply.

New York and Illinois already have bans on microbeads in place, the Associated Pressreported. Microbeads are the tiny plastic bits used in face scrubs, toothpaste and other personal care products.

Now, the federal government is joining the effort. A bipartisan bill introduced in March would phase out microbeads. GOP Rep. Fred Upton, the powerful leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill with Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, TCE Today reported.The legislation would ban the sale or distribution of products that contain microbeads starting in 2018.

“This common sense, bipartisan legislation is a win-win for consumers and our Great Lakes ecosystem,” Upton said in a statement. “As someone who grew up on Lake Michigan and represents a large chunk of Michigan coastline, I understand firsthand how important it is to maintain the beauty and integrity of our Great Lakes. I will not stand for any actions that put our beloved Great Lakes in jeopardy. I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to reduce this harmful pollutant from entering our waterways, our fish, and ultimately us.”

Meanwhile, an increasing number of states are working to ban microbeads.

In March, the Indiana legislature passed a ban on microbeads, according to WBAA. Also in March, the Wisconsin Senate passed legislation banning microbeads, the AP reported.

Connecticut is showing interest in banning microbeads, as well. “Some Connecticut lawmakers would like to follow the lead of several other states that have already banned the sale of products containing microbeads,” the Hartford Courant reported.

Widespread concern about the dangers of microbeads is relatively new. “Discovered only recently, scientists say they’re showing up inside fish that are caught for human consumption,” the Associated Press previously reported.

For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online’s Regulations & Legislation Solution Center.

Olathe, KS Cedar Creek plant boasts the first in-line fermenter in the country

Xylem Biological Nutrient Removal Products in Olathe, KS

The City of Olathe is located just outside of Kansas City and is home to a growing population of 126,000, making Olathe the fifth most populous city in Kansas. Residents depend on the local Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to meet their water demand.


Several years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began an initiative in the Mississippi River basin to control excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution entering the Gulf of Mexico through watersheds and point sources such as municipal wastewater treatment plants.

A booming agriculture industry using copious amounts of pesticides was one of the primary contributors of excess nutrients being introduced into lakes, rivers, and even ground water resources. States located in the heart of farm land were under pressure to restore their surface water quality. Kansas, a leader in wheat, grain, and beef production, was under scrutiny due to the state’s 244 streams and 187 reservoirs with nutrient related impairments.

The City of Olathe, Kansas, along with many other cities in the state, decided to take a proactive approach to decrease nutrient levels by upgrading their treatment facilities.

Cedar Creek plant boasts the first in-line fermenter in the country Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant welcomed the opportunity to revamp their existing facility to reduce nutrient levels in their effluent stream.  Built in 1984, the facility had already undergone several expansions to meet increasing water demand and was due for another expansion.


In June 2010, the city broke ground on the Cedar Creek WWTP expansion, increasing the plant’s capacity by 1.5 MGD to 5.25 MGD, which would provide Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR). Several Xylem technologies were selected for the innovative treatment process including Sanitaire Fine Bubble Membrane Disc Aeration and Coarse Bubble Wide Band Aeration; Flygt Submersible Mixers; PP Pumps and Submersible Pumps; and YSI Instrumentation.

The BNR plant design incorporated the Sanitaire Fine Bubble Aeration system and Flygt Submersible Mixers to maximize the introduction of dissolved oxygen into the wastewater. By combining aeration and mixing technologies, the oxygen uptake/demand was tightly controlled and able to drive the biological reaction towards nutrient removal.

The plant also added a new five-stage biological process within the BNR plant. The multi-stage process uses nitrification/denitrification to reduce nitrogen compounds and the biological uptake process to reduce phosphorus. Sanitaire’s Coarse Bubble Diffused Aeration system was selected to satisfy the mixing requirements in the last zone of the BNR trains while maintaining a dissolved oxygen tension.

At the end of the BNR treatment train, Flygt PP Pumps are used to re-circulate a percentage of the forward flow back to the in-line fermenter for biological phosphorus uptake. Throughout the entire BNR treatment process, WTW Instrumentation accurately measures the oxygen levels. With the first robust treatment system for nitrogen and phosphorous removal in the country, Cedar Creek WWTP is now meeting the most stringent EPA effluent requirements.


Expansions at Cedar Creek WWTP have been a huge success and worked to optimize the process and operational performance at the facility. The BNR multi-step treatment process achieved lower than expected nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Additionally, the plant is experiencing up to 50 percent energy savings from implementing Sanitaire’s Fine Bubble Diffused Aeration system compared to the previous aeration system technology. Continuous monitoring and controlling of the oxygen levels has also contributed to operation and maintenance savings.

Plant operators are happy with the performance. Joe Foster, Olathe Wastewater Superintendent stated, “The design of the expansion incorporates innovative technologies and serves the needs of Olathe residents now and into the future.”

Technology Helps Arlington Reduce Water Waste

By: Susan Schrock FEB 7, 2015



Each year, more than 2 billion gallons — or 12 percent — of Arlington’s treated drinking water is wasted before it arrives at homes and businesses.

Some is lost when water mains break because of weather changes, shifting ground or construction mistakes. Those problems are easy to spot, because water bubbles to the surface of the street. But it can be harder to detect smaller leaks in the miles of underground water lines and thousands of valves hidden beneath Arlington’s roadways.

After years of encouraging residential and commercial customers to use water wisely, Arlington is turning to infrastructure improvements designed to cut waste. Reducing the amount of water lost before it reaches customers by just 1 percent would save the city $300,000 each year, Water Utilities Director Buzz Pishkur said. That means lower costs to be passed on to customers.

“Because we will reduce the number of outages and the duration of these outings, our costs will be reduced through more timely repairs and reduction of emergency situations. Quite frankly, I believe this is what our customers pay us to do,” Pishkur said. “We are focusing on doing more for our customers, not to our customers.”

This year, the Water Utilities Department launched several initiatives aimed at reducing water waste and keeping the system strong. Plans include replacing aging and brittle concrete water lines, manually inspecting thousands of water main valves and using technology, including a robot equipped with a high-resolution camera and special sensors, to detect leaks and flaws in pipe that can’t be seen from above ground.

Help from a robot

Earlier this month, a contracted crew from Pure Technologies deployed a robotic crawler to inspect the inside of a 24-inch water main running beneath Stadium Drive between Division and Abram streets. The city, which will soon widen Stadium Drive near the railroad tracks, wants to determine whether the entire section of the 30-year-old water main should be replaced at an estimated $1 million or spot repairs could be made for less.

The remote-controlled robot crawled along at 40 feet per minute, beaming back high-definition images of the mortar coating inside the pipe and data from electromagnetic sensors that detected weakness or disrepair in the steel bars that wrap the main.

“If we can show based on inspections there is nothing wrong with the line, that is a big savings in cost,” Dean Yanagi, a Water Utilities civil engineer.

It was only the second time Arlington had used the technology for an inspection, which cost the city about $169,000 for Stadium Drive. Previously, the city determined whether to replace a main based on its age and maintenance history, Yanagi said.

Problems with concrete

About 42 percent of Arlington’s water system is concrete pipe, like the Stadium Drive section, Pishkur said.

“Concrete pipe is our worst problem. It’s brittle and we have a lot of ground movement,” Pishkur said.

The worst sections will be replaced with more flexible plastic or metal pipe. Water Utilities plans to replace about 1,200 feet of water mains and 6,000 feet of sewer lines each year, which Pishkur said would help reduce wasted water.

Valves are another focus. Three two-man crews are locating and inspecting all 18,000 water main valves across the city, a project expected to take three years, Pishkur said.

“If you can’t find the valve or you can’t operate the one you find, then you have to go to the next one or the next one,” Pishkur said. “If you don’t exercise them, they seize up. They are like any mechanical piece of equipment.”

Knowing where all valves are located and making sure they can be opened and closed cuts the time that water is wasted and the number of customers who are affected by a water main break.

“When we have a main break, we can go right out and shut it down. We can narrow the area of the shutdown, which enhances customer service because we don’t have big areas of the system shut off,” Pishkur said. “And it reduces the time of the main break. Water is running, so time is of the essence.”

‘Listening’ for leaks

The city is also working with a company that is testing new leak detection technology at no cost in a pilot project to show that its devices work on metal, plastic and concrete water pipe. As part of the pilot, the company is placing sensors on the water main valve boxes that “listen” for leaks. That information helps water utilities crews more precisely pinpoint the area that needs repair, which means less roadway torn up.

“We are not digging holes here and there and everywhere like we have,” Pishkur said.

If the sensors work as promised, Arlington could purchase some for its leak detection program, he said.

The combined efforts are about curbing water purchasing and treatment costs for the city, minimizing increases in customers’ water rates and finding new ways to meet the state’s long-term goal of reducing water usage per capita, Pishkur said.

“Conservation is and should be an important message to our customers. However, we should also be minimizing the loss of water in our treatment operations and system operation prior to it reaching the customers’ home,” Pishkur said.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/arlington/article8870942.html#storylink=cpy


BREW III Application Opens March 1st


Water Council Contact:
Elizabeth Thelen, Director of Entrepreneurship & Talent
Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin.
MILWAUKEE, WI – (February 26, 2014) – The BREW, a first-of-its-kind place-based global seed accelerator for water technology startups led by The Water Council, is launching Round III of the program. The application process opens March 1 at 8 a.m. (CST) and accepts applications from around the world through March 31 at 11:59 p.m. (CST). Up to eight winners will be selected by June 23 to participate in Round III beginning in September.
The BREW was created by The Water Council and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a demonstration of Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s reputation as a global epicenter for water-related research and industry.
The BREW accelerator program debuted in 2013 and is managed by The Water Council. Startups with commercialization potential will receive up to $50,000 in investments in exchange for a small percent of equity. Past winners of The BREW include businesses focused on water quality and quantity, from sensors and laboratories to software and hydro-power. This year we strongly encourage startups with agriculture water solutions to apply. During the 12-month accelerator program, winning entrepreneurs receive:

  • A suite in the Global Water Center for 12 months
  • Business model and operations training through The Water Council and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UWW) Institute for Water Business
  • Access to faculty and students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) School for Freshwater Sciences and Marquette University
  • Access to the Global Water Center’s Flow Lab
  • Mentorship from dozens of area water technology experts, plus direct access to BREW Preferred Partners, including: WIPFLI, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, University of Wisconsin-Madison Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, and Global Water Center Executive in Residence
  • Attendance to conferences and pitch sessions with The Water Council
  • Access to investment capital funding sources
  • Access to Pilot Project funding
  • One-year membership to The Water Council providing access to the water technology network
The focus of The BREW is to unleash unique water technology startups, expand Milwaukee’s Global Water Hub by accelerating results, inspire action to create further opportunity in the water industry, and disrupt the status quo.
The Water Council and a separate panel of global expert judges rank entries using multiple criteria including commercialization potential. Grants will fund startup costs, which could include lab supplies, research and product development expenses, and professional services.
Participants in Round II graduate at the Water Summit on June 24 at The Pfister in Milwaukee. Batch II graduates include: Cadens LLC, Hydro-Lite, Pellucid Water, pHinding Solutions, WatrHub, and Wellntel.
“Through the efforts of The Water Council and its many partners, Milwaukee has truly become a world leader in water technology and has developed a strong reputation for innovation in this growing sector,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The BREW provides emerging water technology companies with unparalleled support and services in a dynamic environment that we believe will lead to even more innovation in this increasingly important industry.”
“The Global Water Center has become a magnet, attracting over 14 startups in the water space who want to be close to the resources and energy,” said Dean Amhaus, president and CEO of The Water Council. “Coupled with the number of large global businesses and academic presence, this provides a multi-faceted ecosystem for entrepreneurs to collaborate and grow their business.”
Application Process for Round III
March 1 at 8 a.m. (CST) – March 31 at 11:59 pm (CST) at www.thebrew-mke.com
About The Water Council
The Water Council, the only organization of its kind in the United States, was established in 2009 by Milwaukee-area businesses, education and government leaders. With more than 150 water technology companies in the Milwaukee area, the region’s water industry is a $10.5 billion dollar market and accounts for four percent of the world’s total water business. The non-profit organization, consisting of more than 160 members, is linking together global water technology companies, innovative water entrepreneurs, acclaimed academic research programs and, most importantly, some of the nation’s brightest and most energetic water professionals. The Water Council is capturing the attention of the world and transforming the Milwaukee region into a World Water Hub for freshwater research, economic development and education. For more information, visit www.thewatercouncil.com or contact us by phone at 414.988.8750.
About Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), formed in 2011 as a public-private entity, leads economic development efforts for the state and nurtures business growth and job creation by advancing Wisconsin’s business climate. WEDC partners with 650 economic development organizations throughout Wisconsin to serve businesses looking to start, grow or relocate. WEDC has four focus areas: business and industry development, economic and community development, entrepreneurship and innovation, and international business development. Visit www.inwisconsin.com or follow WEDC on Twitter @InWisconsin to learn more.

Sea Levels Rise Rapidly

Millions at risk from rapid sea rise in swampy Sundarbans

By Associated Press February 18

BALI ISLAND, India — The tiny hut sculpted out of mud at the edge of the sea is barely large enough for Bokul Mondol and his family to lie down in. The water has taken everything else from them, and one day it almost certainly will take this, too.

Saltwater long ago engulfed the 5 acres where Mondol once grew rice and tended fish ponds, as his ancestors had on Bali Island for some 200 years. His thatch-covered hut, built on public land, is the fifth he has had to build in the last five years as the sea creeps in.

“Every year we have to move a little further inland,” he said.

Seas are rising more than twice as fast as the global average here in the Sundarbans, a low-lying delta region of about 200 islands in the Bay of Bengal where some 13 million impoverished Indians and Bangladeshis live. Tens of thousands like Mondol have already been left homeless, and scientists predict much of the Sundarbans could be underwater in 15 to 25 years.

That could force a singularly massive exodus of millions of “climate refugees,” creating enormous challenges for India and Bangladesh that neither country has prepared for.

“This big-time climate migration is looming on the horizon,” said Tapas Paul, a New Delhi-based environmental specialist with the World Bank, which is spending hundreds of millions of dollars assessing and preparing a plan for the Sundarbans region.

“If all the people of the Sundarbans have to migrate, this would be the largest-ever migration in the history of mankind,” Paul said. The largest to date occurred during the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, when 10 million people or more migrated from one country to the other.

Mondol has no idea where he would go. His family of six is now entirely dependent on neighbors who have not lost their land. Some days they simply don’t eat.

“For 10 years I was fighting with the sea, until finally everything was gone,” he says, staring blankly at the water lapping at the muddy coast. “We live in constant fear of flooding. If the island is lost, we will all die.”

On their own, the Sundarbans’ impoverished residents have little chance of moving before catastrophe hits. Facing constant threats from roving tigers and crocodiles, deadly swarms of giant honeybees and poisonous snakes, they struggle to eke out a living by farming, shrimping, fishing and collecting honey from the forests.

Each year, with crude tools and bare hands, they build mud embankments to keep saltwater and wild animals from invading their crops. And each year swollen rivers, monsoon rains and floods wash many of those banks and mud-packed homes back into the sea.

 Most struggle on far less than $1 a day. With 5 million people on the Indian side and 8 million in Bangladesh, the Sundarbans population is far greater than any of the small island nations that also face dire threats from rising sea levels.

Losing the 26,000-square-kilometer (10,000-square-mile) region — an area about the size of Haiti — would also take an environmental toll. The Sundarbans region is teeming with wildlife, including the world’s only population of mangrove forest tigers. The freshwater swamps and their tangles of mangrove forests act as a natural buffer protecting India’s West Bengal state and Bangladesh from cyclones.

With the warming climate melting polar ice and rising temperatures expanding oceans, seas have been rising globally at an average rate of about 3 millimeters a year — a rate scientists say is likely to speed up. The latest projections suggest seas could rise on average up to about 1 meter (3.3 feet) this century.

That would be bad enough for the Sundarbans, where the highest point is around 3 meters (9.8 feet) and the mean elevation is less than a meter above sea level. But sea rise occurs unevenly across the globe because of factors like wind, ocean currents, tectonic shift and variations in the Earth’s gravitational pull. The rate of sea rise in the Sundarbans has been measured at twice the global rate or even higher.

In addition, dams and irrigation systems upstream are trapping sediments that could have built up the river deltas that make up the Sundarbans. Other human activities such as deforestation encourage erosion.

A 2013 study by the Zoological Society of London measured the Sundarbans coastline retreating at about 200 meters (650 feet) a year. The Geological Survey of India says at least 210 square kilometers (81 square miles) of coastline on the Indian side has eroded in the last few decades. At least four islands are underwater and dozens of others have been abandoned due to sea rise and erosion.

Many scientists believe the only long-term solution is for most of the Sundarbans population to leave. That may be not only necessary but environmentally beneficial, giving shorn mangrove forests a chance to regrow and capture river sediment in their tangled, saltwater-tolerant roots.

“The chance of a mass migration, to my mind, is actually pretty high. India is not recognizing it for whatever reason,” said Anurag Danda, who leads the World Wildlife Fund’s climate change adaptation program in the Sundarbans. “It’s a crisis waiting to happen. We are just one event away from seeing large-scale displacement and turning a large number of people into destitutes.”

West Bengal is no stranger to mass migration. Kolkata, its capital, has been overrun three times by panicked masses fleeing violence or starvation: during a 1943 famine, the 1947 partition and the 1971 war that created today’s Bangladesh.

India, however, has no official plan either to help relocate Sundarbans residents or to protect the region from further ecological decline.

“We need international help. We need national help. We need the help of the people all over the world. We are very late” in addressing the problem, said West Bengal state’s minister for emergencies and disaster management, Janab Javed Ahmed Khan. He said West Bengal must work urgently with the Indian and Bangladeshi governments to take action.

Bangladesh is supporting scientists “trying to find out whether it’s possible to protect the Sundarbans,” said Taibur Rahman, of the Bangladesh government’s planning commission. “But we are already experiencing the effects of climate change. The people of the Sundarbans are resilient and have long lived with hardship, but many now are leaving. And we are not yet prepared.”

A network of concrete dykes and barriers, like those protecting the Netherlands, offers limited protection to some of the islands in Bangladesh’s portion of the Sundarbans. The World Bank is now spending some $200 million to improve those barriers.

Experts worry that politicians will ignore the problem or continue to make traditional promises to build roads, schools and hospital clinics. This could entice more people to the region just when everyone should be moving out.

“We have 15 years … that’s the rough time frame I give for sea level rise to become very difficult and population pressure to become almost unmanageable,” said Jayanta Bandopadhyay, an engineer and science professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi who has studied the region for years.

Bandopadhyay and other experts say India and Bangladesh should be creating jobs, offering skills training, freeing lands and making urbanization attractive so people will feel empowered to leave.

Even if India musters that kind of political will, planning and funds, persuading people to move will not be easy.

Most families have been living here since the early 1800s, when the British East India Company — which then governed India, Pakistan and Bangladesh for the British Empire — removed huge mangrove forests to allow people to live on and profit from the fertile agricultural land.

Even those who are aware of the threat of rising seas don’t want to leave.

“You cannot fight with water,” said Sorojit Majhi, a 36-year-old father of four young girls living in a hut crouched behind a crumbling mud embankment. Majhi’s ancestral land has also been swallowed by the sea. He admits he’s sometimes angry, other times depressed.

“We are scared, but where can we go?” he said. “We cannot fly away like a bird.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



In this Jan. 31, 2015 photo, mangroves stand on an island in the Sundarbans, India. The freshwater swamps and their tangles of mangrove forests acts as a crucial, natural buffer protecting India’s West Bengal state and Bangladesh from cyclones. With global warming already a reality for some 13 million impoverished villagers living precariously on the river deltas that spill into the Bay of Bengal, the ecologically sensitive and overpopulated Sundarbans is ground zero for climate change, and a test for how they will cope with warmer temperatures, rising seas and potentially millions of climate refugees. (Bikas Das/Associated Press)


Wetskills Water Challenge

Wetskills Water Challenge is an event for students and young professionals from all over the world. The participants develop their own innovative and creative concepts for broad water issues in a changing world.

This year the competition is being held in the United States for the first time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a region that has been recognized as the world water hub. American, Canadian and Dutch water companies will sponsor teams of young water experts on water case studies that can include topics such as: water quality, wastewater processes and water contamination.

At the end of the two-week challenge, each team will present their water solution in a pitch session during the Milwaukee Water Summit on June 23th 2015 and the winning team will be announced on June 24th.

Check out the one minute Wetskills introduction here.

Saving Water in California

Saving Water in California

The New York Times | The Opinion Pages

By: The Editorial Board

July 9, 2014

“California is in the third year of its worst drought in decades. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at how much water the state’s residents and businesses are using. According to a recent state survey, Californians cut the amount of water they used in the first five months of the year by just 5 percent, far short of the 20 percent reduction Gov. Jerry Brown called for in January. In some parts of the state, like the San Diego area, water use has actually increased from 2013.

Without much stronger conservation measures, the state, much of which is arid or semiarid, could face severe water shortages if the drought does not break next year. Los Angeles recently recorded its lowest rainfall for two consecutive years, and climate change will likely make drought a persistent condition, according to the National Climate Assessment report published in May.

Yet, even now, 70 percent of water districts have not imposed reasonable mandatory restrictions on watering lawns and keeping backyard pools filled. The State Water Resources Control Board is to consider placing restrictions on some outdoor water uses like washing paved surfaces at a meeting on July 15.

California’s agriculture sector is the largest in the country, and it accounts for about 80 percent of the state’s water use. Even a small percentage reduction in the fields could have a sizable effect on total water consumption.

A recent report by the Pacific Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that agricultural water use could be reduced by up to 22 percent if farmers more carefully scheduled the watering of crops based on weather and soil conditions and if they used the drip irrigation systems that deliver water directly to the roots of plants. Some progress has been made. About 38 percent of California farmland was irrigated by more efficient systems in 2010, up from 15 percent in 1991. But far too many farmers still irrigate by flooding their fields.

In terms of urban conservation, the report shows that homes and businesses could reduce water use by up to 60 percent by using it more efficiently, recycling and reusing water and capturing more rainwater. Some efficiency improvements are simple and could be done quickly, like installing water meters at all homes and businesses. Currently, about 250,000 water-utility customers, most of them in the Central Valley, have no meters and are charged a flat monthly fee regardless of how much water they use — a practice that invites waste.

Other government programs have been effective, too, and deserve broader adoption. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power last month began paying people $3 for every square foot of grass they replace with landscaping that requires little or no water under a “cash in your lawn” program, up from $2 previously; residents can claim up to $6,000 under that program. The department says it has paid to have 8 million square feet of lawn removed since the program started in 2009.

Finally, state officials need to act with a much greater urgency. Earlier this year, the State Legislature set aside nearly $700 million for emergency drought relief, but 90 percent of that money has yet to be spent. Mr. Brown’s administration should think a lot bigger than emergency aid aimed at a single drought. The state must focus on longer-term policies that encourage people to alter their lifestyles and businesses to change how they operate.”

Drinking Water 10/22/14

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

The Threats to Our Drinking Water


SAN FRANCISCO — THOSE of us who live in the United States are fortunate; generally we don’t have to give a lot of thought to the safety of our tap water. This makes our collective experience with water very different from that of hundreds of millions of people across the globe who lack access to clean water.

But twice this year the water supply for a major American city was interrupted for days by water pollution. In January, a chemical used in the processing of coal leaked from a ruptured storage tank into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for about 300,000 people in and around Charleston, W.Va., the state’s capital and largest city. Then, last weekend, the water supply for over 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, was declared unsafe because of the presence of microcystin, a toxin released by algae blooms in nearby Lake Erie, the source of the city’s water.

While the circumstances in each situation are different, there are notable similarities. In each case, the pollution could not be adequately treated by the local water plants. Sudden “do not drink” (and, in some cases, “do not bathe”) warnings resulted. And in each case, activities in or near the communities caused, or partially caused, the problem. In Charleston, it was an upstream industrial spill; in Toledo, polluted runoff, including from agriculture, along the Great Lakes stoked the slimy, fluorescent algae blooms that sent residents flocking to supermarkets for bottled water.

Those events offer two important reminders about water in the United States.

The first is that while our country has made huge strides in reducing water pollution since the 1970s, when Congress passed federal laws like the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, controlling water pollution is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Those statutes set broad goals but depend on states and the Environmental Protection Agency to design and update programs to keep the water clean.

Charleston underscores the imperative of ensuring that clean water policies are fully implemented and strengthened where necessary. Toledo reminds us that threats are not static and neither is the environment. Polluted runoff was not a primary focus in 1970, and the consequences of climate change were not considered then. But now we recognize that runoff from farms, lawns, streets and parking lots is a major problem across the country and more difficult to control because of its ubiquity. And we also now know that climate change doesn’t just warm the air, it can warm water — resulting in more algae blooms.

A second takeaway is that while the current drought gripping parts of the nation can make us think water scarcity is a function of the absolute quantity of water available, practically speaking it is actually a function of quantity and quality. Toledo was without potable water for several days even though it sits beside the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater system on earth.

So what should we do?

There are specific steps that would make a difference, including providing water utilities with broader authority to address threats found in watershed surveys; beefing up pollution prevention requirements for chemical tanks to include uniform rules for storage of hazardous substances; and updating outmoded state and federal rules on runoff to include clear reduction targets, which are lacking today.

Equally important, because almost all of us live downstream of somewhere, uncertainty created by a set of Supreme Court decisions about whether all of the nation’s waters are protected by the Clean Water Act needs to be resolved so that upstream pollution doesn’t cause downstream havoc.

Actions like these will almost certainly need to be paired with an increase in financing. The Environmental Protection Agency says the capital needs of water utilities over 20 years amount to $384 billion to keep tap water clean and another $298 billion to address wastewater and runoff. By comparison, over the last 25 years, the E.P.A.’s primary wastewater grant and loan program distributed over $100 billion, a fraction of the investment the nation needs to make now.

Just as important, this moment also calls for a change in thinking about how we can best achieve our nation’s clean water goals. Traditionally, water policy has dealt with issues of quality and quantity separately. This approach must be replaced by an integrated strategy that addresses both together. Neither plentiful, polluted water nor scarce, clean water will meet our needs.

The “green infrastructure” movement taking hold across the nation includes a water management approach that uses natural systems like wetlands and green buffers to reduce runoff, enhance water supply and improve community aesthetics. We need more of this kind of integration and the thinking that animates it.

When we ignore the weaknesses in our current approaches to safeguarding our drinking water supplies, we take a significant risk. If the sudden absence of drinking water in Charleston and Toledo serves to refocus the country on the importance of protecting water with a seriousness that reflects its indispensability, that will be a very good thing.

Pipeline Expansion 10/16/2014

For Immediate Release

Monday, March 31, 2014 – 4:16pm

Mark Westlund, Sierra Club

Tom BK Goldtooth, IEN Ex. Dir.

New Report Reveals High Risks, No Reward of Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

WASHINGTON – A new report released today by the Sierra Club and 13 other groups including the Indigenous Environmental Network, examines the proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline and concludes that there are significant threats to water, health and climate. The report, All Risk, No Reward: The Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion, comes in advance of a rally to stop the Alberta Clipper expansion that will take place before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission public hearing in St. Paul, MN on April 3.

“The risks are too high, said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Any spill, leak or explosion could have a devastating effect to the rich biodiversity and cultural diversity of northern Minnesota. The human rights of Native people in northern Alberta, Canada where this crude oil comes from are already being violated. There can be no reward when it comes to dirty oil that ruins the quality of water, ecosystems and the life of people.”

“This report confirms our worst fears about the proposed Alberta Clipper expansion,” said author Sarah Mine. “This tar sands expansion project is far too risky to communities in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, who would be subjected to extreme environmental degradation, extreme carbon pollution, and tremendous threats to their land, water, and health.”

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. plans to pump 800,000 barrels per day of one of the planet’s dirtiest sources of oil through North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This expansion project would almost double the pipeline’s current capacity and put it on par with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Expanding Alberta Clipper’s capacity would expose communities and tribes to tar sands’ full complement of disturbing climate, safety, and environmental implications; potentially devastate cultural and historical resources; give the landlocked tar sands industry access to ports and enormous new overseas markets; and enable the massive, environmentally devastating tar sands growth planned by the industry.

Tar sands crude can be far more dangerous than conventional crude, especially in water, and the proposed expansion project could put the region’s clean water at risk. The tar sands dilbit sinks in water, where standard cleanup techniques do not work. The Alberta Clipper route crosses many bodies of water that are critical as drinking water sources and cultural and ecological sites.

Enbridge Inc. has a disgraceful history of spills, including the worst onshore oil spill in U.S. history when a ruptured Enbridge pipeline poured 843,000 gallons of tar sands crude into Michigan’s Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River.

ALL RISK, NO REWARD The Alberta Clipper Tar Sands Pipeline Expansion

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. plans to pump 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of one of the planet’s dirtiest sources of oil through North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, endangering our water, health, and climate. Expanding the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline would put federal, state, and tribal lands and waters at risk of devastating oil spills, including the Great Lakes and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe ceded territories. Communities and Native Nations across the Great Lakes region and beyond are fighting this unnecessary and dangerous pipeline expansion, calling instead for clean, renewable energy solutions and a 100% clean energy future.The Alberta Clipper, also known as Line 67, currently pumps up to 450,000 bpd of tar sands crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin. From the Canadian border, the pipeline traverses 327 miles across North Dakota and Minnesota to Wisconsin and the shores of Lake Superior, passing through state, tribal, federal, and private lands, including prairie, forests, farms, rivers, and lakes. Enbridge seeks to almost double the pipeline’s capacity to 800,000 bpd, nearly the same as TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and to construct two new tar sands storage tanks on the shores of Lake Superior. Capacity in an existing pipeline is increased by ratcheting up the pressure inside the pipeline, forcing more tar sands through and increasing the physical stress on the pipeline.