(2) Speaking of California, the recent buzz word has been “shade balls”, which were deployed in the Los Angeles reservoir. Most of the Colorado River (yep, LA gets its water from the Colorado) reservoirs and canals are uncovered, meaning significant losses of water to evaporation. So, when the mayor of LA released 20,000 shade balls into the LA reservoir to help stem evaporative losses, it was media gold. But the idea that it helps stem the California drought is misleading, as explained in this LAWeekly article “Shade Balls Are A Really Stupid Way to Conserve Water”. Basically, the cost of the shade balls is not an efficient use of money for the amount of water it protects, and the media stunt was really the city coming into compliance with existing federal drinking water quality mandates, which it would have to do drought or no drought.
(3) Let’s switch gears to water quality instead of water quantity as we move eastward to Iowa where the Des Moines Water Works has filed a federal lawsuit against ten drainage districts and their county supervisors in the Raccoon River watershed, as reported in the DTN/The Progressive Farmer. The heart of the issue is that the utility wants tile drains to be treated as point sources of pollution rather than non-point sources, which if successful, would have big impacts on farmers. They would have to buy expensive permits and would be required to limit their use of nitrogen fertilizers. Tile drains are a fascinating feat of engineering, they are basically slotted pipes that are laid below crop fields to rapidly drain soils and prevent fields from flooding. The pipes quickly and efficiently move shallow groundwater away from fields and into drainage ditches. These pipes can serve as the “headwater” for many streams in this area of Iowa. The downside of this system is that the drainage water bypasses the soil flow paths where the nitrogen could be filtered out and removed from the water before reaching the ditch/stream. By treating these pipes as point sources, they would come under much more intense regulation by the EPA. Farmers in the area are very concerned about the potential costs they would incur if the litigation is successful.
(4) Let’s end on a hopeful note: Science Daily published a report yesterday explaining how a scientific study found that a wild population of honey bees in Ithaca, NY have evolved resistance to a predatory mite–one of the leading causes of colony collapse disorder. The story highlights the importance of museum collections of organisms as historical references for evolutionary research and the value of a species’ genetic diversity for adapting to future challenges. The story does not predict how this information could be used to help other honey bee populations.That’s all for now. Enjoy the rest of your summer & remember: