Friday, May 23, 2008

USGS Great Lakes Consumptive Water Use Report

May 23: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a major 191-page report entitled, Consumptive Water-Use Coefficients for the Great Lakes Basin and Climatically Similar Areas. The report addresses issues of how much of the water is removed from the Great Lakes for use in everyday products such as food, ethanol, household chemicals or paper products; what is not returned; and what type of uses are most likely to cause losses. The new report will be used by water-resource managers and planners in the Great Lakes as they develop policies to encourage efficient and sustainable water use.

Kimberly Shaffer, hydrologist with the USGS and author of the report said, "We found that irrigation and livestock had the largest losses compared with total water withdrawn from the Great Lakes basin. Of the total water withdrawn for irrigation, 70-100 percent was lost to the basin." The authors examined seven consumptive water-use categories: domestic and public supply, industrial, electric power, irrigation, livestock, commercial, and mining. Consumptive water use is water that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate environment. It is usually reported as a percentage of the amount of water withdrawn.

USGS said the study is relevant to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, between eight states and two Canadian provinces that would prohibit major diversions of water beyond counties bordering the basin. For this report USGS compiled, mapped, graphed, and statistically analyzed consumptive water use numbers from more than 100 sources as a starting point for facility managers, water managers, and scientists in determining the amount of water consumed in seven water-use categories. For comparison purposes, consumptive use information for basins and states that have climates similar to the Great Lakes basin are included in the report. Methods for computing and estimating consumptive use are also presented, as is an extensive bibliography.

Access a release and links to a fact sheet, the complete report and related information (click here).

Groups Warn Of Bias In Canadian Nuclear Repository Proposal

May 23: A coalition of U.S. and Canadian environmental organizations are questioning the independence of an environmental assessment panel review the environmental assessment for a proposed Ontario Power Generation underground radioactive waste depository in Bruce County, Ontario, about a half a mile from the shore of Lake Huron [See WIMS 7/5/07]. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission are now inviting public comment until June 18, on two documents -- the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) guidelines; and the draft Joint Review Panel (JRP) agreement -- related to the proposed Deep Geologic Repository Project to store low and intermediate-level radioactive waste in the municipality of Kincardine, Ontario.

In a release, the groups point out that they fear the assessment panel will be compromised by the presence of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. They said that after pressure from citizen groups and elected officials in both Canada and the United States, the Canadian government has committed to a Full Panel Review, but the presence of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission threatens to bias decision-making in favor of a pro-nuclear position, despite the risks.

Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility said, “The Canadian government wants to build a nuclear waste dump on the shores of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem. There are serious risks involved in doing this and we want to ensure a full and independent assessment of what the consequences will be, free of bias from the nuclear establishment. An independent panel is one that has no conflict of interest because its members are not involved in promoting, defending, or licensing nuclear facilities."

The groups said a nuclear regulator has never had a seat on a panel for environmental assessments, and their role in this one could set a dangerous precedent, downplaying the dump’s radiological risks to health and the environment. Great Lakes United’s Green Energy and Nuclear Free Task Force urges that a completely independent review board be established, without Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission presence. The Task Force also calls on Great Lakes residents on both sides of the border to speak out, given the potential hazards of the proposed dumpsite for the entire Great Lakes watershed.

The proposal involves building a deep repository beneath the Bruce Nuclear plant site near Kincardine, Ontario. The largest nuclear power plant in North America, it is looking to build new reactors which could make it the largest nuclear power plant in the world. The dump site would contain all radioactive wastes, except spent radioactive fuel, from Ontario’s twenty nuclear reactors. Waste to be stored includes transuranic radionuclides, such as plutonium, contaminated filters from irradiated fuel pools; thousands of highly radioactive metallic pipes and other contaminated items.

Last week the Macomb County Water Quality Board and the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in Michigan both passed resolutions opposing any underground radioactive waste dump in the Great Lakes region. Over the past two years, members of Congress have repeatedly spoken out against the proposed dump, including House Energy Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak of northern Michigan, and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Detroit. Kay Cumbow of Citizens Against Chemical Contamination said, “Macomb County is saying very clearly that the actions of its neighbors have a huge impact on the health of its communities and environment. Siting a nuclear waste dump right next to the drinking water supply of over 30 million Canadians and Americans is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Access a release from the environmental organizations (click here). Access the public notice and links to pertinent documents from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (
click here).

Great Lakes & Mississippi River Panels To Meet

May 22: The Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species will be meeting jointly with the Mississippi River Basin Panel in Milwaukee, WI on June 17-19, 2008. An important goal of this meeting is to provide a forum that will facilitate further communication and coordination among members of both Panels given the shared issues of concern existing within these interconnected watersheds. The meeting will focus on common priority issues, such as the transfer of species between basins, viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus, (VHS or VHSv) and ballast water. Detailed meeting information, including a preliminary agenda, registration information and other meeting materials are available.

Access the Great Lakes Panel meeting website for details (
click here). Access the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species for more information (click here).