The Pure Water Occasional for June 23, 2014

In this early summer Occasional, you'll learn how to infuse your drinking water, why the speedy mahi-mahi is slowing down, and why raingardens are so important. Here about Cezanne's drinking habits, stormwater, MTBE, and life in Owatonna, MN.  Hear about floods in Alberta and along the Big Sioux River, nitrates in Iowa's rivers, and Pennsylvania's underground beaches.  More military pollution, this time at Ft. Jackson, problems with Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, Big Agriculture's greedy thirst, and the ongoing war for water. Drought, sinkholes,  gluten-free water, and, as always, there is much, much more.

The Pure Water Occasional is a project of Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette.

To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette's website,  please go here.


Owatonna Dietitian recommends hydrating with infused water

by Tracy Bjerke, RD, LD

The best way to get and stay hydrated is, of course, by drinking water. In our bodies, water helps to digest food, transport nutrients and oxygen to all cells of the body and it helps cushion our joints and organs as well as carry waste products out of our body. Staying hydrated is also important for great heart health, because it is easier for your heart to pump your blood through your body. Water also assists with constipation.

A healthy and tasty way to stay hydrated is to try infused water. Though very healthy, sometimes your traditional, plain water just gets boring. Infused water includes adding different fruits, vegetables and/or herbs and spices to your water. Not only do you get the benefits of getting hydrated, but you also gain flavor without all the excess sugars and chemicals that are in alternative beverages such as pop, sweetened teas or flavored coffees. Another benefit you get, besides how pretty the water looks, is the antioxidants and vitamins that are released into the water from the fruits, vegetables or herbs/spices.

Cezanne's celebrated painting was obviously done as he was preparing himself a glass of infused water. 

There are several combinations to keep you busy. Some fruits may work better than others; for example, berries tend to break down faster. Some ingredients, like mint, may need to be “muddled” to allow for flavors to escape. To muddle, simply mash your ingredients at the bottom of your glass. If you prefer stronger flavors, prepare your water a day ahead and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Try some of these favorite pairings: cherries with lime and mint, strawberries with peaches or kiwis, cucumber with lemon and ginger root, lime with orange and rosemary, raspberries with mint and lime. For even more fun, place cut produce in ice cube trays and fill remaining space with water and freeze.

Source: Owatonna People's Press.

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Related to Tracy's article above, you might like to look at the city of Owatonna's very enlightened stormwater management program on the city's website.  Among other things, it says


"Clean H2Owatonna" is the City of Owatonna's Stormwater Management Program to keep our streams, river, and waterways  clean of pollution.

Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground. Instead, it flows from rooftops, across paved areas, and through sloped lawns. As stormwater moves across these surfaces, it can pick up and carry along pollutants such as yard and pet waste, sediment, chemicals, oil, grease, and other possible contaminants. This water enters our community storm drains and flows directly, untreated, to Maple Creek, Crane Creek, or the Straight River.

Citizens Tending a  Raingarden Upkeep in Owatonna. Raingardens are an essential part of the city's stormwater strategy.  See also “Eating What Your Raingarden Grows,” from the Gazette's dwebsite.


 Iowa cities remove nitrates, recycle in rivers

DES MOINES — Most of the water-treatment departments that remove nitrates from Iowans’ drinking water dump the chemical back into the water supply, so other cities downstream have to remove it again.

The law sets a safe level for nitrates in drinking water, but it doesn’t dictate what must be done with nitrates after they are removed, the Des Moines Register reported Sunday.

Des Moines Water Works officials said they dumped an estimated 13,500 pounds of nitrates back into the river last year. At the same time, they were urging farmers to limit how much nitrate-rich fertilizer ran off into waterways.

Sixteen municipal water utilities in Iowa have nitrate-removal systems and spend millions of dollars a year to comply with federal drinking water standards. The majority of those utilities acknowledged dumping nitrates back into waterways.

“Symbolically, it’s a troublesome issue for me,” Des Moines Water Works Director Bill Stowe said. “Frankly, we’re saying to the single farmer ‘Please don’t do this,’ and yet we’re imitating the behavior we’re trying to avoid.”

Nitrates are a concern because they can cause health problems if they are consumed at high levels. They have been associated with diseases including leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The main sources of nitrates are runoff from fertilizer, leaking septic tanks, sewage and natural deposits.

Jon Martens, president of the Iowa Groundwater Association, said it is a concern that utilities are returning nitrates to rivers and streams, but he’s not sure how to fix the problem.

“You take it out of one source, and you dump into another source, and it’s just weird to me,” said Martens, who is director of water operations for Atlantic Municipal Utilities.

Water-treatment utilities generally can’t recycle nitrates into fertilizers because the typical removal system uses technology known as ion exchange. The nitrate-rich residue that remains from that process contains a salt solution that is detrimental to vegetation.

And removing nitrates naturally requires investments of millions of dollars and many acres of land to create swamplike areas to absorb the chemical.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources allows utilities to put the removed nitrates back into the state’s waterways because the utilities are not increasing the total amount of the chemical in the water.

“You have to have a permit for treating water and then a different permit for what (chemicals) you emit, but in the case of nitrogen — at least at this point — it’s kind of considered a ‘no net gain,’ ” said Kevin Baskins, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to the intentional dumping of nitrates, since 2007 the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club has tracked more than 500 cases in which untreated water bypassed state treatment facilities as a result of situations such as floods, failed sump pumps and sewage leaks.

Neila Seaman, director of the Iowa Sierra Club chapter, said every one of those instances also contributes to high nitrate levels and increases costs for water-treatment utilities.

“Des Moines Water Works customers like me have to pay a lot more to take nitrates out. When they put the nitrates back into the water, then it potentially costs cities downstream, like Ottumwa, a lot of money,” Seaman said. “It’s a cycle.


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Water News for the Week of June 23

With summer, beach stories abound.  The white sand beaches in Pennsylvania, however, are a mile underground, where salt water and fine mesh sand luxuriate in the fracks of the Marcellus Shale.

Mandatory Water Breaks at World Cup

A Brazilian court ordered FIFA to introduce mandatory water breaks in World Cup matches when temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).
A labor court in the capital of Brasilia issued a temporary injunction saying the breaks are required near the 30th minute of each half so players can get hydrated. FIFA had said it would only implement the breaks when its medical staff considered them necessary.

Cities fight Big Sioux River flooding in 3 states.  While drought plagues much of the nation, record Big Sioux River flooding prompted residents in three states to hurriedly prepare for the rising water Thursday, with people lining up for sandbags and moving museum artifacts and other items to higher ground.  Southern Alberta also had its share of flooding this week.  Below, the Oldman River has completely flooded the parking lot at the water treatment plant in Lethbridge.


Study finds oil from BP spill impedes fish’s swimming. A new study has found that oil from the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico is impairing swimming in one of the ocean’s fastest fish: mahi-mahi.

Search for scarce water strains Texas communities. The ground is so parched, it cracks and pops as Toby Watts maneuvers a mud-encrusted, 2-ton water-drilling rig across a scraggly field of rock and grass along FM1187 in western Tarrant County. A 38-foot derrick slowly rises from the rig’s platform and begins pounding the earth.

Mismanagement blamed for New Delhi’s water crisis. As India’s population rises inexorably towards the 1.7bn mark it is expected to reach in the second half of this century, decades of abuse of rivers and groundwater are presenting successive governments with a severe water challenge.

Sinkholes can be caused by too much water, as from excessive irrigation or leaking water lines, or by too little, as when the groundwater table drops. They are more likely to occur in areas with karst topography, common in the southeastern US, where limestone bedrock is slowly eaten away by water. And they’re expensive: Insurance companies in Florida receive on average 17 claims a day for sinkhole-related damage, adding up to billions of dollars in the long run. Pennsylvania has a new sinkhole law in the works.

Oklahoma Woman to Run 105 Miles to Raise Awareness of Water Issues.  — Next week,  a mother of two who struggled to get from the couch to the floor not so long ago will put on her fluorescent yellow Sauconys and run from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. She will raise awareness and funds for women and children who don't have access to water and must walk for miles to find it. In many cases, the water they get is still contaminated. She will run 105.6 miles in four days so that the lives of moms like her will be changed.

Hoover Dam

Last straw: How the fortunes of Las Vegas will rise or fall with Lake Mead. Next year, a new tunnel under Lake Mead will begin delivering water to Las Vegas. The project is massive, expensive, politically fraught – and a harbinger of things to come. The current 14-year drought is the most severe since recordkeeping for the Colorado River began, in 1906, and Lake Mead is now more than half empty. If the water drops another 50 feet, the first intake pipe will start sucking air. That’s a problem for Las Vegas, which gets 90 percent of its water from the pipes. But it’s also alarming for everyone to the south. The Hoover Dam, just around the corner from the construction site, releases water downstream to a series of smaller reservoirs and canals that deliver water to communities throughout the Southwest, including . . . Los Angeles.

New Hampshire Well Owners Urged to Test Their Water

CONCORD — The N.H. Department of Environmental Services urges all residents who use private wells to test their water.

A study released by the U.S. Geological Survey Monday found that 80,000 residents in Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties may have unhealthy levels of one or more toxic metals in their drinking water. Many contaminants cannot be detected by taste or smell, so testing is the only way to find them. The department recommends well owners have their water tested every three to five years through an accredited laboratory.

Drinking untreated water with unhealthy levels of contaminants — most of them naturally occurring — puts people at increased risk of disease and other problems. Arsenic, for example, even at levels that are common in New Hampshire well water, can cause cancer of the skin, lung, bladder, liver and kidneys, as well as diseases of the nerves, lungs, heart and endocrine (hormonal) system, and may be associated with lower IQ scores. Infants and young children are more vulnerable, and the chances of disease increase the longer someone drinks the water. New research has shown that children exposed to high levels of manganese, another contaminant common in New Hampshire well water, may be at risk of cognitive problems.

There are affordable ways to treat private well water to make it safe, but to select the right type of treatment system, well owners first have to test their water. Water softeners, for example, can be effective at removing iron and manganese if properly designed and maintained, but are not effective at removing some toxic metals such as arsenic, which occurs at unhealthy levels in about one in five private wells in the Granite State.

The department estimates that 46 percent of state residents get their drinking water from private wells; the rest get their water from public water systems, which are required to have routine testing.

For more information on the department’s testing recommendations and a list of accredited laboratories: and select “private well testing” from the A to Z list, or call the department’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at 271-2513.


Pennsylvania to sue oil companies over contamination from gasoline additive.  After all these years, MTBE is still in the news. Pennsylvania is suing oil companies over environmental damage caused by a chemical additive used in gasoline, as well as reimbursement over the alleged misuse of state funds to clean up gasoline spills.

Water pollution resurfaces at Fort Jackson. The U.S. Army is working to protect private drinking water supplies near South Carolina's Fort Jackson after finding elevated levels of a seizure-causing chemical in wells that serve five homes near the expansive military site.

A push for new look into tainted water's source in Texas. In the last three years, so much methane has migrated into water wells in Steve Lipsky's neighborhood west of Fort Worth, Texas, that he and at least one neighbor can set their flowing water on fire, he said.

7,500 gallons of oil spills in Colorado river. A storage tank damaged by floodwaters dumped 7,500 gallons of crude oil into the Poudre River near Windsor in northern Colorado, slickening vegetation a quarter-mile downstream, but apparently not affecting any drinking water.

We remind you that it is a scant 6 weeks to National Garden Hose Day. 

Nicaragua’s Mayagna people and their rainforest could vanish. More than 30,000 members of the Mayagna indigenous community are in danger of disappearing, along with the rainforest which is their home in Nicaragua, if the state fails to take immediate action to curb the destruction of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the third-largest in the world.

Pure Water Products Offers New Gluten Filter

In response to last week's scary story about gluten pollution at a Portland reservoir, Pure Water Products did extensive testing on its popular Model 77 countertop filter. Repeated tests showed that water from Model 77 was completely gluten free. As a bonus,  water from the filter has zero calories, zero cholesterol, zero saturated fats, zero carbohydrates, zero animal body parts, zero sugar, and zero dairy products, making water from the filter ideal for those following weight-loss, low-fat, low carbohydrate, gluten-free and vegan diets.

Model 77--After all these years, still only $77.  And now it provides gluten free water!

Stakes are high in ongoing battles for water

 by Alan Guebert

Gazette Introductory Note:  America's agricultural system, designed with the primary goal of making money for agribusiness "farmers," is highly water intensive.  The system works when there is abundant water to exploit, but, as we are learning, when water runs short, the system will not meet our needs. The question is, will we be be able to convert to  more sustainable agricultural practices that are aimed at providing nutritious food for people rather than massive profits for banker-farmers? -- Hardly Waite. 

According to 2013 data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, you and I owe our very existence to water. After all, 92 percent of our blood, 75 percent of our brains and muscles, 60 percent of our bodies and 22 percent of our bones are plain, simple old water.

Even more to the point, while most of us might live a month or so without food, not one of us could live much more than a week without water.

Farming and ranching are in the same life raft; water is their key element and they use a lot. Nearly 80 percent of every drop, bucket and stock tank of water used in the United States every day is slurped and guzzled by American agriculture.

That's 320 billion gallons every day of every week of every year. (Links to source material are posted at

By contrast, American households collectively use less than a one-tenth, or 29 billion gallons, of agriculture's thirsty total each day.

If you think that 10-to-1 ratio can or will continue, go to California. As that state's years-long drought drags on with no end in sight, people -- not cows or corn or cotton -- are winning every fight for water, according to March 2014 data released by the California Farm Water Coalition.

Corn, a high profit item for agribusiness "farmers," is also a notorious water hog.   "87 percent of irrigated corn is grown in regions with high or extremely high water stress" and "over half of the country's irrigated corn production -- worth nearly $9 billion annually -- depends on groundwater from the over-exploited High Plains aquifer."

For example, this year, estimates the CFWC, 800,000 acres of California farmland will not be planted due to the lack of irrigation water. Last year that number was 500,000 acres. Next year, it guesses, the acreage will be even bigger.

The idled land in the nation's biggest farm state carries big costs. Farm-related unemployment is expected to top 40 percent in California's rich, but now bone-dry, Central Valley and the state's ag-related supply businesses will see sales drop $7.5 billion. Sales from farms and ranches are forecast to drop $3.6 billion.

A hard hint of a much smaller drought in the Midwest in 2012 sent U.S. corn prices to more than $8 per bushel, notes a detailed June 2014 report by Ceres, a nonprofit group that "mobilizes business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainable challenges."

But it wasn't -- and, if another drought strikes, won't be -- just corn farmers who were nailed, the report notes. "Investors," it explains, "need to understand how companies in the grain processing, food, beverage, livestock, ethanol, grocery and restaurant sectors are addressing these risks."

In short, while many farm organizations dismiss or discredit climate change as a government-sponsored plot to impose new regulations on farmers and ranchers, the multitrillion-dollar food, feed and fuel sectors that rely on U.S. farm and ranch output to generate product and profit do not see a bogeyman. To them and their shareholders, climate change is a serious threat that needs to be managed.

The Ceres report lays out the size of that threat to the U.S. corn sector. For example, "87 percent of irrigated corn is grown in regions with high or extremely high water stress" and "over half of the country's irrigated corn production -- worth nearly $9 billion annually -- depends on groundwater from the over-exploited High Plains aquifer."

Additionally, "36 ethanol refineries are located in and source corn (that is) irrigated" with that High Plains aquifer. It's a big investment at big risk, suggests Ceres, which directs a group of more than 100 institutional investors whose collective assets top $13 trillion.

But that's just the tip of the melting iceberg.

According to the Ceres report, "16 separate sectors" of the U.S. economy "depend on corn as a key ingredient." Last year, "The top 45 companies in the corn value chain earned $1.7 trillion in revenue," or more than "Australia's annual GDP."

Given those numbers for corn alone, consider the impact climate change will have across not just farming and ranching but the entire U.S. economy.

Or, as most American farm and ranch groups prefer, don't. The really big, really smart money, however, already is.

Alan Guebert is an award-winning agricultural journalist whose work is published weekly in more than 70 newspapers in North America.

Source: South Bend Tribune.

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