News Briefs

Jan. 1, 2016
News from around America concerning the water industry.

Researchers develop sensor to detect multiple explosives in wastewater

Scientists at University College London have developed a new test that detects and identifies five commonly used explosives in solution to help track toxic contamination in wastewater and improve the safety of public spaces.

The study used a fluorescent sensor to detect and differentiate between DNT, TNT, tetryl, RDX and PETN by reading unique color change ‘fingerprints’ for each compound. And it does it faster, cheaper, and with smaller sample volumes than current methods.

The researchers say the sensor could have a variety of applications from monitoring the wastewater of munitions factories and military ranges to finding evidence of illicit activities.

EPA social media blitz deemed ‘covert propaganda’

The Government Accountability Office issued a report recently finding the Environmental Protection Agency engaged in ‘covert propaganda’ to drum up support for the Clean Water Rule via social media.

Specifically, the GAO said the agency’s use of a ‘thunderclap’ was misleading as it did not clearly identify that it was from the EPA.

The agency has strongly defended its use of social media, saying that it was only educating the public about environmental issues.

New study raises global human freshwater footprint

Stockholm University has released a new study indicating that humans around the globe use a lot more water than previously thought - about 20 percent more.

Analysis of data from 1901 to 2008 shows that the effects of dams and irrigation have traditionally been underestimated and are, in fact, even greater than the effects of climate change.

The issue, the researchers say, is increased evapotranspiration, which increases the loss of freshwater to the atmosphere, thereby reducing the amount of water available for humans, societies and ecosystems on land.

Utah moves forward with Lake Powell pipeline proposal

State water managers in Utah have filed a Preliminary Licensing Proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 140-mile pipeline that would bring water from Lake Powell to Hurricane, Utah.

The controversial Lake Powell Pipeline has undergone six years of environmental analysis and preliminary design work.

Lake Powell, image courtesy of NASA.

The proposal includes dozens of reports, covering issues around water needs, anticipated population growth, and potential impacts of climate change.

One issue that is not addressed is cost, which some estimates put at over $1 billion.

The preliminary proposal is available for public review and comment at

Researchers map global volume of groundwater

Scientists have updated 40-year old data estimating the global volume of groundwater stored beneath our feet.

The team, led by hydrogeologist Tom Gleeson of the University of Victoria in Canada, combined geochemical, geologic, hydrologic, and geospatial data sets with modeling to determine that there’s 23 million cubic kilometers - or 6 quintillion gallons - of groundwater stored in the upper 1.2 miles of the earth’s crust.

Only 6 percent of that is considered “modern,” less than 50 years old - a point the researchers found surprising. Gleeson said it indicates that groundwater resources are being used much faster than they’re replenished.

The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Visit to learn more.

Rapid prediction of harmful algal blooms feasible in Ohio

Having developed a way to predict E. coli concentrations at Lake Erie beaches, USGS scientists and partners set their sites on harmful algal blooms - or HABs.

The scientists collected weekly to monthly data for two recreational seasons and identified factors that could be used to predict microcystin concentrations at a variety of freshwater sites.

They found that it would be feasible to include cyanobacterial HABs in the Ohio Nowcast program, which provides real-time water quality conditions for recreational sites in the state.

The scientists will now focus on collecting more frequent data to develop site-specific models to use in cyanoHAB Nowcasts.

To learn more, visit

Cambrian launches financing model for onsite water, energy solution

Cambrian Innovation, provider of biotechnology solutions for industrial partners, has launched a new financing mechanism that eliminates upfront costs for onsite clean water and energy solutions.

Through the water-energy purchase agreement - or WEPA - Cambrian will finance, install and operate its EcoVolt systems on the customer’s behalf, and sell back clean energy and clean water on a take-or-pay model.

Cambrian Innovation CEO Matthew Silver said the vehicle makes it easier for industrial businesses to extract valuable hidden resources in what were previously considered liabilities, with zero capital outlay or operating risk.

To learn more, visit

Gardens manage stormwater, beautify Detroit neighborhood

University of Michigan researchers and their partners have just completed four new bioretention gardens designed to capture and hold stormwater while beautifying the Cody Rouge area on Detroit’s west side.

Artist rendering courtesy of University of Michigan/SNRE.

Built on the former sites of vacant Detroit homes, the new gardens are expected to achieve an average annual stormwater volume reduction of 300,000 gallons per site, for a total of 1.2 million gallons.

The gardens are expected to help reduce street flooding during big storms.

Sierra resort to make snow with treated wastewater

Soda Springs Mountain Resort will be the first California ski resort to use treated wastewater to make snow.

The Sierra resort will get the recycled wastewater from Donner Summit Public Utility District, which recently completed a $24 million dollar upgrade to its treatment plant.

The facility uses UV disinfection to purify the water of any pathogens.

The utility said that supplying treated wastewater for snowmaking achieves two purposes: conserving precious potable water supplies and providing a water source that will contribute to a successful ski season.

Construction begins on Hyperion cogeneration plant

Construction has begun on a new 25-megawatt biogas-fueled cogeneration plant that will supply steam and electricity to power L.A. Sanitation’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.

Fueled by methane from Hyperion’s sewage treatment process, the cogeneration plant is expected to generate more than 173 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and supply up to 70,000 pounds per hour of steam.

Constellation and its affiliate Exelon Generation will develop, construct and operate the cogeneration facility for 20 years, with an option to extend the agreement for two additional five-year terms.

It’s expected to begin operation in late 2016.

Carlsbad to expand water recycling

The City of Carlsbad, California, said it will expand its water recycling plant by 75 percent to help relieve pressure on the city’s drinking water supply.

The City Council recently approved an $8 million contract with CDM Constructors to expand the Carlsbad Water Recycling Facility’s capacity from 4 million gallons a day to 7 MGD.

The expansion project includes adding 18 miles of new purple pipe to the existing 79-mile recycled water distribution system.

The city will also build a new 1.5 million-gallon reservoir for recycled water storage.

Stormwater contamination prompts Monsanto lawsuit

Attorneys in Oakland, California, have filed a lawsuit against the chemical company Monsanto. According to the suit, Monsanto produced PCBs for approximately 50 years until the U.S. Congress banned them in 1979. But the PCBs still persist today in Oakland’s stormwater and present a threat to fish and wildlife habitats in the San Francisco Bay.

The lawsuit alleges that Monsanto knew the PCBs were toxic before the ban, and that they could not be contained. Costs to remove PCBs from Oakland’s stormwater could top $1 billion dollars.

Silverton to pursue Superfund status

Officials in Silverton, Colorado, have unanimously voted to pursue a Superfund designation as a step toward cleaning up inactive and leaking mines in the area.

In August, a blowout at the Gold King mine spilled about 3 million gallons of acid mine wastewater into the Animas River.

For two decades, Silverton officials have been hesitant to pursue Superfund status, in large part because of the negative impact it could have on tourism.

But after a recent tour of several other Superfund sites, city officials gave their approval to engage in talks with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Athletic fields open on wastewater plant rooftop

A new athletic field in Alexandria, Virginia, has an unusual address: atop the local wastewater treatment plant.

Alexandria Renew Enterprises recently unveiled the sports complex, which can accommodate two soccer games at the same time.

The field was built as part of AlexRenew’s $145 million dollar project to expand its nutrient management facility and headquarters.

The utility said that by building an athletic field on the facility’s roof, it was a way for them to give back to the community.

Colorado completes first-ever water plan

Colorado recently released its first-ever water plan. Two years in the making, the Colorado Water Plan will help the state manage its water resources amid drought and growing population demand. The state faces a water shortfall of 182 billion gallons a year by 2050.

The plan sets goals for water conservation, increased water storage, and more integrated land- and water-use planning. It also encourages watery quality management plans for rivers and streams.

Cooperation from local governments, water utilities, farmers, businesses, and conservationists will be critical for carrying out the water plan, as the state cannot force compliance.

To read the plan in its entirety, visit

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