News Briefs: Safe Yield Regulations Worry Massachusetts Water Groups

In this week's water industry news, learn how drought has affected states throughout the country and see how water rates changed in 2013.
News Briefs: Safe Yield Regulations Worry Massachusetts Water Groups

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Proposed environmental water regulations in Massachusetts have met criticism from local water districts and the Massachusetts Water Works Association, which are concerned about rising consumer rates and complex requirements. The new regulations — the Sustainable Water Management Initiative — will set safe yields, which regulate the amount of water that can be withdrawn from a source during drought conditions. Other criteria aims to maintain seasonal water flows, setting a baseline for future water withdrawals.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association claims the regulations focus too narrowly on protecting fish species instead of focusing on public health and safety. The changes would increase costs for cities and towns, and opponents say the changes would harm water infrastructure because less money would be available for those projects.

The complex regulations might require water districts to hire consultants and lawyers, says Todd Melanson, environmental compliance manager for the Chelmsford Water District, in a Lowell Sun article.

The state is offering grants to compensate for water district expenses. Projects considered for funding this year include a water audit evaluation in Acton, water-management plans in Groton and a supply-management cost study in Littleton. In all, the state is offering $1 million in assistance this year to help with environmental impact. Communities might be credited for stormwater and wastewater improvements as well.

Source: Lowell Sun

Uphill Climb: California Plans to Reverse Aqueduct Flow 

Pomegranates, pistachios and other Californian-grown produce are in jeopardy this year as drought conditions and a thin snowpack threaten irrigation sources. It’s a year that has forced the state to assess every possible plan, which in this case, includes pumping water uphill, according to a San Jose Mercury News article.

Typically, water flows southward through the California Aqueduct, supplying water to the state’s parched cities. But this year, engineers are working on an expensive plan to reverse flow and push that water uphill to dry farmlands. Five local agencies that sell irrigation water to farmers will bear the estimated cost of $1.5 million to $9.5 million.

Under the plan, water districts would pump emergency water supplies, which are currently stored in underground reservoirs, into the aqueduct. Pumps would then push the water over locks and back upstream, where farmers would pump water to fields. The plan calls for the districts to move 30,000 acre-feet of water.

The state must approve the plan before the districts can move forward. However, the districts are already ordering pumps and preparing to move ahead.

“Ideally, we would hope it’s a one-time thing,” says Dale Melville, manager-engineer of the Dudley Ridge Water District in Fresno. 

Source: Mercury News 

2014 Water Rates Increase, Says Annual Report

Households across the United States are paying more for water in 2014, according to an annual survey by Circle of Blue. The survey compares single-family residential water rates in 30 U.S. cities. This year, those rates increased by 6.6 percent for a four-person household using 150 gallons per person per day, 6.2 percent for families using 100 gallons per person per day, and 6.1 percent for families using 50 gallons per person per day.

The survey indicates that although the rise was the smallest year-to-year change in the past five years, municipalities are still struggling to balance increased water conservation with rising infrastructure expenses. Municipalities are toying with pricing structure changes, by charging high-volume users more. This encourages conservation and helps a utility adapt to the drop in revenue.

Residents in some cities — including Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, San Francisco and Tucson — saw rates increase by more than 50 percent over five years.

“What we’re seeing now, for the foreseeable future, is that the annual increase in revenue will exceed the Consumer Price index by double on average,” says Bill Stannard, president of Raftelis, a rates consultancy, to Circle of Blue. “That’s how much revenue will be needed to fund utilities.”

Source: Circle of Blue

Senator Calls for EPA Cyantoxin Testing Guidelines

Senator Charles Schumer, N.Y., is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to protect New York residents against illnesses caused from algae blooms. His two-pronged approach includes requesting EPA water-treatment guidelines and regulations for cyantoxins. These guidelines would be similar to other contaminants such as lead and arsenic. Secondly, Schumer urges the EPA to develop water quality criteria for cyantoxins in ambient water, which would help local communities create water quality plans. Schumer is also focused on upgrading aging sewer systems to eliminate overflows, for instance, which contribute to algae blooms.

According to a press release from Senator Schumer’s office, New York leads a nationwide list for reports of toxic blue-green algae.

Source: Oswego County Today



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