Clogged "pores" are keeping the Ogallala Aquifer down
March 2, 2009

An organization called the Playa Lakes Joint Venture is promoting its work throughout the Great Plains aimed at protecting the temporary lakes and seasonal wetlands called playas that help channel rainfall into the groundwater table, which throughout their region serves to recharge the Ogallala Aquifer. The organization is working to raise public awareness of the problem of sedimentation, through which soil and sand runoff is clogging the "pores" in the ground by which that precipitation makes its way to the groundwater table. Sedimentation can be the result of poor agricultural land management, as well as the result of runoff from construction sites, roadways, and other urban features. Products like turbidity curtains can help prevent sedimentation and protect natural waterways.

Proposed Federal budget includes much more for EPA
March 3, 2009

The President's proposed 2009-2010 budget for the EPA includes an estimated one-third increase over the 2008-2009 budget. The new funding proposal includes just shy of $4 billion for State Revolving Funds, which Iowa has used aggressively to fund water-quality improvement programs. If the additional funding makes its way through Congress and to the states, municipal water and wastewater projects could be on the rise in the coming months.

Activists hate American toilet paper
March 4, 2009

The Natural Resources Defense Council is campaigning against the use of fresh-forest wood for toilet paper. Their argument is that more American toilet paper should come from recycled sources, since they believe the use of virgin wood for toilet tissue creates pollution that leads to global warming. Manufacturers of toilet paper counter that managed forest growth contributes to net carbon reductions in the atmosphere. Either way, toilet paper is a major solid constituent in municipal wastewater, and well-designed systems use products like Gorman-Rupp self-priming pumps alongside grinders, bar screens, and grit traps to help ensure that waters are clear and clean when they return to nature.

Iowa flood forecast: Mostly "near normal"
March 5, 2009

The National Weather Service office in Des Moines has issued its regular spring flooding outlook, which gives most of the rivers and streams in the forecast area a "near normal" risk for flooding this spring. If the forecast holds, then it should be a far better year than 2008, which involved some of the worst flooding Iowa has ever encountered. Many stormwater controls, like dams, dikes, levees, and pumping systems, still need a lot of repair and upgrade work after last year.

Omaha one of several towns getting stimulus funding for water and wastewater
March 6, 2009

Omaha's sewer-separation project will receive $3.75 million in funding assistance from the Federal economic-stimulus package passed recently. The city will also be receiving loan assistance for other water and wastewater treatment upgrades.

Kansas might be taking Nebraska back to the Supreme Court
March 9, 2009

Talks among Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas are back on in a last-ditch effort to resolve the dispute over the Republican River Compact before Kansas takes Nebraska to the Supreme Court. The ongoing interstate dispute -- in a region most Americans probably don't think of as a hotbed for water issues -- serves to reveal just how important water issues are today and are likely to escalate in the future. Water is essential to agricultural uses throughout the Midwest and Great Plains, and the need for irrigation in the plains states makes every water dispute a major economic dispute as well.

EPA plans a greenhouse-gas reporting rule
March 10, 2009

The EPA has published notice of a plan for a greenhouse-gas reporting rule that could take effect soon (if approved). The plan summary says, "The rule would apply to fossil fuel suppliers and industrial gas suppliers, as well as to direct greenhouse gas emitters. The proposed rule does not require control of greenhouse gases, rather it requires only that sources above certain threshold levels monitor and report emissions."

While the notice includes the assurance that no controls will be required, it's quite likely that rules for control would follow rules for measurement. The proposed rule specifically notes that ethanol plants, electric-power plants, and wastewater treatment plants would be required to report on their production and release of methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.

We can help you with lagoon and tank covers to control the emission of greenhouse gases, as well as permanently-mounted gas-detection equipment for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, as well as portable gas monitors. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Flood season is back, and parts of Iowa are unprepared
March 11, 2009

A columnist for the Des Moines Register expresses his frustration that some levees meant to protect people in southern Iowa from floodwaters still have gaping holes a solid nine months after major flooding in 2008, and as we enter a premature spring flooding season in 2009. The historic flooding of 2008 hit many parts of Iowa hard, and many communities have responded by beefing up their flood protections (and purchasing portable pumping stations to assist with keeping important facilities dry). The investments required now to bring many flood-protection systems up to full capacity might very well pay off in just a matter of weeks as the spring rains start to arrive all over Iowa's still mostly-frozen ground.

National Infrastructure Protection Plan says local governments need to talk about water
March 12, 2009

The Federal government's 2009 National Infrastructure Protection Plan includes comments (in section discussing the role of local government agencies in protecting their critical infrastructure assets. One of the bullet points included among the recommendations for local government authorities working with municipal water systems is "conducting critical infrastructure/key resource protection public awareness activities." DJ Gongol & Associates has been participating in projects with the Nebraska AWWA to help promote public information and train water system operators in better ways to work with the media to educate the public about water-related issues. Our presentations on media relations for the water industry have been given at two conferences in the last 12 months, and we are available to share the same information at other events.

"Fix a Leak Week" starts Monday
March 13, 2009

The EPA is promoting "Fix a Leak Week" next week. While household (or domestic) water use accounts for less than 12% of all water use in the United States, there's no reason why simple efforts to reduce household water waste shouldn't be taken. Fixing leaks can also help with boosting household water pressure, which is a common complaint in many homes located far from their municipal water supplies or the booster stations and water towers that help preserve water pressure throughout the community.

Flood Safety Awareness Week starts today
March 16, 2009

NOAA is offering a brand-new website this year to share useful information on flood safety. The site includes a map of major floods from the last decade or so, including the floods of 2008 that caused some $5 billion in damage throughout our region. Many communities have been undertaking major efforts to prepare for future flooding by obtaining flood-cleanup pumps, portable emergency pumping stations, and portable dams.

Chances your bacon came from Iowa: 1 in 3
March 17, 2009

Iowa has 30% of the nation's hogs, so if there's any pork on your plate, there's about a one in three chance it came from Iowa. The Iowa Pork Producers have just adopted a statement of support for a reduced tax credit for ethanol production, with the debate including some discussion about the positive and negative economic effects that ethanol production has on pork production. Biofuels and food agriculture alike have a major effect on water quality in the Upper Midwest.

Federal energy grants may be hard to come by
March 18, 2009

The Federal economic-stimulus bill passed last month included $3.2 billion in grants for energy efficiency, some of which may be channeled to municipal water systems to aid in water-conservation projects. But that funding isn't likely to land in great measure in Iowa or Nebraska: Eligible cities must have either at least 35,000 residents or be among the ten largest in their given states. Iowa only has 13 cities of 35,000 people or more, and Nebraska has just four.

Iowa SRF application due date closer than expected
March 19, 2009

Iowa communities looking to take advantage of the funds for "green" infrastructure projects in the Federal economic-stimulus bill have only until March 27th to submit their applications for funding, with the intention that the eligible projects be ready for construction by next February, with a preference that the funds be committed within 120 days. Project eligibility is based on qualifications like the reduction in water and sewer leakage, improved energy efficiency, and improved management and treatment of stormwater.

Communities looking to make better use of energy recovery through biogas capture, or those looking for products to improve stormwater containment and control are welcome to contact us with their questions. We are also happy to help with the specification of high-efficiency motors to go with pumps to improve the "green" viability of water and wastewater projects.

Report says Lake McConaughy is significantly smaller due to irrigation
March 20, 2009

A report commissioned by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District says that the North Platte River and Lake McConaughy (which is fed by the river) are being drained by irrigation at a rate considerably faster than nature is recharging the area's water resources. While municipal drinking water is the use most people encounter more often than any other, irrigation uses 8,790,000,000 gallons of Nebraska's total 12,200,000,000 gallons of daily water use. When the amounts used for electrical power generation (which are typically returned back to streams and rivers) are excepted, then irrigation represents more of Nebraska water use than all other categories combined, by several times over. The agriculture that depends upon irrigation is a key component of Nebraska's state economy, but the report does shed light on the conflicting interests of different categories of water users in the state.

Minnesota, Dakotas under high risk of flooding
March 23, 2009

NOAA's spring weather and climate outlook places parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas under serious threat of major flooding. The region is fighting a combination of deep snowpack and frozen ground along with additional new precipitation, all of which is combining to create an unusually high risk of severe flooding. Soil temperatures are still around freezing (they've mostly thawed in Iowa and Nebraska), and a new storm system moving through is dropping fresh precipitation all over the Upper Midwest. The Red River has flooded the city of Fargo on several occasions, including the particularly disastrous 1997 flooding season. Fortunately for the rest of the Midwest, many of North Dakota's rivers actually flow northward into Canada, but flooding in South Dakota is likely to make its way downstream past communities like Sioux City and Omaha over the course of the spring. Fargo is back into disaster mode as the city runs millions short of the number of needed sandbags. Because sandbags are extremely labor-intensive to deploy and can be difficult to deliver to the places where they're needed, we are happy to offer portable dams that can be filled with water, using a fraction of the manpower of sandbags. Portable Aqua Dams can be deployed in a fraction of the time that equivalent sandbag dikes take to construct, and they're much easier to adjust and re-locate when necessary.

Iowa attorney general pursues wastewater suit
March 24, 2009

The office of the Iowa attorney general is suing a Sioux Center company over wastewater discharge monitoring, level monitoring, and land application. The lawsuit alleges overtopping of the lagoon and seeks thousands of dollars in penalties. The attorney general just settled a $100,000 penalty with the City of Clinton over the city's wastewater and stormwater treatment processes.

Communities and industrial users looking for ways to comply with regulations on everything from flow and level monitoring to stormwater management are welcome to contact us at any time for information on products that can help them avoid civil penalties and other legal action.

Fargo could get a record-breaking flood this weekend
March 25, 2009

Our neighbors in North Dakota could see a record-breaking flood pass through their city as soon as Saturday, as the city, which is dealing with another half-foot of fresh snow, prepares for some of the highest floodwaters on record in the middle of a snowstorm.

We offer a range of flood-protection and flood-recovery products, including portable pumping stations, portable flood-cleanup pumps, and portable dams (which are easier and faster to install than sandbags). Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Ice jams and flooding in North Dakota could affect Iowa and Nebraska
March 26, 2009

Ice jams on the Missouri River are being attacked with explosives near Bismarck, North Dakota, and a dam on the river is being closed for the first time ever to help protect North Dakota's capital city. The Missouri River passes through several major metro areas after Bismarck, including Pierre (SD), Sioux City (IA), Omaha (NE), and Kansas City (MO). The presence of ice jams far upstream in North Dakota now will put pressure on the US Army Corps of Engineers to manage flows throughout the Missouri River basin in order to alleviate upstream flooding while simultaneously avoiding it downstream. The current river level reports show ice affecting several parts of the Missouri, which means that the problems could be compounded.

Omaha and Sioux City both use the Missouri River to support their municipal drinking-water systems. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Record-setting floods in the US; flash floods around the world
March 27, 2009

As the eyes of many Americans are fixed on North Dakota, where record flooding has already reached Fargo and evacuation plans are being publicized, on the other side of the globe, a flash flood caused by a dam failure in Indonesia has killed dozens of people. The failed dam in Indonesia was an earthen dam from many decades ago. In wealthier countries, considerable resources have been spent and will continue to be expended on improving flood controls. Earthen dams can be weakened in ways that go undetected for long periods of time, as water saturates the ground beneath the dam and causes it to fail. Reinforcing tools like geotextiles and systems for diverting floodwaters (rather than holding them back) can contribute to greater safety. Dam failures remain a threat to life and property throughout the world, though improvements in technology and design have made them generally less common in the United States over the last few decades.

State officials decide there's water left in the Platte after all
March 30, 2009

The Nebraska DNR has changed course and revised a previous determination that the Platte River was fully appropriated, saying now that the Lower Platte River basin still has some excess capacity. The state's new determination might leave room for additional irrigation uses if local natural resource districts approve. Irrigation makes up the majority of use of Nebraska's water resources; municipal water supplies use only about 3% of the total.

Fertilizer plant to be built in Menlo
March 31, 2009

The town of Menlo, about 45 minutes west of Des Moines, is going to be the site of a plant to make anhydrous ammonia from corn cobs and other biomass. The company behind the project says that it can produce the ammonia/nitrogen fertilizer needed for corn and other crop production using a fraction of the amount of biomass waste usually produced by those crops, and at a reliably lower cost than the conventional Haber-Bosch process, which creates that same fertilizer by heating natural gas and ambient air at high pressures.

Ammonia, of course, can be extremely hazardous to human health, so toxic-gas detection equipment is essential in the production process. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised March 2009