St Catherines Standard: Brock leading research on water issues in Niagara

Water is an asset and, just like finances, its long-term value and potential problems need to be monitored.

That’s the focus behind Liquid Assets, a research study being done by Brock University at the request of the Niagara Region’s Water Smart program.

The goal is to assess Niagara’s water supply and demand and to answer three main questions: How does water impact the region? Who does what when it comes to regulation and water quality monitoring? And what are the water issues Niagara will be facing in the future?

“There are hundreds of studies in the U.S. and dozens in Canada that look at water as an economic asset, but we couldn’t find any studies that specifically talked about Niagara,” said Steven Renzetti, a professor with Brock’s Department of Economics who is heading up the study through the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “Niagara is a blue economy – all of our sectors rely on good, clean water.”

Katelyn Vaughan, the project manager for the region’s Niagara Water Strategy, said Brock is being paid $60,000 to complete the research, which will be compiled into a report expected to be released in early 2013.

“Through this report, we can identify what the challenges are and to identify potential conflicts,” she said.

The research started about a year ago with a survey of municipalities and others involved in water quality and supply.

That was followed by a workshop in October, where it became obvious that a single source for water research was needed.

“We’re recognizing some of this knowledge does exist, but it’s not easily accessible. We have really good researchers who can’t access it,” Vaughan said.

She used water quality at beaches as an example of an area where historical data on beach closures exists, but isn’t available in one spot for the public to find.

Renzetti said the report can be used by the region and municipalities as they move forward in planning.

“You’re putting infrastructure in today that’s going to last 30 or 40 years, so you want to make the right decisions now, even though you might not think scarcity or conflicts are going to arise,” he said. “The last thing you want is in 20 years to be thinking ‘oh I wish we had of thought of that’.”

The local Liquid Assets study is part of a larger water research network launched earlier this year at Brock through a $2.3 million grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The research network will look at water-related issues across the country.

Studying water

* Liquid Assets: Assessing Water’s Contribution to Niagara

* Study requested by Niagara Region’s Water Smart program

* Research being done by Brock University’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

* Final report expected to be completed in early 2013


Water Canada: Water Quality Forecasting for Better Infrastructure Spending

Via: Water Canada, Posted on October 1, 2012
Written by Greg Rose and Tim Webster

Water resource conflicts are becoming increasingly prevalent as the intensity of competing uses of nearshore environments increases. Given the complexity of environmental systems, successfully managing and cost-effectively addressing these conflicts can be challenging. To address such challenges, a five-partner collaboration, comprising Golder Associates, Esri Canada, the Applied Geomatics Research Group, Scotia Weather Services and GeoNet, is developing and testing a water quality forecasting and infrastructure optimization system piloted in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Basin.

Funded by the Atlantic Innovation Fund of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the research project leverages geospatial technology for advanced mapping and analysis of various factors affecting water quality. When completed, the system will allow municipalities in the basin to focus their infrastructure investment strategies to maximize environmental returns and allow shellfish harvesting to be planned in a way that maximizes existing resources.

The issue

Shellfish harvesting is a key part of the economy of the Annapolis Basin, an arm of the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada. For the region’s famed Digby clams and other seafood to be marketable, the water from which they are harvested must be sufficiently clean. This can be a challenge given the area’s proximity to sources of potential contamination, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), watershed runoff, and concentrated deposits of fecal matter from seabirds and seals, as well as high tidal flows that can carry contaminants far from the source and render the harvest from some of the basin’s shellfish growing areas (SGAs) temporarily unsafe.

While current legislative controls in Canada, administered via the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP), provide the necessary checks and balances for protecting human health, their application is relatively labour intensive and expensive. Understandably, the current protocols are geared to exercising precaution. This often leads to closures of growing areas, in cases where these have the potential to yield high-quality harvests under optimal environmental conditions. Conversely, where shellfish harvested from non-prohibited areas are identified as contaminated during the testing process, the harvest is inevitably worthless unless it can be purified cost-effectively.

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ESTJ: Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Sarah M. Jordaan
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Research Group, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 20 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States IN Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (7), pp 3611–3617
Publication Date (Web): February 24, 2012


Expansion of oil sands development results not only in the release of greenhouse gas emissions, but also impacts land and water resources. Though less discussed internationally due to to their inherently local nature, land and water impacts can be severe. Research in key areas is needed to manage oil sands operations effectively; including improved monitoring of ground and surface water quality. The resulting information gap means that such impacts are not well understood. Improved analyses of oil sands products are required that compare land and water use with other transportation fuel pathways and use a regional perspective so local effects can be considered and mitigated.

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Technologies

1 How Different Are the Impacts of Oil Sands Extraction Technologies?

Bitumen is extracted from the oil sands using two technologies, surface mining or in situ recovery, each of which have different land and water impacts. Surface mining techniques remove shallow depth oil sand deposits by truck and shovel and extract the bitumen with the Clarke hot water extraction process by mixing the oil sand with water warmed using natural gas.(11) In situ technology is predominantly used for extracting deeper deposits. Thermal in situ technologies use natural gas to produce steam that is subsequently injected to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen so that it can be pumped to the surface using production wells. It is understood that oil sands technologies produce 10–20% more greenhouse gases than the average conventional fuel when calculating life cycle emissions from well to wheel,(4) yet much less emphasis has been placed on quantifying water and land impacts.

Land use of surface mining is comprised largely of polygonal features (mine sites, overburden storage, tailing ponds, and end pit lakes). In situ development has a different footprint, mostly defined by linear features that extend across the lease area (networks of seismic lines, access roads, pipelines and well sites).(12, 14)As of 2009, only 600 km2 of land were disturbed by surface mining, accounting for 0.3% of the area where oil sands resources are present, or less than 0.1% of the total land area of Alberta. Eighty percent of the resource is currently expected to be extracted using in situ technologies, affecting approximately 136 000 km2 (97% of the total oil sands area).(13) While natural gas is used in surface mining, in situ recovery can use on the order of four times more than surface mining.(11) The cumulative footprint of the future oil sands operations may extend over approximately the 140 000 km2 during the course of the development, comprising of 20% of Alberta, and even more if the upstream footprint from the infrastructure required for natural gas production is included.(14)

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EPA releases draft National Water Program 2012 Strategy

via @climateandwater Draft EPA “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change” Released for Public Comment

EPA’s Draft 2012 Strategy adresses climate change impacts on water resources and EPA’s water programs. Climate change alters the water cycle and could affect the implementation of EPA’s programs. EPA and our state, tribal, local and federal partners must review and adapt the practices that have been developed over the past 40 years since passage of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Ensuring that EPA’s programs continue to protect public health, and the environment that sustains our communities and the economy, requires immediate and continuous collaboration.

National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change—Public Comment Draft (PDF) (112pp, 3.6MB, About PDF)

How to Comment:

Comments must be received on or before May 17, 2012, 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.


CBC: Sewage used as fertilizer sparks B.C. blockade

Protesters set up blockade to stop trucks carrying biosolid fertilizer
CBC News, Feb 22, 2012

A group of concerned residents in the Salmon Valley, near Prince George, is refusing to let a local farmer spread treated stabilized human sewage on his fields.

The residents are blocking city dump trucks carrying biosolids from driving down a frozen gravel road to the farmer’s property, where the sewage will be stored and then spread on his fields in May or June.

“That’s the last thing we want to do is stand there and stop a trucker from making money, but we have to live out here,” said protester Linda Parker. “We have not got a choice, we are being told it’s going to come through, or you’re going to jail!”

‘The regulations and their own material says there is potential for water contamination from biosolids.’—Protester Andy Angele

Parker and others are concerned about water contamination and smell.

“I need to know, is it going to seep into the waterways, is it going to be harmful for the environment out here? There’s no tests that have been brought to us. We were not brought documents stating ‘this is what it does, this is what it’s for,’ ” said Parker.

Tuesday morning RCMP officers told the residents to dismantle their blockade, and Prince George city officials told residents their concerns would be addressed at a city meeting that afternoon.

But afterwards, Parker said, she and others still weren’t satisfied.

“They have not said anything to us, they will not give us answers,” said Parker.

Andy Angele says residents plan to keep blocking the dump trucks until an independent review is held, looking at the effects of spreading stabilized human sewage on agricultural land.

“The regulations and their own material says there is potential for water contamination from biosolids. They said more than 20 or 30 times in the regulation that there is potential for biosolid problems.”

The City of Prince George maintains the use of biosolids on farms is safe, and will continue to work with the concerned residents.

ThunderBay Source: Overflowing

By Jeff Labine,

The sewage treatment facility at Kasabonika Lake First Nation has reached its limit.

The fly-in community, roughly 800 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, first built the sewage plant in the 1990s. The plant was to meet the demands of the more than 900 people who live in the First Nation community with a capacity to handle 170,000 liters of waste a day.

But the demand according to officials with the First Nation community is more than double as of 2004. In addition, the plant has numerous reported problems from operation challenges to repair needs.

A report done by Northern Waterworks Inc. in July 2011 showed that wastewater flowed out of the door of the plant. The facility was in need of repairs after a raven flew into a breaker. Although this was fixed, the report noted several other problems with the plant.

“The sewer from each individual home are supposed to be drinkable by the time it hits the lake but it’s not doing that,” said Abraham Wabasse, the administrator at the plant.

“There’s too much waste water coming through from the community. The RBC is too small to take care of it. Most of it has to come out through the doors and into the lake. We’re so busy over here to try and minimize the impact of wastewater going into the lake.”

He said the plant is too small and they have to either upgrade the facility or create a new lagoon. The community requested to build a $10 million lagoon but the project has met setbacks. Following the completion of the design in 2007, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada delayed the funding for construction in 2008. A year later, INAC delayed construction again and pushed funding back to 2014.

Wabasse said the lagoon isn’t on the community territory so they had to file more paper work with INAC to have the lagoon there. A letter addressed to the chief and council said they couldn’t support the request.

Wabasse said his community was in a safe zone but thought it was still sad to see the wastewater go through the doors.

Not all the homes are connected to the sewage plant. They advised residents not to hook up their homes in order to offset some of the waste coming in, he said.

There’s no way to know for sure how much of the wastewater is going into the lake because they don’t have a meter to tell them, he said.

He said the Ontario First Nation Technical Services Corporation was expected to come sometime in February to look at the plant.

He added people would have to cut back on water usage in order to help reduce the demand but if that didn’t help then it, they would have to shut down the plant and declare a state of emergency.

Follow Jeff Labine on Twitter @Labine_reporter

Recycling water: Waste not, want not

via: The Economist blog

DECADES ago, your correspondent visited one of the larger sewage works in the Thames Valley to learn how the new biodegradable detergents, with their long hydrocarbon chains, were affecting the plant’s filtration processes. The plant was coping just fine, he was informed. And the output was so good, it was piped straight back to local reservoirs for redistribution.

Each drop of water used by Londoners subsequently passed through the plant for reprocessing at least six times before eventually escaping to the sea. The engineer in charge was convinced that, with further refinement, the sewage works would be capable of recycling the same water indefinitely—with the quality improving with each treatment cycle. Offered a glass of the finished product, your correspondent thought it tasted a good deal better than the chalky liquid that spluttered from London taps (see “From toilet to tap”, September 26th 2008).

In America, the assumption is that, if recycled at all, reprocessed effluent is used strictly for irrigating golf courses, parks and highway embankments, or for providing feedwater for industrial boilers and cooling at power stations. The one thing water authorities are loathe to discuss is how much treated sewage (politely known as “reclaimed water”) is actually incorporated in the drinking supply.

The very idea of consuming reprocessed human, animal and industrial waste can turn people’s stomachs. But it happens more than most realise.

Even municipalities that do not pump waste-water back into aquifers or reservoirs, often draw their drinking supply from rivers that contain the treated effluent from communities upstream.

A survey done in 1980 for the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), which looked at two dozen water authorities that took their drinking water from big rivers, found this unplanned use of waste-water (known as “de facto reuse”) accounted for 10% or more of the flow when the rivers were low. Given the increase in population, de facto reuse has increased substantially over the past 30 years, says a recent report on the reuse of municipal waste-water by the National Research Council (NRC) in Washington, DC.

Along the Trinity River in Texas, for instance, water now being drawn off by places downstream of Dallas and Fort Worth consists of roughly 50% effluent. In summer months, when the natural flow of the river dwindles to a trickle, drinking water piped to Houston consists almost entirely of processed effluent.

The main problem is not changes in the weather (though global warming hardly helps), but population growth. The American population has doubled, to over 300m, since the middle of last century—and is expected to increase by a further 50%, to 450m, over the next half century. Meanwhile, households as a whole have been consuming water at an even faster rate, thanks to the housing boom and the widespread use of flushed toilets, dish washers, washing machines, swimming pools and garden sprinklers.

Then there is the ongoing migration within America from the cooler climes of the north-east and mid-west to the sunbelt of the south. Since 1970, Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas have seen their populations surge by 85% to 400%. This exodus to warmer, dryer parts of the country has coincided with a decline in the construction of hydrological infrastructure—dams, aquaducts, tunnels, pipelines and reservoirs—for collecting, storing and transporting water to precisely those parched places.

The fact is, there are simply no more ambitious water projects remaining to be tackled like those of the early 20th century, which pumped water from the Colorado River and the snow-capped Sierra Mountains across hundreds of miles of desert to the thirsty cities of the American south-west (see “Water, water everywhere”, June 25th 2010). Today, few lakes and rivers within pumping distance of the country’s conurbations remain untapped. Meanwhile, dams that help purify effluent in rivers—by holding back water for months on end so that microbial and photochemical processes can do their job—are being dismantled to restore natural habitats and protect threatened species.

Over the past quarter of a century, the amount of water used in the United States has remained stable at around 210 billion gallons (795m cubic metres) a day. While consumption by households has tripled since the 1950s, the amount of water used to irrigate agricultural land and feed industry has declined. Farmers have embraced more efficient sprinkler systems, put more crops under glass, planted more drought-resistant varieties, and profited from selling their surplus water to nearby towns. On the industrial side, the use of thermo-electric power—with its need for cooling water—peaked in 1980 and is now below its 1970 level. Meanwhile, many old water-using industries have upgraded from steam to electric power or moved offshore.

Conservation has also helped ease the demand for fresh water, though it comes nowhere near offsetting the thirst of the sunbelt’s surging population. The only conclusion is that, like it or not, people will have to get used to drinking their own effluent.

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