Clean Water New Year’s Resolutions

The year 2017 rings in with many of us, all over the planet, resolving to do better.

  • Get in better shape.
  • Become more skilled and a better co-worker on the job.
  • Be more altruistic and a better member of society.

As a planet, becoming better stewards of clean water can be added to this list. But what can we do?

The City of Bellevue, WA, offers terrific suggestions to its residents for reducing contamination to surface water. Pollution from cities like Bellevue is called point pollution, as described below in an excerpt from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) site:

The term “point source” means any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged.

Importantly, point pollution does not include agricultural storm water discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture. Otherwise known as farm runoff.

Managing Animal Grazing Helps Prevent Toxic Water Runoff.

Point pollution, often to the surprise of many, also does not account for the vast majority of surface water pollution across the USA and elsewhere. That responsibility lies with agriculture, and farm runoff.

In this 2014 Scientific American article, Lake Erie Basin farm fields are cited as being responsible for at least 60% of the phosphorus now reaching Lake Erie. Phosphorus is the key nutrient feeding the epic algae blooms occurring annually in the lake. This 60% figure is tossed around regularly — in many places the percentage is as high as 80% — wherever and whenever agriculture, algae blooms and phosphorus are discussed.

So, in addition to what Bellevue, WA suggests we as individuals can do to foster clean surface water, let’s encourage agriculture to resolve to follow some guidelines for the new year as well. Priority areas noted below, and the specific practices recommended, come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide: National Management Measures to Control Non-point Source Pollution from Agriculture.

Conservation Tillage – leaving crop residue (plant materials from past harvests) on the soil surface reduces runoff and soil erosion, conserves soil moisture, helps keep nutrients and pesticides on the field, and improves soil, water, and air quality;
Crop Nutrient Management – fully managing and accounting for all nutrient inputs helps ensure nutrients are available to meet crop needs while reducing nutrient movements off fields. It also helps prevent excessive buildup in soils and helps protect air quality;
Pest Management – varied methods for keeping insects, weeds, disease, and other pests below economically harmful levels while protecting soil, water, and air quality;
Conservation Buffers – from simple grassed waterways to riparian areas, buffers provide an additional barrier of protection by capturing potential pollutants that might otherwise move into surface waters.
Strategic Irrigation Water Management – reducing non-point source pollution of ground and surface waters caused by irrigation systems;
Grazing Management – minimizing the water quality impacts of grazing and browsing activities on pasture and range lands;
Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) Management – minimizing impacts of animal feeding operations and waste discharges through runoff controls, waste storage, waste utilization, and nutrient management;
Erosion and Sediment Control – conserving soil and reducing the mass of sediment reaching a water body, protecting both agricultural land and water quality and habitat.

The new year has arrived. Here’s hoping it will be a good one for everyone — starting with the water we share.

Donald Trump – coming clean.

Ok. So Donald Trump staged the greatest upset in US political history with his election as the 45th President of the United States. Some are happy. Some are sad. As usual, and I suspect unfortunately, about this US citizens are split 50-50.

Politics, grants, and fundraising for Clean Water Warrior (CWW) aside, what does the election of Donald Trump mean for clean water initiatives across the USA?

Presently, the news is not good. But this may change.

Donald Trump must lead charge on clean water
Donald Trump must lead charge on clean water

The Not Good News

On clean water pollution and Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs), it is 100% certain Donald Trump does not know what he’s talking about. Case in point: because it is a hot-spot for clean water issues, we often reference Lake Okeechobee in FL. As it turns out, when President-Elect Trump campaigned in FL, he presented his (ignorant, and incorrect) opinion on how to resolve the problems with the beleaguered lake:

“My administration will address important environmental priorities like the Everglades and ensure quality water all across America, including the fixing of water problems like Lake Okeechobee,” Trump saidaccording to an article from the Miami New Times. “It’s amazing. You know, Lake Okeechobee, they’re always letting the water out. Do you ever notice we always have droughts? They’re always letting the water out. I said keep it in! We won’t have any droughts.”

I could explain why he is wrong, completely wrong, with this non-solution. But I will instead reference Dale Gawlik, professor and director of Florida Atlantic University’s Environmental Science Program, an expert who says Trump’s idea will hurt Lake O.

“If you were completely uncaring about the ecology of Lake Okeechobee and the fish and birds that live there and just view it as a big holding tank of water, what he’s saying could have some merit,” Gawlik told the New Times.

“The lake can’t go above a certain level because of the structural integrity of the lake, so you’re capped out there. We’re already almost there. What (Trump’s) suggesting is you throw out all the ecological importance, which is tied to a lot of tourism and industry there, and just look at drought alone.”

Ignorance is bliss and, apparently, not a hindrance to getting elected President of the United States. Even in Florida where, despite his zero knowledge about the single most important ecological piece of land and water IN THE STATE, he won the electoral votes.

So … knowing almost nothing about the national clean water crisis is the “not good” news. But, hold on. With President-Elect Trump there IS good news. Really good news.

He is building his platform on improving the infrastructure of the United States. Making it the best in the world, he says.

The Good News

If Donald Trump can be held accountable for words spoken and vows pledged during his successful campaign, infrastructure improvements sit atop his to-do list.

As each of these projects commence via a cooperative effort of Federal and State government, and private industry, clean water will at times be an unavoidable part of the planning.

Though they have nothing to do with Trump, exciting clean water infrastructure programs are already underway via support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Can we expect even more attention and funding like this during President Trump’s term?

Why not?

The man staged the greatest political upset in American history. If he is smart enough to do that, he can certainly learn the basics about HABs, and how to combat them.

I believe he will and, if so, the USA will lead the way in curbing in some places, and eliminating in others, HAB activity.

Leading the way in providing solutions for cleaner, safer water.

That will be a huge step in Trump’s mission to make America great again.




In the aftermath of Matthew … more water concerns.

Searching through articles post-Hurricane Matthew has yielded a host of concerns for the entire Eastern USA Seaboard – the area that was pummeled by the storm last week. Since much of what we have discussed regarding Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) has focused on Southeast FL in general, and Lake Okeechobee (Lake O) in particular, let’s keep the conversation there for today.

And it is a messy matter, indeed. is a superb resource for all things Lake O and, truly, the issues facing Southeast Florida. As always, at the very foundation of HABs rests an overabundance of phosphorus.

And Lake O has way too much.

HAB in Southeast FL
HAB in Southeast FL

The question of what can be done is moot. That solution is multifaceted, time consuming and, most troublesome, costly. It involves several approaches, including better land management and sophisticated technology.

What will be done is this: to keep Lake O from flooding surrounding areas – which is always a distinct possibility, whenever the lake rises to 15 feet or so — nearly 2 billion gallons of water per day will be drained. With no set timetable for ending. It depends on how much rain continues to fall. And how dry the upcoming dry season of October, November and December really is.

All that said, for perspective, an area as large as roughly 1800 football fields, with 10′ deep water, would hold close to 2 billion gallons.

HABs in Southeast Florida will again make their presence known in 2017. And excessive phosphorus is the reason.


Hurricane Matthew: Southeast Florida Vulnerable

Within hours, Hurricane Matthew will smash its Category 4 chaos on the narrow, flat peninsula that is the State of Florida. And here I sit, safe from this destructive powerhouse about which many in my area remain blissfully unaware; writing from my porch in tiny West Bend, WI. Despite this distance, what I know from research is that, while the evacuation of humans from the highest-risk areas may prove effective in saving lives, in every other way Florida cannot possibly be ready for this.

Category 4 is massive. It has been over 100 years since a Category 4 hurricane hit Florida.

Hurricane Matthew Slams Into Bahamas
Hurricane Matthew Slams Into Bahamas

And that was the ONLY time.

The deadliest hurricane on record happened in Galveston, TX, in 1900. That hurricane? Category 4.  To add perspective, Hurricane Katrina — infamous for its horrific explosion on the City of New Orleans — was Category 3.

The only Category 5 hurricane to hit the USA was Andrew, in 1992. Fortunately for Florida, Andrew did not dump loads of rain. Why? Because the dikes holding back Lake Okeechobee can handle heavy winds and fallen trees. Excessive amounts of rainfall? Not so much.

According to Lloyds Emerging Risk Team, Southest Florida’s Lake Okeechobee – roughly the size of Rhode Island —  is the second most hurricane-vulnerable place in the United States, right behind New Orleans. Eventually, the Lake’s dikes can contain only so much water.

Currently, according to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Lake Okeechobee’s depth sits at near-record averages of about 15.5 feet:

“Okeechobee water levels continue at almost record highs after an extremely wet summer and fall. The current water level on Lake Okeechobee as of September 25, 2016 is 15.66 ft. NGVD, just over a foot higher than last year. The lake level has increased almost a foot within the last month.”

Hurricane Matthew will drop at least 7″ of rain into the Lake, causing a rise of perhaps 2-feet. It is possible Matthew will pour 10″ or more — and that could create as much as a 3-foot rise.

The lowest of Okeechobees dikes rests at slightly higher than 18 feet — uncomfortably low with Hurricane Matthew approaching, according John Campbell of the Army Corp of Engineers.

Parts of the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee start to become vulnerable at 17.5 feet, Campbell noted. 

“Certainly our concern all year is what happens if we get a lot of precipitation and the lake level rises,” Campbell said. “A (rise over 17 feet) would take us to areas where historically we’ve had some challenges and it’s certainly something we’d like to avoid.”

An unfortunate byproduct of Hurricane Matthew may be that the historic HABs (Harmful Algae Blooms) of 2016, which wiped out most of Southeast Florida’s Gold Coast tourist season, will repeat themselves in 2017. Hundreds of millions in tourist dollars will again be at stake.

For area businesses who rely on tourist trade, this loss of income would clearly be devastating.

That said, if Matthew causes a breech to a significant piece of the Lake Okeechobee dike — and this possibility is at present razor-thin close — Southeast Florida will be looking at a disaster reminiscent to what we saw in New Orleans, with Hurricane Katrina.

In two days, we’ll know.