Thursday, June 26, 2008

Georgia Slips into Deeper Drought

With June temperatures routinely hitting the 90s and little rain so far this summer, drought conditions have worsened across Georgia.

Conditions in the western half of south and middle Georgia have deteriorated the most. A few weeks ago, these regions were classified as abnormally dry. They are now in severe drought.

Severe drought now exists west and north of a line crossing Lowndes, Cook, Tift, Turner, Crisp, Dooly, Houston, Bibb, Jones, Baldwin, Hancock, Glascock, Warren, McDuffie and Richmond counties. It includes Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Rome. Severe drought conditions occur about once in 20 years.

Much of north Georgia is in extreme drought. This includes an area north and east of a line crossing Lincoln, Wilkes, Taliaferro, Greene, Morgan, Walton, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Dawson, Gilmer and Fannin counties. The cities are Athens, Blairsville, Clayton, Cumming, Gainesville and Madison. Extreme drought conditions occur about once in 50 years.

Moderate drought conditions exists in Echols, Lanier, Berrien, Irwin, Ben Hill, Wilcox, Pulaski, Dodge, Bleckley, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Laurens, Washington, Johnson, Jefferson, Burke, Jenkins, Screven and Effingham counties. Moderate drought conditions occur about once in 10 years.

Clinch, Atkinson, Coffee, Telfair, Wheeler, Treutlen, Emanuel, Candler, Bullock, Evans, Liberty, Bryan and Chatham counties are in mild drought, which occurs about once in seven years.

Abnormally dry counties are Camden, Charlton, Ware, Bacon, Jeff Davis, Montgomery, Toombs, Tattnall, Long and McIntosh.

Currently, the only counties not in drought are Glynn, Brantley, Pierce, Appling and Wayne. However, a hot, dry July could cause drought to develop rapidly.

The biggest concern over the next several weeks will be stream flows and soil moisture.

Almost half of the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges across Georgia are at record low flows as of June 25. This analysis includes only gauges with a minimum of 30 years of records. It doesn’t include gauges on the Chattahoochee River below the Buford Dam or gauges on the Savannah River.

Streams at daily record low flows include the Chattahoochee River near Cornelia, the Etowah River at Canton, the Notteley River near Blairsville, the Chattoga River near Clayton, the Broad River near Bell, the Flint River near Carsonville, Oakfield, Albany and Newton, the Oconee River at Athens, Milledgeville and Dublin, the Ocmulgee River near Jackson and Lumber City, the Ohoopee River near Reidsville, the Withlacoochee River near Quitman and Ichawaynochaway Creek near Milford.

Several streams are at or below their 7Q10 flow value, which is the 7-day flow that has only a 10 percent chance of occurring in any given year. When it does happen, it typically occurs in September or October, when stream flows are normally at their lowest for the year.

Seeing streams at or below the 7Q10 in late June indicates the severity of the current conditions.

Streams currently below their 7Q10 are the Broad River near Bell, the Little River near Washington, the Ocmulgee River near Jackson, the Oconee River at Dublin, the Flint River at Carsonville and Ichawaynochaway Creek at Milford.

Streams slightly above their 7Q10 are the Middle Oconee at Athens and the Chattooga River near Clayton.

Soil moisture levels are extremely low north of a line from Seminole County to Screven County.

North of a line from Chattahoochee County to Richmond County the levels are at or below the 10th percentile. At this percentile, we would expect more moisture in the soils 90 out of 100 years in late June.

North of a line from Columbia County to Hall County to Fannin County, levels are at or below the 5th percentile. At the 5th percentile, we would expect more moisture in the soils 95 out of 100 years in late June.

Farm ponds, especially ones not fed by springs, are showing the lack of rain. Many ponds didn’t receive adequate recharge during the winter and entered the summer already low.

Through October, Georgia’s best chance for widespread drought relief will be tropical disturbances. The tropics usually don’t become active until late summer.

More drought information can be found at Automated weather data across Georgia is at Daily rainfall from CoCoRaHS is available at USGS data is at Water conservation information is available at

By David Stooksbury
University of Georgia

David Stooksbury is the state climatologist, a professor of engineering and graduate coordinator for atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Officials Provide Information for Employees Victimized by Flood

Defense Department officials have issued information to assist federal employees and agencies affected by the recent flooding throughout the Midwest and Mississippi River Valley, military officials said.

"Our Defense Department employees are a valued resource and an essential part of our total forces," said Marilee Fitzgerald, principal director of the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy. "The department is committed to doing all that we can do to assist our civilian work force during this difficult and challenging time."

Information on flexibilities currently available -- such as family support, telework and emergency hiring -- are on the department's Civilian Personnel Management Service Web site at The site also includes a link to an Office of Personnel Management handbook on pay and leave benefits for federal employees affected by severe weather or other emergencies.

The handbook contains information on salary advances to employees ordered to evacuate for safety reasons, excused absence with pay, travel and subsistence payments, and various pay contingencies, officials said.

Families can call the department's emergency employee toll-free phone number, 888-363-4872, to ask questions regarding their employment and to update their employing components of their conditions. Employees also can provide the information by e-mail to, officials said.

The Defense Department will update and post information regularly to the Civilian Personnel Management Services site to keep its agencies and employees informed, Fitzgerald said.

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Midwestern Guardsmen Respond to Rising Flood Waters

Thousands of National Guard troops in the Midwest have moved into high gear reinforcing levees, conducting security patrols, and delivering food, water and relief supplies as record-breaking floods surged through the heartland.

Nearly 4,000 Iowa National Guard troops are deployed across the state as flood levels break records in almost every river community on the Cedar, Iowa, Des Moines, Raccoon and Mississippi river basins, reported Army Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood, Iowa National Guard public affairs officer.

With 17 civilian fatalities and 106 injuries reported, 25,000 people evacuated from their homes, and flood waters still rising, the Guardsmen are reinforcing threatened levees, filling and delivering sandbags, and providing aerial reconnaissance of the region, Hapgood said.

The Army and Air Guardsmen also are transporting packaged meals, drinking water, cots and other relief supplies, conducting security patrols in support of local law enforcement officials, and providing high-water vehicles to utility crews evaluating homes for unsafe conditions.

"We're ... trying to prevent people from going where they shouldn't for their own safety," said Army Sgt. Jason Boesen, a 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, soldier mobilized to support flood--relief operations. "We assist by roving patrols with vehicles."

In Cedar Rapids, one of the hardest-hit cities, the troops used a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to sling-load seven 800-pound water pumps to a repair facility so wells could be returned to full capacity, Hapgood said.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 members of the Iowa Guard's 334th Brigade Support Battalion and 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, built a 3-foot levee from about 12,000 sandbags to protect a power substation in Ottumwa from being overrun by rising waters.

About 800 Iowa Guardsmen conducting annual training in South Dakota were recalled to the state to support the flood relief, Hapgood said.

Air Force Col. Brian Miller, commander of the Air National Guard's Sioux City-based 185th Air Refueling Wing, predicted that the Army and Air Guard will be "here for the long haul" supporting the mission.

"We're going to be here as long as it takes," he said.

Hapgood noted that many of the Guardsmen involved in the effort have served combat tours in Iraq or Afghanistan and now have stepped up to assist their own communities.

"This shows in a very tangible way the incredible amount of flexibility built into our skill sets that we can conduct combat missions and also help people here in the United States," Hapgood said. "It's demonstrative of the broad capabilities we have in the National Guard."

Army Sgt. Sean Rohret, a Company C, 133rd Infantry, soldier who has deployed as part of the Sinai Peninsula peacekeeping mission and served a tour of duty in Iraq, said it feels good to be pitching in to help rescue his home state.

"It's pretty gratifying to actually be able to get out here and help the community," he said. "I've seen a lot of people out sandbagging, a lot of people coming up to us, asking us where they can go to help. It's been a pretty wonderful experience getting to see everybody come together."

"It's a pleasure giving something back to the community," agreed Army Sgt. 1st Class Chino Halpin, from 334th BSB. "It's good service."

Meanwhile, more than 500 Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen are working alongside local citizens to build up levees along the Mississippi River in the western part of the state. Another 400 have been called to duty and are expected to be on site by tomorrow to provide sandbagging, communications and transportation support, state National Guard officials reported.

Army Sgt. Jon Stonewall, a member of the Illinois Army Guard's 233rd Military Police Company, is among those supporting the effort. Stonewall joined the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and deployed with his unit to Iraq in 2003, and also was called to duty in December 2006 when a severe winter storm hit Illinois.

"Being here is typical of the Guard," he said. "Part of our mission is here at home, helping the residents in an emergency."

Support from Stonewall and his fellow Guardsmen will be critical in the days ahead. River levels in the Quincy area of Illinois' Adams County are expected to crest tomorrow at 31.9 feet – almost 15 feet over flood stage, county officials reported.

To the south, hundreds of Missouri National Guardsmen are fighting to hold back the surge of water flowing downriver from Iowa and bracing for more to come.

"To be successful in this mission, we will deploy every necessary resource available," said Army Lt. Col. William McKinney, who commands a task force set up to oversee seven units supporting the effort. "Missouri's Guardsmen are an asset for our people to utilize when they face an emergency requiring additional assistance."

The Guardsmen are monitoring levees, working security and filling sandbags along the Mississippi River, state National Guard officials reported.

The Missouri Army Guard's 548th Transportation Company left annual training in South Dakota early to deliver 20 pallets of packaged meals to flood-ravaged Iowa earlier this week. The pallets, which were donated by the South Dakota National Guard, amount to 11,520 meals.

The mission was personal for the Missourians, who had spent much of the past week in South Dakota training alongside Iowa Guardsmen, who also left training early to respond to the severe flooding back home. "This is what we do," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Christine Chane. "Iowa needed the [meals], and we could help. They knew we had the assets to make the delivery."

Army Spc. John Crawford, whose 1438th Engineer Company just finished its annual training exercise, said he's happy to be able to provide flood relief support. "It is a great thing the Guard is doing up here," he said.

Meanwhile, almost 200 Wisconsin Army and Air Guardsmen are on duty as major flooding continues across the southern part of that state.

The Wisconsin Guardsmen are helping with flood control along flooded highways, filling and grading washed-out roads, securing traffic-control points, and providing aviation support for aerial damage-assessment missions, National Guard Bureau officials reported.

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service; Army Pvt. Cassandra Monroe and Sgt. Chad D. Nelson from the Iowa Army National Guard's 135th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Air Force 1st Lt. Peter Shinn from the Iowa Air Guard's 185th Refueling Wing, 2nd Lt. Stacey Rieger from the Illinois National Guard, and Robert Seyller from the Missouri National Guard contributed to this article.

Electrical Work Keeps Potable Water Flowing to Baghdad

The Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division is working to ensure Baghdad's water supply with nonstop operations for the Karkh Water Treatment Plant near Taji, northwest of Baghdad.

In a $20 million project, the back-up generator system is being restored to keep potable water flowing to 50 percent of Baghdad residents without interruption or worries over low levels in reservoirs.

The plant pumps an overall daily output of 1.36 million liters through a 2.1-meter-diameter pipe connected to several Baghdad reservoirs and also supplies the immediate communities around Karkh. Power outages at the plant stop the output cycle, and water reserves and resources diminish.

"The electrical power for the plant sometimes is off for three to four hours a day, and that means we cannot contribute water to the reservoirs. That is not a good situation for our customers," reported an Iraqi plant engineer at Karkh.

In 2005, the Karkh plant was heavily damaged by a vehicle bomb. Repair of the key elements for a continuous supply is expected to take until October.

"Good, clean water means a lot for any community, and Baghdad is no exception," said Navy Lt. Cdr. Paul Chan, officer in charge of the Gulf Region Division's central district resident office in Taji. "This is a very significant project in the stabilization of essential services for the entire Baghdad area."

The Corps of Engineers project primarily is for design, supplies, labor and equipment relating to system repairs of the Rolls-Royce Avon 8.5 megawatt generators, which are the backup power source for the plant. The project also will overhaul and replace raw- and treated-water valves to increase both efficiency and capacity of the plant.

Author Kendal Smith is a public affairs officer with the Gulf Region Central District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Camera Reveals New Organisms in Georgia Well

His drinking water smelled like old bait-shrimp, and the Putnam County homeowner wanted Keith Fielder, the local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent, to tell him why. What they found swimming around in his well still hasn’t been identified. To help identify the problem water quality specialists with the UGA Environmental Services Laboratory used a submersible camera to help identify the problem at the waterfront home on Lake Sinclair.

“As we lowered the camera, we noticed flashes coming by the lens,” Fielder said. “When we reached the bottom, something swam by the lens, stopped and then swam by again. We all looked at each other like ‘What in the world was that?’ When we looked at the tape later, they were everywhere.”

It turns out what they saw back in May 2006 was an unidentified isopod, similar to a small shrimp. They were being chewed up by the well pump, collecting in the filter and causing the smell and concern. A large crack in the well casing was found, too, which allowed water to flow in and maybe the creatures.

Wire traps baited with bits of fresh fish were used to catch some of the isopods. Eleven specimens were caught and sent to experts at universities and research facilities across the U.S. Scientists at Penn State University and Texas A&M University at Galveston identified the organism as an asellid isopod. But it didn’t match any known species.

George Wilson, a scientist at the Center for Evolutionary Research at the Australian Museum of Natural History, determined the organism didn’t match any specimen in any catalog of known asellid. Both female and male organisms were identified of what was determined to be an unknown species of asellidae and possibly a new genus.

Back in Georgia, Fielder and other UGA Extension agents continue to use the camera as a diagnostic tool to solve well mysteries.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with this camera and we’ve seen a lot of interesting things,” Fielder said. “It was really neat to find the isopod. The more we use it, the more unusual things we will find.”

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provides access to five cameras stationed across Georgia, one in each of the four UGA Extension districts and another at the AESL in Athens. UGA Extension agents have access to the cameras and the training to operate them.

The brainchild of the late Paul Vendrell, a CAES water quality program coordinator, the concept grew from a camera fishermen use for scouting. Similar cameras are also used by professionals in the drilling industries.

“Vendrell developed the methodology to use it in an extension environment to help homeowners,” he said. “It is a simple, efficient, practical tool and has become a very real way of helping people.”

The camera has an automatic depth-tracking feature, which helps precisely locate problem areas. In addition to isopods, the camera has pinpointed faulty sub-surface geology, well casing failures, surface water intrusion and bad well equipment.

“We find all kinds of stuff down in wells,” Fielder said. “We find some pretty well-established bacteria colonies that link and chain up into bio-films. They are almost sponge-like and attach to walls and casings. Folks just don’t want to see that down their wells.”

Fish have been found in some wells and tree roots are a common find. Pieces of metal or trash have also been found, along with cell phones, hair dryers and dead rodents.

“Most people don’t care to know they have stuff swimming in their drinking water,” Fielder said. “The more wells we drop a camera down, there is no telling what we will find.”

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Governor Announces $31.4 Million in Loans and Grants to Finance Water and Sewer System Infrastructure Improvements

Governor Sonny Perdue’s announced today (June 17, 2008) the approval of two Georgia Fund commitments totaling $8,402,836, and one Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) commitment of $23 million. The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority’s (GEFA) Executive Committee approved the loans and grant to help finance water and sewer infrastructure projects for Gwinnett County and the cities of Bainbridge and Gibson.

“Infrastructure improvements increase the quality of life for Georgia citizens, and they help cities and counties create jobs and promote economic development,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “I’m pleased these investments are being made in water and sewer infrastructure.”

“GEFA’s programs are a tangible commitment by Governor Perdue and the General Assembly to assist local governments across the state with their efforts to provide clean water and sewer improvements,” said Chris Clark. “In addition to the public’s health and safety, these projects are critical to a community’s ability to prosper economically.”

Clark expressed appreciation to Governor Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly for their support. He credited Governor Perdue’s commitment to helping Georgia cities and counties finance infrastructure development as one of the main contributors to GEFA’s success. Governor Perdue recommended and the General Assembly approved Amended FY2008 and FY2009 budget appropriations of $120 million for water infrastructure and reservoir development.

“The projects that we agreed to finance today illustrate how GEFA helps communities of all sizes, in all areas of the state,” said J.C. Warren, chairman of the GEFA board of directors and a member of the Screven County board of commissioners. “From the smallest of communities to the largest, GEFA is investing in communities that are willing to invest in themselves.”

GEFA helps communities prepare for economic growth and development through the provision of low interest loans and grants. The Georgia Fund is a state funded loan program administered by GEFA for water, wastewater and solid waste infrastructure projects. The loan program has maximum flexibility and accessibility, providing fast loan approvals. The Georgia Fund finances loans to local governments for projects such as water and sewer lines, treatment plants, pumping stations, wells, water storage tanks and water meters. Low interest loans from this program range from $20,000 to $50 million.

The CWSRF is a federal loan program administered by GEFA for wastewater infrastructure projects. Eligible projects include a wide variety of wastewater collection and treatment projects.

Details of the loans and grants approved today are below:

Gwinnett County

Gwinnett County was approved for a CWSRF loan of $23,000,000 to help finance the construction of a sewer tunnel to store and convey wastewater from the Jacks Creek, No Business Creek, Big Haynes Creek, and Brushy Fork Creek service areas to the site of the future No Business Creek Regional Pump Station. The project will improve water quality and more efficiently and economically treat wastewater. The loan approved today is for the second of three phases of the project. GEFA approved a loan of $22,000,000 for the first phase of the project on September 29, 2005. Gwinnett County will pay three percent interest on the 20-year loan. GEFA is financing the entire estimated cost of the $54,000,000 project.

City of Gibson

The city of Gibson was approved for a Georgia Fund grant of $100,000 to help finance repairs at the city’s water pollution control plant. The total project cost is $333,000, with GEFA providing a $100,000 Georgia Fund grant and a $170,000 Georgia Fund loan, the Department of Community Affairs providing a $50,000 Immediate Threat and Danger grant, and the city providing $13,000.

City of Bainbridge

The city of Bainbridge was approved for a Georgia Fund loan of $8,302,836 to help finance water and sewer system infrastructure projects, including sewer line extensions and the conversion of 5,000 residential water meters to an automated meter reading system. The city will pay 4.27 percent interest on the 20-year loan. The total cost is $15,952,753 with GEFA providing the entire amount in two phases.

Cities and counties interested in more information regarding GEFA loans and grants should visit or call (404) 584-1000.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mayor Franklin’s Testimony at the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs - Excerpts

GFP Note: Mayor Shirley Franklin was one of four mayors who testified before a Congressional Committee on June 12, 2008 on declining infrastructure and the financial impact. The entire testimony can be found at at this link.

Good Morning, Chairman Dodd, Ranking Member Shelby and Members of the Committee. I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Committee on the condition of the infrastructure in the City of Atlanta. As I am sure you are aware, the infrastructure of most, if not all, American cities is in a declining state. We mayors are on the front lines, coping daily with frequent shortfalls in our aging infrastructure while we struggle to address the staggering costs of repairs, and more often than not are unable to even consider the expense of replacement of these critical systems.

When I took office as Mayor of the City of Atlanta in January 2002, it did not take long for me to realize that the City’s severely neglected infrastructure would require my immediate attention, particularly the rebuilding of our water and sewer infrastructure. We recently passed the halfway mark in our $4 billion Clean Water Atlanta Initiative, the details of which I will share with you momentarily.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, Atlanta’s water and sewer system and transportation infrastructure system are the areas on which I will focus my testimony.
Water and Sewer Infrastructure.

Clean drinking water and wastewater are local, regional and national issues. Cities must continue to do their part to address the challenges facing our water and sewer infrastructure systems. However, we cannot do it alone. We need state support and support from Washington. We need a partner in the federal government. Let me tell you about what we’re doing in Atlanta.

Clean Water Atlanta Initiative

In the Fall of 2002, I announced the launch of the Clean Water Atlanta Program, a comprehensive long-term program involving a complete overhaul of the City’s water and sewer infrastructure. The program includes a $4 billion, court-ordered mandate to repair and replace the City’s water and sewer infrastructure, which will ensure that our residents and businesses have clean drinking water and that our downstream neighbors have safe water supplies.
As part of the Clean Water Program, we have drastically reduced sanitary and combined sewer overflows; separated the sewers, leaving only the downtown area with combined sewers; built more than 120 miles of new water mains; inspected more than 1,000 miles of sewers; and rehabbed about 250 miles of sewers. As a result of these efforts, one of our primary waterways – the Chattahoochee River – is cleaner than it was 10 years ago.

Although we have secured $500 million in low-interest state loans and approximately $6 million in grants from the EPA, we have undertaken this major project largely on the backs of the City’s residents, some 25 percent of whom live at or below the poverty line. Atlanta’s customers are already paying some of the country’s highest water and sewer rates. When you add the challenges associated with our drought to these infrastructure costs, the problem becomes even larger.

The condition of Atlanta’s water and sewer infrastructure has a profound effect not just on the City, but on the entire Metropolitan region. Atlanta is the economic engine of the State of Georgia and the City’s continuing prosperity has impacts well beyond its geographical boundaries throughout the entire Southeast. Atlanta cannot grow in an economically sound and sustainable way without reliable water and sewer systems. And if Atlanta’s growth stalls, Georgia and the Southeast will suffer.

National Scope of Water and Sewer Problems

Atlanta’s situation is not unique. Most American cities either are now or will soon be facing the problems Atlanta is facing. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that there is a $534 billion funding gap between what is available and what the needs are nationwide for water projects. The nation’s 54,000 drinking water systems face staggering public investment needs over the next 20 years. Although America spends billions on infrastructure each year, drinking water faces an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. The shortfall does not account for any growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years.

The drinking water lost from leaking pipes can range from 5 to 40 percent in some cities, which is a tremendous cost in terms of water loss. This is occurring at a time when 35 percent of cities will face water shortages by 2025, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 2005 survey of cities.

According to a 2004 estimate, the Environmental Protection Agency says the nation’s sewers are in such woeful shape that we are discharging 850 billion gallons of combined sewer
overflows a year into our streams and rivers, and another 10 billion gallons of sanitary sewer overflows.

Local governments are the primary investor in water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the local government share of spending on sewer infrastructure and services is more than 95 percent, with the state share being less than 5 percent. For water systems infrastructure and services, the local government share is more than 99 percent. The trend is for greater spending on water and sewer infrastructure and services due to a variety of factors including population growth and land use, an aging water infrastructure requiring ongoing maintenance and rehabilitation, and the impacts of climate change.

Attached to my statement is a chart compiled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which reflects these trends. As you will see, local governments shoulder a significant portion of these growing infrastructure costs, at the same time that Congressional funding for water infrastructure and services remains nearly the same as funding levels from 10 to 20 years ago.

Completely overhauling the country’s aging infrastructure cannot be a prospect left solely to the cities, many of which struggle daily to provide the services an aging population demands. The cities are not looking for a handout. But at some point the federal government has to make a commitment to the health of the nation’s cities, and that is going to require money. Cities need a direct partner in the federal government because the country’s prosperity depends on the health of its cities.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Mall Waters Plants with Recycled Water

Landscaping at the Mall of Georgia is now being watered with “reuse water” instead of drinking water. A recently constructed two-mile, 24-inch pipeline makes it possible for the mall and a nearby Longhorn Steakhouse to use the highly treated but non-potable effluent from the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center.

A 20-mile pipeline from the Hill plant to the Chattahoochee River already brings inexpensive, processed water for irrigation and cooling to other users including Bear’s Best Golf Club, Bunten Road Park, the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, The River Club, and Pinckneyville Park. State and federal regulations specify permitted uses.

“We value our partnership with the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, and we are thrilled to work with them,” said the mall’s general manager, Joe Piccolo. “This project brings positive results to the community, ensures water conservation in the area and complements our other efforts like cardboard recycling and energy saving.”

The County expects to distribute about 300 million gallons of reuse water this year. The water is also available to tanker trucks for dust control and irrigation.

“If more large water users could make a similar switch, we could reduce demand for drinking water,” said Lynn Smarr with the County’s Water Resources Department. “This treated water poses no health risks and is currently returned to the Chattahoochee River.” Treatment includes screening, grit removal, sedimentation, aeration, clarification, coagulation, disinfecting ozonation, and filtering through activated carbon and ultra-filtration membranes.

“Especially with the drought conditions in Georgia, it just makes sense to conserve water and promote sustainability,” said Irish Horsey, the County’s reuse water manager.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Man-made" Water Has Different Chemistry

As population growth, food production and the regional effects of climate change place greater stress on the Earth’s natural water supply, “man-made” water – created by removing salt from seawater and brackish groundwater through reverse osmosis desalination – will become an increasingly important resource for millions of humans, especially those in arid regions such as the Middle East, the western United States, northern Africa and central Asia.

But the introduction of this life-giving water will bring changes to the environment.

“Water that’s been desalted through reverse osmosis contains a unique composition which will induce changes in the chemistry and ecology of aquifers and natural water systems it enters,” says Avner Vengosh, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

A new study by Vengosh and colleagues in France and Israel provides tools to identify and trace this man-made water as it mixes with natural water supplies and, over time, replaces natural waters in areas entirely dependent on desalination.

The study, published this month in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, details for the first time the isotope geochemistry – or chemical fingerprints – of the elements boron, lithium, strontium, oxygen and hydrogen found in reverse osmosis-desalted seawater and brackish groundwater.

Identifying these unique geochemical and isotopic fingerprints gives scientists and water-quality managers a new array of tools for tracing the presence and distribution of man-made fresh water in a region’s soils, surface waters and ground waters, Vengosh says.

“We studied the chemistry of water produced in several of the largest desalination plants on earth and found that that composition of the desalted water is totally different from those of natural waters,” he explains. “As this water leaks into the environment through poor infrastructure or enters it directly through irrigation, it will be possible to use our new tracers to track the water back to its origin

“It’s sort of like a detective who collects fingerprints at the scene of the crime and matches them to the guilty suspect,” he says.

Being able to trace water back to a desalinated source through its isotopic and geochemical fingerprints will allow local governments and water utilities to zero in on the problem of valuable water loss and correct it more quickly and efficiently. Moreover, because desalted wastewater can be recycled through the environment and reused as a drinking water source – a process already being used in southern California – the new tools would enable water authorities to trace the relative contribution of desalted water in their system, and to test the effectiveness of their water treatment processes.

“This will be especially beneficial in water-scarce regions like California or the Middle East, where natural water sources are diminishing and made-made waters are becoming the ultimate water sources,” Vengosh says. “Given the complexity and variety of man-made fresh water sources being used to replace natural recharge in these regions, traditional tests alone, such as testing for water salinity, cannot provide a single solution.”

Global capacities for producing freshwater through desalination are projected to double by the year 2015, he notes. In some regions, diminished natural water supplies already are problematic. In California, which is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades, new housing and other development is being slowed or stopped under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for approval before building can begin. Increased use of freshwater produced through desalination could help resolve this issue, Vengosh says.

Vengosh is a geochemist who is internationally cited for his expertise on the chemical and isotopic composition of water contaminants. His research has led to the development of new, more accurate methods for tracing contaminants in water supplies worldwide, from boron-laden surface and ground waters in the Middle East to radon-contaminated groundwater in the mountains of western North Carolina.

He co-authored the new study with Wolfram Kloppmann, Catherine Guerrot and Romain Millot of the Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres of France, and Irena Pankratov of the National Water Commission of Israel.

By Timothy D. Lucas
Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

ITT Completes EPA Validation for World’s Most Efficient UV Drinking Water System

BUSINESS WIRE --ITT Corporation (NYSE: ITT), a leading provider of systems for treating and transporting water and wastewater, announced today that it has completed a new validation for ITTs WEDECO K Series Ultraviolet (UV) Reactor according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards. The WEDECO K Series UV reactor is the most efficient large scale drinking water system using UV disinfection on the world market.

UV disinfection of drinking water is a safe and reliable way to protect public health from waterborne diseases. Since UV light has the ability to sterilize pathogenic microorganisms within seconds, it has been widely implemented in many water treatment facilities throughout the world. The WEDECO K Series UV Reactor offers significant cost savings for large scale drinking water UV projects. The WEDECO UV systems are using low pressure, high-output UV lamps, so the operating costs are typically less than half of the leading medium pressure lamp systems available.

The WEDECO K Series UV reactor underwent all possible design scenarios during the validation, with flow rates up to 40 million gallons per day. In addition to the upcoming drinking water projects, more than 100 installed K Series vessels in North America can now be certified according to the latest USEPA guidelines.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rain Provides Water Shortage Solution

Water bans may still be in place for many Georgia residents, but they can keep their gardens growing and lawns watered. All it takes is a roof, a gutter, a tank, a little rain and some ingenuity.

“In rainwater, we can have a really good solution to our irrigation problem,” said Frank Henning, a watershed agent with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. “When we start to look at how much water can be harvested from an average size rooftop, the quantities are there, even in a drought year like 2007.”

He’s not talking about catching it in a rain barrel, although any water saved is better than sending it all into roads and streams as runoff. Henning is encouraging Georgians to take a lesson from some of their Western neighbors and install a rainwater holding tank.

For Billy Kniffen of Menard, Texas, it takes more than a rain barrel to collect enough water to keep his entire household going. His drinking water doesn’t come from a municipal supply or a well. It comes from rain harvesting.

“Rain is my only source of water,” he said, which he purifies before he drinks it. “If I run out, I run out of water. Every raindrop is very valuable.”

Kniffen is an extension agent for Texas A&M University. He and his wife rely on less than 5 inches of rain per year for their indoor water needs. For comparison, Atlanta got 25.48 inches of rain in 2007, an extremely dry year, according to UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network (

In Georgia, 9.5 million people depend on a clean water supply. Half of the state’s population lives in 12 urban counties, with the rest spread out among 147 other counties.

“How can we work to still have the vegetative growth we enjoy?” Henning said. “Rain catchment is one of the better solutions.”

Rain catchment, or harvesting, can be anything from a grouping of 50 gallon barrels connected by tubing to Kniffen’s five 3,000-gallon tanks. Kniffen’s tanks are connected to his roof, where every inch of rainfall produces just over a half gallon of water per square foot of roof. In his case, the 5,900 square feet of roof on his home and barn captures about 2,900 gallons of water per inch of rain.

His system cost $6,500 in 2003, not including gutters or labor. In comparison, a 50-gallon rain barrel costs $100 and up.

Henning isn’t advocating disconnecting from the water main. He does encourage Georgians to use rainwater. After catching it, he says to zone landscapes according to plant water needs, determine which plants really need water and then “work that into your rain harvest scheme.”

“Even in a drought year, we can collect enough water to irrigate ornamental plants in most landscapes,” Henning said.

On San Juan Island in Washington state, Tim Pope can’t connect to a water main, because there isn’t one. Pope has been building rainfall catchment systems in the Pacific Northwest for about 15 years. He can guarantee his clients fresh water, something wells can’t always provide. The island is “rocks next to salt water covered in clay,” he said. And sometimes that salt water breeches a well’s fresh water source.

Pope’s goal is to make rain harvesting systems as easy as possible for homeowners. But he also reminds them “the water we get out of the sky, although it’s probably the best water we can get, still isn’t perfect.”

To that end, most rain harvesting systems have a screen somewhere on the downspout to filter out large debris. Pope then follows the screen with a ceramic carbon block for sediment filtration and an ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and disinfect the water.

Once a rain harvesting system is in place, upkeep is the homeowner’s responsibility.

“Three things in life are certain,” Kniffen said. “Death, taxes and another drought is on its way. Conservation is the No. 1 thing we need to do. Rainwater harvesting is just one piece, but it’s a very important piece.”

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Possible New Approach To Purifying Drinking Water

A genetic tool used by medical researchers may also be used in a novel approach to remove harmful microbes and viruses from drinking water.

In a series of proof-of-concept experiments, Duke University engineers demonstrated that short strands of genetic material could successfully target a matching portion of a gene in a common fungus found in water and make it stop working. If this new approach can be perfected, the researchers believe that it could serve as the basis for a device to help solve the problem of safe drinking water in Third World countries without water treatment facilities.

The relatively new technology, known as RNA interference (RNAi), makes use of short snippets of genetic material that match -- like a lock and key -- a corresponding segment of a gene in the target. When these snippets enter a cell and attach to the corresponding segment, they can inhibit or block the action of the target gene. This approach is increasingly being used as a tool in biomedical research, but has not previously been applied to environmental issues.

"Pathogens, whether bacterial or viral, represent one of the major threats to drinking water in developed and undeveloped countries," said Sara Morey, a Ph.D. candidate� in the lab of Claudia Gunsch, assistant professor of civil engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "Our data showed that we could silence the action of a specific gene in a fungus in water, leading us to believe that RNAi shows promise as a gene-silencing tool for controlling the proliferation of waterborne bacteria and viruses."

Morey presented the results of her experiments June 3, 2008, during the annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Boston.

In addition to helping solve drinking water issues in underdeveloped countries, this new approach could also address some of the drawbacks associated with treated drinking water in more developed nations, Morey said. Methods currently used to treat water -- chlorine and ultraviolet (UV) light -- can be expensive to operate and the results of the treatment itself can affect the taste and smell of the water.

Although these methods have been employed for years, problems can emerge once the treated water enters the distribution system, where pathogens are also present. For this reason, water is often over-chlorinated at the plant so that it remains in high enough concentrations in the pipes to neutralize pathogens. This explains why people living the closer to a treatment plant will be more likely to taste or smell the chemical than those farthest away from the plant, the researchers said. Additionally, chlorine can react with other organic matter in the system, leading to potentially harmful by-products.

UV light, while also effective in neutralizing pathogens at the plant, has no effect once the water is pumped out of the plant. Gunsch said that many pathogens are developing a resistance to the effects of chlorine and UV light, so newer options are needed.

"We envision creating a system based on RNAi technology that would look from the outside just like the water filters commonly used now," Gunsch said. "This approach would be especially attractive in less industrialized countries without water treatment systems. This 'point-of-use' strategy would allow these countries to make safe water without the expense of water purification infrastructure."

The first prototypes would likely involve a filter "seeded" with RNAi that would eliminate pathogens as the water passed through it. These filters would likely need to be replaced regularly, Gunsch said, adding that she believes it would theoretically be possible to create a living, or self-replicating system, which would not require replacement.

The researchers are currently conducting additional experiments targeting other regions of the fungus' genome. For their proof-of-concept experiments, they tested RNAi on a non-essential, yet easy to monitor, gene. They are now testing this approach to silence or block genes essential to the viability of the pathogen.

They are also planning to test this strategy in water that contains a number of different pathogens at the same time, as well as trying to determine the optimal concentration needed in the water to be effective.

The experiments were funded by Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

By Richard Merritt

Composting Can Conserve Water in Gardens, Landscape

Composting not only saves water in landscapes and gardens, it creates plant food from trash, says a University of Georgia expert.

“Incorporating finished compost mulch into vegetable garden beds or plant beds amends the soil and allows water and air to filter through the soil better,” said Bob Westerfield, UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “There is not as much run off and the nutrients infiltrate better.”

Using nearly-finished compost as mulch helps plants retain moisture and prevent weeds.

“Organic fertilizers make the plants healthier,” Westerfield said. “And, when they are healthier they require less water.”

Compost is decomposed organic matter used as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. In heavy clay soils, compost reduces compaction, helps increase aeration and helps water better infiltrate the soil. In sandy soils, it helps the soil retain both water and nutrients.

Compost is made from a mix of brown and green organic materials. Brown compost materials may include dry, dead plant materials, autumn leaves, dried grass clippings, shredded paper and wood chips. These provide carbon.

Green compost materials, such as fresh plant products, kitchen fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds and tea bags, provide nitrogen.

Westerfield says to include more brown items than green. The ratio should be 3 to 1. Don’t add meats, bones, grease or other animal-based food waste. They can smell bad and attract rodents.

Materials should be added in layers, alternating brown and green. A pile of compost can take three weeks to six months to process, depending on the care. Adding fresh material to a pile can cause the process to take longer.

The key to composting is to keep the pile moist and to allow for air flow. “The composting cycle will work faster if the pile is kept moist and turned frequently,” he said. “The more you agitate the pile the faster it will compost.”

Rain water and turning the pile a few times a month should maintain moisture. Water should be added only to keep the pile moist, not wet.

“It is nice to have two or three bins so you can have several stages of compost,” he said. Westerfield suggests removing finished compost from a pile and keeping it contained in a separate bin for use.

“Some people are disappointed because they fill the bin up and when it becomes compost, they end up with 10 to 20 percent of what they put in,” he said. “As it biodegrades, its volume drastically reduces.”

Fertilizer can be added to the pile. A little 10-10-10, as well as a few scoops of garden soil, are suggested. Don’t add lime to the mixture.

Another option in composting is vermicomposting, which uses worms to help break down the organic waste.

While composting provides organic material valuable to plants, most people view composting as a form of recycling. In many counties, landfills no longer accept green materials.

“It’s a way to recycle waste and save money by producing a product from trash you would otherwise have to buy,” Westerfield said.

By: April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April Sorrow is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Drought Spreads to S. Ga., Conditions May Worsen

If dry conditions persist, Georgia is in for a very hot summer. If the drought intensifies, temperatures across the mountains could reach into the middle to upper 90s while the piedmont bakes in the low 100s. Across the coastal plains temperatures in the 104 to 106 range may not be out of the question.
Georgia is entering the climatological summer. Climatologists define summer as June, July and August. This year’s astronomical summer, the summer solstice, begins June 21.

Drought conditions have already spread into south-central and southwest Georgia. Much of southeast and coastal Georgia is now abnormally dry for early June.

After improvements in drought conditions across north Georgia during the cool season, conditions are expected to worsen over the next several months.

Summer routinely brings temperatures in the 90s. Georgians can expect hot, dry weather to cause very rapid soil moisture loss over the next week. This loss in soil moisture will also drop stream flows and groundwater levels.

Several indicators are used in drought classification: 30 day rainfall, 90 day rainfall, 6 month rainfall, 12 month rainfall, 24 month rainfall, rainfall since the previous October 1 (the “water year”), soil moisture, stream flows, groundwater levels and reservoir levels.

Across much of south Georgia, 30- and 90-day rainfall has been well below normal. Thirty day rainfall over much of south-central and southwest Georgia has been less than half of normal. Some locations reported less than one-quarter of normal rainfall over the past month.

Ninety day rainfall across the southern half of the state has been generally less than 70 percent of normal with pockets in south-central and southwest receiving less than 50 percent of normal rain.

Stream flows across most of the state are currently just above the previous record-low flows for early June. Many of the current stream-flow records across the state were set in 1988 and 2007.

A few locations are setting daily records for low flow including the Chattooga River near Clayton, the Oconee River at Milledgeville, the Flint River near Oakfield and at Newton and the Withlacoochee River near Quitman.

Soil moisture levels are extremely low along and west of I-75 and along and north of I-20. With little rainfall and temperatures in the 90s, soil moisture levels which had been in relatively good shape for the remainder of the state have been dropping very quickly over the past couple of weeks.

Farm ponds, especially ponds not fed by springs, are starting to show the lack of rain. Many ponds didn’t receive adequate recharge during the winter and entered the summer already low.

Extreme drought conditions exist in Banks, Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens counties of northeast Georgia. This means that multiple drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in 50 years.

The counties north of a Carroll - Fulton - Clayton - DeKalb - Rockdale - Walton - Oconee - Oglethorpe - Wilkes - Lincoln counties line are classified as being in severe drought. This means that multiple drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in 20 years.

Moderate drought is now found in the counties north and west of a Lowndes - Cook - Tift - Turner - Crisp - Dooly - Houston - Bibb - Jones - Baldwin - Hancock - Glascock - Warren - McDuffie - Richmond line. Moderate drought classification occurs when multiple drought indicators are at levels we expect about once in 10 years.

Mild drought conditions have developed in Ben Hill, Berrien, Bleckley, Bryan, Burke, Chatham, Echols, Effingham, Irwin, Jefferson, Lanier, Liberty, Pulaski, Twiggs, Washington, Wilcox and Wilkinson counties. Mild drought means that several drought indicators are at levels we expect about once in seven years.

The following seven southeast Georgia counties are currently classified as not being in drought: Appling, Bacon, Brantley, Glynn, Pierce, northern Ware and Wayne. However, soil moisture is decreasing rapidly in these counties. Drought conditions could develop over the next several weeks in these counties.

The remaining south Georgia counties are classified as abnormally dry for early June. Localized drought conditions are starting to develop in these counties.

Widespread drought conditions are expected in these counties within the next couple of weeks. Abnormally dry means that several drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in five years.

For the next several months, Georgia’s best chance for widespread drought relief will be tropical disturbances. However, the tropics usually don’t become active until late summer.

June and July are critical. Without major rain events the soils will continue to become drier leading to lower stream flows, groundwater levels and reservoir and pond levels.

For current Georgia drought information, go to the Web site Weather information is available at the University of Georgia automated weather station network Web site

By: David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.