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Nov. 24th, 2008

Buckets and toilets

Hi water guys and gals,

Hollywood's Madagascar is a rollicking silly animation with zoo animals shipwrecked on the island. The real island's residents have to bucket water on the country's Androy Plateau. They're excited because the cost of a bucket of water dropped from 100 ariary to 50 ariary, according to a report by Noro Haingo Rakotoseheno on the all French allAfrica.com and translated by SAHRA's Louise Shaler.  (As of today, $1 equals 1,876 ariary. My math says the bucket of water then costs .01 cents.)
Wow - just imagine. If Santa Feans had to rely on a bucket of water a day, no Buckman Direct Diversion would be needed.
Of course, the city might be a lot less green, too.

In other news, the idea of toilet to tap water recycling isn't a new idea, but it still disgusts a lot of people. Orange County, Calif residents are sort ofon board. And hey, if the astronauts up at the space station can turn sweat and urine into drinking water, seems like those of us on earth ought to consider it. (Check out the brief's section in today's New Mexican for more.)

Finally, this blog will be moving after today to the Santa Fe Green Line, a place for conversations, tips and ideas regarding all things environmental. Check it out here
You will also still be able to link to the blog from the New Mexican Web site, here.

More later,

Nov. 19th, 2008

Life's brevity, native names

Hi all,

It is another lovely warm fall day in SF. As I pulled into the parking lot across from the New Mexican, I was reminded of life's brevity. Across the lot behind a dentist's office sat an ambulance. Two EMTs were busily working on an elderly gentleman slumped in a vehicle while shocked people stood around watching. He apparently had driven some people from Las Vegas to the dentist's office in SF, then suffered perhaps a massive heart attack while sitting drinking coffee. "He was a kidder, he liked to joke," said one man who had driven down with him.
That quick. Gone. I wonder what his last thoughts were, or if he had time for last thoughts.
When I go, which I hope is decades from now so I can bug you water groupies a while longer, I hope my last thoughts are about the magnificent rivers I've seen, the joy of watching irrigation water trickle through a pasture under a star-laden sky, running my horse flat out across a mesa, the look on my daughter's face when she hands me wildflowers or the many people who have enriched my life in a thousand ways. 
I hope it won't be about the bills I haven't paid, the mistakes I've made or the things I haven't said to people I love.

While I'm waxing philisophical, here's another idea. Harlan McKosato, host of Native America Calling, had an interesting show this morning about place names. (If you really want to hear the breadth and depth of what's going on in Indian Country - meaning the U.S. - listen to his show at 11 a.m. on Weds on KUNM or your local public radio station.)  He was comparing the traditional names given places by tribes to the names given by Anglos and other non Indians. It's true in general that Anglos seem given to naming things after themselves. Traditional names are usually much more descriptive and beautiful.
It made me wonder about the ancient names given the rivers and lakes and other water bodies in New Mexico and elsewhere. What was Lake Katherine called by the pueblo or pre-pueblo people? What was the Rio Grande called before it was dubbed such by the Spanish?
If you know, send me a note. We'll post traditional names of water here.

Have a wonderful day and enjoy every minute.

Nov. 17th, 2008

Water regalos

Hiya water geeks,

If you've been wondering what to get for your favorite water groupie during the coming holidays, here's a few ideas:

Just out - a massive coffee table book with 400 photos and 100 essays from around the world, all about agua.
Water Voices from Around the World, $35.00, edited by William E. Marks.  Contributors include such luminaries as Dr. Jane Goodall, Desmond Tutu, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kofi Annan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Danson, Masaru Emoto, Gilbert M. Grosvenor, Larry Fahn, Valli Moosa, Chief Jake Swamp and Malidoma Some' among many othes.
Water Voices from Around the World, edited by William E. Marks is available from www.watervoices.com, www.Amazon.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com, select bookstores and numerous environmental websites.

Even better, put your money toward providing water for someone else. Check out Changing the Present at www.changingthepresent.org
Click on water.  There you can help with a variety of water and sanitation projects by clicking on listed organizations. Each link gives you the name and address of the organization and what they are working on. Gives you an easy way to link to a variety of charitable organizations.

If you still have money to spare, consider a:

Gift certificate to a local nursery so people can choose water-saving landscapes.

A rain catchment barrel.

A share a local Community Supported Agriculture endeavor, that will buy your loved one a regular bag of groceries out of next year's seasonal crops. Check with your local farmer's market or Organic Commodity organization. Most will have a list of CSAs. Or google CSA in your area.

The Sunjet 150, a mini solar water pump you can stick in a bird bath or any outdoor feature to create a mini fountain. These things are totally cool.

River fund - donate money to the city of SF for purchasing money for the Santa Fe River (or some local group near you that's doing watershed restoration.)

Have fun. Be good. (Or be just bad enought to make your life interesting.)


Nov. 13th, 2008

Rising water costs

Good evening, water groupies,

I'm off tomorrow and if I'm over the flu I'll be back up on a lovely pine-covered ridge near Sapello, N.M. helping my dad finish up a tree-thinning project. It's a lovely view from there of the Manuelitas Creek, the one I mentioned some time ago has hosted a new set of very busy beavers.

Santa Feans face a possible 60 percent hike in their water rates over the next five years as detailed in SFNM reporter Julie Ann Grimm's recent story.

At one of the meetings to discuss the rate hike, a European gentleman said he thought the water rate was rather low for a desert city. Europe in general has higher rates and in restaurants in some Euro countries they charge for a glass of water, according to another friend of mine who's visited there. Imagine - paying a couple of bucks for a glass of water at a cafe - we haven't hit that point yet.

Here's an interesting take on the European Water Watch site that's actually from an MIT professor. She ties our haphazard planning and development in many countries to the current problems of water delivery.

A 2003 study found the U.S. had the lowest water rates in the world.

And a 2002 study by some Harvard guys and the Envirionmental Defense Fund traces the coming water challenges of the U.S.

Nov. 12th, 2008

Water trading

Hi all,

Keep an eye out tomorrow or the next day on the New Mex web site for my stories regarding the Mimbres basin and a novel water market proposal that not everyone is keen about.

Also, from fellow water maven Conci Bokum's water updates, check out a new water efficiency library created by the Alliance for Water Efficiency:

"The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE), a

national non-profit organization that promotes the efficient and sustainable

use of water, has announced the formal launch of a comprehensive web-based

Water Efficiency Resource Library, in cooperation with the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency, who is a major partner and funder of the



Nov. 6th, 2008

War-time water

Water geeks,

Snow in the mountains! (Just a little anyway). And the ski basin is already starting to make snow, so all you skiers can get ready!

An interesting e-mail came across the other day from Donald A. Mounce, senior editor of Water Conditioning and Purification International and Agua Latinoamerica, two publications that focus on peer reviewed research for residential water systems.

The e-mail passed on a letter from one Sgt. R.J. Gilbert stationed in Iraq.
It details the testing o f the Expeditionary Water Packaging System by DRS Sustainment Systems. The EWPS is a method for delivering clean water to soldiers. According to the company, a military contractor, water has to be trucked hundreds if not thousands of miles to reach troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The email reminded me that clean water - in peace, in war, in whatever situation anywhere in the world, can be a challenge.

In an interview with Dawn Onley of Military Logistics Forum,  a Thomas G. Cornwell, president of DRS Sustainment Systems business sector said:  "Almost half the convoys operating in the Southwest Asia theater are carrying water for the soldiers, and each year, more than $200 million is tied up in moving the water—in fuel costs, manpower, security, vehicles and other resources.  And of course, there is significant risk to our personnel as they drive the convoy routes that carry the water. The EWPS allows encamped soldiers to bottle and use drinking water from local sources, saving the expense—and risk—that comes with moving water about the theater."

Then I wondered where things stand for the Iraqis in obtaining water. Over the last five years, a few reports have trickled out about the problems in restoring water, sewer and power to Iraqi cities. Without those things, its a lot harder to rebuild a government. A quick Google search found these tidbits:

*According to LennTech, a Netherlands water treatment company, problems for Iraq's water began with the first Gulf War which left a lot of infrastructure damaged or destroyed. $770 million went into the Iraq Project and Contracting Office after the 2003 U.S. invasion, to restore water capacity. The problems in identifying and restoring infrastructure were enormous, according to LennTech.

* 18 months after the invasion, much of Iraq's water infrastructure and treatment plants remained in disrepair according to  the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The goal was to have the water and wastewater systems repaired by 2005, but on going security trouble made it hard for contractors and Iraqi workers to finish the job. A little more than half of Iraq's 22.5 million citizens had access to clean water.

* In February, the Iraqi holy city of Najaf set aside $1.7 million to repair several water systems, according to Iraq Updates.

* News wires and the UN reported ongoing problems of disease and fears of cholera spread from Iraqi people having to drink from polluted water sources. In 2006, there was a reported 70 percent increase in diarrhea among Iraqi children.

* New Mexico got involved. In July, Sandia National Lab announced a team of its scientists had spent the last year helping Iraqis build a computer model of the country's surface waters and systems.

* On Halloween, the BBC reported that Iraqi insurgents pretending to repair a major Baghdad water pipeline, instead planted a bomb. They succeeded in destroying the pipeline and stopping water supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in three districts.

For more on the long struggle to provide water in Iraq, see the SAHRA Global Water News Watch

So when you turn on your tap today and the potable water pours out, or  you take a swig of  water, give thanks for your luck and the hard work of your local water managers.

Me, I'm going to pray my well holds out.

Nov. 3rd, 2008

Rio Grande Red

Hi water geeks,

For those of you in Santa Fe, familiar with the Buckman Direct Diversion project on the Rio Grande, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts,
set aside Weds, Nov. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Santa Fe Conference Center.  The meeting is in the Nambe Room and the address is 201 West Marcy Street.
A coalition of groups will be discussing a proposed Rio Grande Recreation and Restoration Plan. The idea is to create a better set of trails people could hike, bike and ride on between SF and the Buckman area. It also would try to boost volunteer support for cleaning up an area rife with trash and popular with target shooters.
New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Rio Grande Return, Audubon Society, and SWCA are hosting the meeting.


Oct. 22nd, 2008

Frogs, Aamodt moves and Cook

Hi all:

The new canary in the coal mine: Frogs. They're disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the Association of Zoos and AquariOne-third of all amphibians are in danger of extinction, in part because of a deadly fungus spreading rapidly around the globe http://www.amphibianark.org/chytrid.htm.
Apparently the culprit is a water borne fungi - Chytrid - more specifically a new species called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd for those of us who can't read latin. It is thought to cause chytridiomycosis. Bd has been identified in association with amphibian population declines on every amphibian-inhabited continent, according to AmphibianArk, a site devoted to distributing info about the disease.

In places where Bd has taken place, more than half the individual amphibians have died. Frogs, like bees, and other such oft overlooked creatures, are an indicator of ecosystem health. When they run into trouble, its a sign of a fraying ecoweb.

Meanwhile, funding authorization for the Aamodt water rights case will likely come before the Senate in a lame duck session (as part of the Navajo settlement), scheduled to start mid-Nov, but with the economic stomach ache continuing, I find it highly unlikely they'll have time to think about NM water rights bills - especially ones that ask for money. And people in the Pojo valley began receiving their official papers this week regarding their water rights and the Aamodt case; they have 45 days to read through the papers and sign off on them or schedule an appointment with the SEO to have them explained (probably a really, really good idea.)

Also, on Monday an the state appeals court mandated a confusing case involving Espanola businessman and two acequias back to district court. As soon as I read the case and figure out what it means, I'll mention more here.

With Climate Change, new reports catalog the economic costs of climate change to each state. NM is not in there yet, but guess its coming. Check out the states done so far: The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER) at the University of Maryland have worked together to develop State Economic and Environmental Costs of Climate Change reports.


Oct. 16th, 2008

Bottled water woes

Beloved water buddies:

So the latest with my domestic well adventures. I climbed down into my well house (another benefit of being on a well - exercise) to turn on my water softener since the weather is turning cold. I have radiant baseboard heat which draws in water slowly through the tubes, and I have extremely hard water. while I don't like having to use a softener, the alternative is having lots of gunk leach out onto my radiant tubes and blocking the system. So anyway...... I open up the little Sears water softener I installed with a friend and inside was a dead mouse.
EEEWH! (Right, exactly my reaction, seeing as how it is a WHOLE house water softener.) I have no idea how the little critter managed to squeeze in there.

Anyway, after cleaning it out best I could and running the backflush, now I'm boiling the water to wash dishes (which means the dishes are piling up) and once again hauling water to drink for awhile.
Sigh - you urban water system customers have it so good.

In other news, from the EWG, some alternatives for those of us who sometimes have to buy bottled water:

Comprehensive testing by the Environmental Working Group finds a surprising array of chemicals in popular bottled water brands (see study at www.ewg.org/reports/bottledwater).

 Adding safety concerns to the already growing eco-concerns (only 14% of the 30 billion water bottles purchased annually are recycled), consumers now face an uncertainty about where to get their drinking water.

New alternatives not only guarantee safe, eco-friendly water, but also save consumers thousands of dollars each year normally spent on throw-away bottles.

  • The Wellness H2.O water bottle’s self-contained, advanced filtration and enhancement system enables consumers to produce their own filtered and optimized water from any tap. The Wellness H2.O water bottle produces water that has been purified (with patented micro-filtration cartridge infused with coconut shell carbon) for increased safety and optimized with rare Japanese volcanic minerals and reduced negative ions for enhanced health and wellness. The bottle is made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE, #4), a plastic that does not leach harmful plasticizers such as BPA, and Wellness Enterprises is the only company on the market that recycles its filtration and enhancement cartridges, re-purposing them for organic turf farming. $49.95, www.endbottledwater.com
  • The LIFESAVER bottle is a filtration water bottle that removes bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and all other microbiological waterborne pathogens without using chemicals like iodine or chlorine which leave a distinctive foul taste. LIFESAVER bottle produces filtered sterile drinking water quickly and easily. It incorporates LIFESAVER systems’ FAILSAFE technology which shuts off the bottle’s cartridge upon expiry, preventing contaminated water from being drunk. $229, www.lifesaversystems.com


  • Brita and Nalgene have teamed up and created the FilterForGood campaign, which advocates consumers filter water at home with their Brita and fill re-useable Nalgene bottles to take on the go. Brita was an innovator in this marketplace many years ago, and both brands are household names. This campaign should give some attention to the easy adjustments individuals can make to end bottled water. Approx. $10 for Nalgene and approx. $34.99 for Brita, www.filterforgood.com

 Just to be fair about the allegations of toxins in bottled water, here's the International Bottled Water Association Web site so you can see their defense of their products: http://www.bottledwater.org/

Have a lovely day.

Oct. 13th, 2008

Determining water rights

Hi water geeks:

It was a packed Room 303 at the Roundhouse last Weds for the adjudication subcommittee of the Water and Natural Resources Committee. I apologize for the delay in telling those of you who missed it what happened. If people would stop making news I would have more time to update this blog.

So the 45 people who showed up (not including this reporter and the committee members) ran the gamut from water attorneys to AARP members. Acequia reps, a farmer or two, Bill Hume from the gov's office, and more were in attendance. The committee seemed a little surprised (and pleased?) by what was obvious interest in adjudications.

In a nutshell, here's a few things discussed:

1. Judge Gerald Valentine, the water judge out of district court in Las Cruces handling the Lower RG adjudication, has a few suggestions for changing the process. These suggestions would be up to the legislature to adopt and Valentine said it won't likely impact the Lower RG case at all. What it could impact is the last gigantic water rights adjudication left for the state to tackle: the Middle Rio Grande which encompasses Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Soccorro and thousands of farmers in the conservancy district.
His suggestions:
       a. "For water rights that were vested before permits were required, make the declaration statute mandatory instead of permissive, setting a deadline but allowing a reasonable time to file the declarations." In other words, require people who own pre-1907 water rights to declare those rights with the state engineer, which might be as simple as calling up the office, giving their name, address, and how much water rights they believe they own.
      b. "Establish a deadline for water right owners to apply for a license and require claimants to provide the State Engineer information similar to that required for declarations for pre-permit water rights."   In other words, post-1907 water rights holders would need to make sure they applied for a license - which is the next step after a permit. A permit lets a person put in water works and start using water. A license is when the SEO determines the water has been put to beneficial use and for how much af.
      c. "Adopt a new statute similar to Montana so that a clear record of transfers of water rights with real property can be obtained."
The difficulty is that often now changes of water rights ownership are filed with the state engineer but not with the county. Since water is a property right, any changes should be recorded with the county just like land.
      d. "Provide Legislative funding for counties to put the deed records on line."
Yep - the money issue.

Valentine did a stupendous job of attempting to explain in layman's terms his understanding of NM water law. Greg Ridgley of the SEO office helped with defining the diff between a permit, declaration and a license. (Which goes to show that after decades of haggling over water rights adjudications, its impossible to get anything through the legislature if they really don't yet understand the language.)

2. Ridgely on behalf of the SEO:
The governor is still reviewing a proposal from the state engineer's office. The proposal compliments one of Judge Valentine's suggestions but has to do with the SEO's administrative responsibilities.
Their proposal: make it "routine practice" for the SEO to license water rights "as was originally intended by the 1907 water code."
This routine licensing should "facilitiate and compliment" but NOT replace adjudication. A water license details the priority date, amount, purpose, periods and place of use, and if for irrigation, which lands will be irrigated.
Within 30 days after a water license is final, the state engineer would issue a "certificate of marketability" according to the proposal.

A lot of discussion centered around the problems with hydrographic surveys. The problem is by the time everyone in an adjudication files their claim, an original hydrographic survey info can be stale. Aerial photography and GPS may resolve some of those issues.

We'll know more about what, if any, proposed legislation will come out of the suggestions. The primary aim here is to figure out how to keep the MRG adjudication from becoming a half century, money sucking monster by the time it is filed.

In other news, the Senate is scheduled to go into a lame duck session around Nov. 17. On their list, an omnibus land management bill (S.3213) that includes the Navajo water rights settlement among other issues.

For an interesting story on water dowsers, check out the NY Times:

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