Category Archives: Water Supply

West Virginia Chemical Spill on Jan. 9, 2014 – April 16 PBS Update Includes Discussion of New West Virginia Chemical-storage Law

On April 16, 2014, the PBS NewsHour broadcast an update on the January 2014 chemical spill into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.  The segment includes the following:
*review of the basic facts of the spill;

*discussion of a law passed in 2014 by the West Virginia legislature, Senate Bill 373, which creates the “Above-ground Storage Tank Water Resources Protection Act” authorizing various actions related to chemical-storage tanks and protection of water resources (for a news account of the bill, see Tomblin Signs Storage Tank Bill, Charleston Gazette, 4/1/14);

*discussion of a long, detailed article published April 7, 2014, in The New Yorker magazine (Chemical Valley: The coal industry, the politicians, and the big spill) on the historic role of the chemical and coal industries in West Virginia’s economy and politics.

The 10 min./19 sec. PBS video is available at this link: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/west-virginia-chemical-spill-fallout/.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending April 15, 2014

Below are images showing precipitation in the southeastern United States and stream flow in Virginia over the seven-day period ending April 15, 2014.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images.

Precipitation
The following maps, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, accessed 4/16/14), show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts over the past seven days (top map), and the percent of normal precipitation for the given location at this time of year (bottom map).   As of 4/16/14, these data remain provisional.

Precip April 15

Precip percentage April 15

For another precipitation-information source: The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, http://water.weather.gov/precip/, provides maps showingprecipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries.

Stream Flow
The map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/classic.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=mv01d%2Cmap, accessed 4/16/14), compares the previous week’s average stream flows—at about 140 stream-gaging stations in Virginia and just beyond the state border—to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are as follows:

Red and maroon dots: Below 10th percentile = much below normal to record low;
Yellow dots: 10th to 24th percentile = below normal;
Green dots: 25th to 75th percentile = normal;
Light blue dots: 76th to 90th percentile = above normal;
Dark blue and black dots: Above 90th percentile = much above normal to record high.
KEEP Stream Flow Color Code
Streams April 15

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending April 8, 2014

Below are images showing precipitation in the southeastern United States and stream flow in Virginia over the seven-day period ending April 8, 2014. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images.

Precipitation
The following maps, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, accessed 3/26/14), show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts over the past seven days (top map), and the percent of normal precipitation for the given location at this time of year (bottom map).  As of 4/9/14, these data remain provisional.

precip April 8precip perc April 8

 

For another precipitation-information source: The National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, http://water.weather.gov/precip/, provides maps showingprecipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years. The site also has the capability to show county boundaries.

Stream Flow
The map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/classic.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=mv01d%2Cmap, accessed 4/9/14), compares the previous week’s average stream flows—at about 140 stream-gaging stations in Virginia and just beyond the state border—to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station. The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are as follows:

Red and maroon dots: Below 10th percentile = much below normal to record low;
Yellow dots: 10th to 24th percentile = below normal;
Green dots: 25th to 75th percentile = normal;
Light blue dots: 76th to 90th percentile = above normal;
Dark blue and black dots: Above 90th percentile = much above normal to record high.
KEEP Stream Flow Color Code

Streams April 8

 

Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of March 2014, Plus a Quick Look at Nationwide Drought

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report, as of the end of March 2014.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post.

First, in precipitation: Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary precipitation totals for March 2014 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, with the amount above (+) or below (-) normal for this month of the year historically in parentheses.  All values are in inches, rounded to the nearest 0.1 inch from NWS values.

Blacksburg = 2.4 (-1.2)

Bluefield (Va.-W.Va. state line) = 2.0 (-1.5)

Bristol (Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.)
= 2.3 (-1.1)

Charlottesville = 2.5 (-1.2)

Danville = 3.2 (-0.9)

Dulles Airport (Loudoun County)    = 4.1 (+0.7)

Lynchburg = 2.9 (-0.7)

Norfolk= 3.8 (+0.1)

Richmond = 3.2 (-0.8)

Roanoke = 2.8 (-0.7)

Wallops Island (Accomack County) = 3.2 (-0.8)

Precipitation sources: Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk);
Morristown, Tenn. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx;
Baltimore-Washington (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx); and
Wakefield, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq).

The normal values used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in these provisional reports are based on the 1981-2010 period.  The National Climatic Data Center released these normal values in July 2011.  For information on the normals, see the National Climatic Data Center Web page at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/normals/usnormals.html.

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days; or the NWS’ Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at http://water.weather.gov/precip/ for a map of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years.  Shown below are the Southeast Regional Climate Center’s provisional (still needing verification) maps of precipitation and percent-of-normal precipitation for the 30-day period of March 2 to March 31, 2014.

March precip

 March precip percentage

Next, in stream flow: According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia, average streamflow values for March 2014 at 148 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border (that is, the monthly average of streamflow readings taken at each gage) were in the normal range at about 73 percent of gages; above normal at about 4 percent; below normal at about 20 percent; and much below normal at about 3 percent.  The color-coded, flow-percentile map for March 2014 is shown below.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are as follows:
Red and maroon dots: Below 10th percentile = much below normal to record low;
Yellow dots: 10th to 24th percentile = below normal;
Green dots: 25th to 75th percentile = normal;
Light blue dots: 76th to 90th percentile = above normal;
Dark blue and black dots: Above 90th percentile = much above normal to record high.

KEEP Stream Flow Color CodeStreams March

Finally, our drought watch:
The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) on April 1, 2014, categorized Virginia as being drought-free.  This has been the rating for Virginia since the January 14, 2014, Drought Monitor report.  Prior to that, Virginia had been rated as having some percentage of the state’s area categorized as abnormally dry since the Drought Monitor report of October 29, 2013.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.” The Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
3/4/14 – Drought-free;
1/28/14 – Drought-free;
12/31/13 – 0.2 percent abnormally dry;
4/2/13 – Drought-free.

Here’s a comment from the April 1, 2014, Drought Monitor report, on cold weather in Virginia in March 2014:
“…According to the National Weather Service, the month of March ended as the coldest on record at Washington Dulles Airport, breaking the previous record set in 1984.”

Looking beyond Virginia: The April 1Drought Monitor rated 44.7 percent of the United States (including all or parts of 36 states) as being abnormally dry or worse, and it rated 20.2 percent of the country (including all or parts of 15 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).  (On August 7, 2012, 38.5 percent of the country was in the three worst categories; that was the highest percentage in these categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000.)  The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (D0-D4) and severe or worse (D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:

3/4/14 – 46.8 percent abnormally dry or worse; 18.0 percent severe drought or worse;
1/28/14 – 49.1 percent abnormally dry or worse; 17.4 percent severe drought or worse;
12/31/14 – 45.8 percent abnormally dry or worse; 14.0 percent severe drought or worse;
4/2/13 – 64.6 percent abnormally dry or worse; 29.5 percent severe drought or worse.

In six states, over 50 percent of the state was categorized by the April 1 report as being in severe-or-worse drought (this is up from five such states in the March 4 report):
Arizona – 57% (with 3% in extreme drought);
California – 95% (with 69% in extreme or exceptional drought);
Kansas – 65% (with 14% in extreme drought);
Nevada – 82% (with 34% in extreme or exceptional drought);
New Mexico – 65% (with 25% in extreme drought);
Oklahoma – 51% (with 24%in extreme or exceptional drought).

Here are some comments from the April 1 Drought Monitor on the latest developments in long-running, severe drought in California (that state has had over 45 percent of its area categorized in severe-or-worse drought since the Drought Monitor report of May 7, 2013): “During the past week, a series of disturbances pushed on-shore from the Pacific delivering much-needed rain and snow to northern California and Oregon.  ….Despite short-term gains, the long-term deficits across the region remained substantial.  According to the California Department of Water Resources, California’s snowpack has increased since the first snow survey on January 3rd, but the latest survey results show California’s snow-water equivalent is only 32 percent of the average April 1st measurement when the snowpack is generally at its peak level prior to spring melt.”

For previous News Grouper monthly water status reports during the past 12 months, please click these links:
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013

Southeastern U.S. Precipitation and Virginia Stream Flow Look-back at Winter 2013-14

With spring 2014 well underway on April 2, here’s a look back at what happened with rainfall in the southeastern United States and stream flow in Virginia in the winter of 2013-14. The Virginia Water Resources Research Center is grateful to the agencies mentioned above for their work to providing these valuable assessment products.

Precipitation
The following “Percent of Normal Precipitation” graph, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, accessed 4/2/14), shows how the previous 90-day precipitation amounts in the southeastern United States compared to historical normal values for those periods. These data are provisional. Note that Virginia saw approximately equal areas of precipitation that were a bit below normal, about normal, and a bit above normal, with a couple of spots having well-above normal precipitation (the purple spots in the western and northwestern Virginia). These rainfall levels have removed the “abnormally dry” ratings that parts of Virginia experienced on-and-off through fall 2013, according to the weekly reports of the U.S. Drought Monitor (produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and available online at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/). Between January 14 and March 25, 2014, the Drought Monitor rated Virginia as drought-free.

Precip Winter 2014

Outside of Virginia, note that parts of the southeastern United States received below-normal precipitation during this period, but much of the region received normal or above-normal precipitation (well above normal in some areas, particularly in North Carolina and Florida). The March 25, 2014, Drought Monitor categorized about six percent of the region as abnormally dry, compared to approximately 28 percent on December 24, 2013.

For another color-coded map of precipitation in Virginia or any other state of your choosing, see the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service’s nationwide map of precipitation, with daily, monthly, and yearly archives; online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.

Stream Flow
The first graph below, from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) “WaterWatch—Current Water Resources Conditions” Web site (http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/new/index.php?id=pa01d&sid=w__plot&r=va), accessed 4/2/14), compares average daily stream flow to historical records for the period February 14-March 31, 2014. The second graph covers the period since January 2001. The data in the graphs come from 87 sites that have at least 30 years of records. Each graph uses a “stream flow index,” which measures how a site’s average stream flow over 24 hours compares to the historical average stream flow for that same site and date. The graphs shows a further average: the stream flow index averaged statewide over the 87 sites.

Streams 45 day
Streams since 2001

 

For links to several other sources of streamflow, precipitation, groundwater, and other water-status information, please visit the Water Center’s “Water Status Information” Web page at http://vwrrc.vt.edu/waterstatus_new.html.

Click the following for the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s previous seasonal look-backs on precipitation and streamflow:
[Fall 2013 – Missed.]
Summer 2013
Spring 2013
Winter 2012-13
[Fall 2012 – Missed.]
[Summer 2012 - Missed.]
Spring 2012
Winter 2012
Fall 2011
Summer 2011

And click the following for the News Grouper’s most recent monthly Virginia water status report (on precipitation, stream flow, groundwater, and drought), with links to access the previous 12 months’ reports:
March 2014

Coal Ash Spill into Dan River after Feb. 2, 2014, Pipe Break at Duke Energy Ash-storage Basin in Eden, N.C.: Information Sources, Danville Public-access TV Videos of Informational Meetings, and News Accounts Through April 16, 2014

On Sunday, February 2, 2014, a stormwater pipe broke under a coal-ash storage basin at the Duke Energy’s Dan River Station in Eden, North Carolina (a coal-fired power plant that operated between 1949 and 2012), spilling an estimated 24—27 million gallons of water from the ash-storage basin into the Dan River (2/28/14 note: later estimates from Duke have put the amount of water released over 30 million gallons).  Duke Energy estimated that the water carried with it 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash (2/28/14 note: this was the early estimate; later estimates from Duke have put the released amount in the range of 40,000 tons).  By Tuesday, February 4, a grayish river plume had reached the city of Danville, Va.  According to Duke Energy and news accounts, the coal ash contains large amounts of calcium, silica, and other elements that do not pose a human health risk, but that it also contains smaller amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.  Through the first week after the spill, Danville officials reported that tests showed that water provided by the city’s water-supply plan was meeting all public-health standards and so far had not needed any special treatment processes.  Also during that week, the City of Virginia Beach as of February 5 took the precaution of stopping temporarily pumping Dan River water into supply reservoirs.  Ecological impacts are another, longer-term concern.  On February 18, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials stated that material from the spill has been found on the bottom of the Dan River in depths from one inch to five inches as far downstream as 70 miles.  One official stated that while the deposits and impacts vary with river characteristics, areas of concern include impacts on mussels, immature insects, other stream-bottom invertebrates (animals without backbones), and the fish that feed on stream-bottom invertebrates.

On March 6, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that state law required Duke Energy to take immediate action to stop groundwater pollution resulting from coal-ash storage ponds at the company’s 14 coal-fired power plants (some operating, some closed).  Judge Ridgeway ruled in favor of environmental groups who in 2012 appealed a decision by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) that did not require immediate clean-up action, but rather allowed the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to give Duke “a reasonable time” to take corrective actions.

On March 10, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a news release on the agency’s ongoing evaluation of effects on the Dan River; the DEQ reported that treated drinking water have “consistently met or exceeded all applicable federal and state standards,” and that “there are no public health concerns with drinking water” in Virginia.  The DEQ stated that their focus is on “the health of the Dan River over the long term” (water quality, aquatic life, and aquatic habitat).  In the March 10 release, DEQ Director David Paylor said the several years of monitoring will likely be needed.

On March 13, the Associated Press reported that Duke estimates that it would need two years to clean up the coal-ash storage facility that led to the February 2 spill, along with two other storage facilities located beside rivers near Asheville and Charlotte.  The company has some three dozen storage facilities statewide.

On March 18, the Va. DEQ held a public meeting in Danville to provide an update on the Commonwealth’s response to the Dan River coal ash spill (several accounts of March 18 events are posted below).  At an earlier meeting on March 18, according to WDBJ-TV/Roanoke’s report on 3/18/14 (please see link below), Virginia natural-resource agency officials stated that the Commonwealth intends to take legal action over the spill against Duke Energy.

AGENCY INFORMATION SOURCES ON THIS TOPIC:
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ): http://www.deq.state.va.us/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalInformation/NorthCarolinaCoalAshSpill.aspx.  (Includes links to other sources of information, too.)

Virginia Department of Health: Coal Ash Release Fact Sheet (opens PDF), 2/20/14

U.S. EPA: http://epa.gov/region4/duke-energy/index.html.

VIDEOS OF INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS
City of Danville
: http://www.danville-va.gov
and click on the “Duke Energy Ash Spill Information” tab.  The city’s public-access TV station, River City TV (information online at http://danville-va.gov/index.aspx?nid=333), is providing video of some of the informational meetings about the spill.  As of 3/19/14, these videos were posted:
Feb. 7 news conference by Duke Energy (1 hr./34 min.)
Feb. 11 informational meeting by the U.S. EPA (2 hr./8 min.)
Mar. 18 informational meeting by the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality (1 hr.).

NEWS ACCOUNTS SINCE 2/3/14 (newest listed first; all links were working at time of posting, but some may not be at a later date)

[North Carolina Gov.] McCrory proposes new plan [for legislation] after spill, Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/16/14.
Coal ash deposits headed to N.C. dry landfill, Danville Register & Bee, 4/14/14 [deposits removed from Dan River near Schoolfield Dam in Danville, Va.].
Dan River water safe for farm use, N.C. State study claims Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 4/18/14.
Coal ash storage a New River worry, Roanoke Times, 4/12/14 [regarding two coal-ash storage sites and one site where coal ash was used to created level land for industrial or commercial development, all in Giles County, Va.].
State And Federal Agencies Talk To Citizens About Coal Ash, WSET-TV [Lynchburg-Danville-Roanoke], 4/14/14; and EPA to discuss river clean up , Danville Register & Bee, 4/9/14 [open-house meeting by federal and state agencies, held in Danville on April 14].
NC sides with Duke in appeal of ruling [North Carolina Environmental Management Commission joining Duke Energy in appealing March 6, 2014, ruling by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on the state’s authority to require faster clean-up of Duke’s coal-ash storage facilities], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/8/14.
City wants study of water alternatives  [City of Danville’s Request for Proposals to study coal ash and any other upstream contaminants of concern to the city’s drinking water treatment plant], Danville Register & Bee, 4/7/14.
NC judge denies Duke motion to seal coal ash docs  [ruling on April 4 in North Carolina’s civil case filed in 2013 over alleged groundwater pollution for 33 coal-ash storage facilities in the state], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/4/14.
Duke Energy says it needs time to clean coal ash [comments by Duke President and CEO at Charlotte, N.C., business-group lunch on April 2], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/2/14.
EPA was concerned about North Carolina deal on Duke ash dumps  [Sept. 2013 EPA comments about proposed settlement including $99,000 state fine over two Duke storage facilities; that settlement proposal was withdrawn in late March 2014 in the wake of the Feb. 2 spill], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/2/14.
Duke Energy wants citizens group out of ash action [motion filed March 31, 2014, in North Carolina enforcement-action case], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/1/14.
Concerns Linger for N.C. Residents After Coal Ash Spill, National Public Radio (NPR) “Morning Edition,” 4/2/14 (3 min./43 sec. audio report; includes comments on agricultural concerns in North Carolina and in Virginia).
River cleaning equipment arrives in Danville
, Danville Register & Bee, 3/31/14; and Park to close for ash cleanup , Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14 [Danville's Abreu-Grogan Park to be closed from April 2 through June for removal of about 2300 cubic yards of ash that collected near a dam on the Dan River].
Environmental group against putting coal ash in landfills , Danville Register & Bee, 3/30/14 [Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, headquartered in Glendale Springs, N.C., released a report on March 24 that called for placing coal ash in concrete tanks rather than lined landfills].
Duke Energy seeks to keep records from regulators , Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14.
Duke shareholders want probe of coal ash spill , Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14.
Ponds in the game? [an overview of the use of ponds, or lagoons, for storage of coal-combustion ash], Chesterfield Observer, 3/26/14.
Ash spill costs top $12,722 locally–so far [costs incurred by Halifax County, Va., Service Authority, as of 3/20/14], South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 3/24/14.
Lawyer hired by NC in spill probe represented Duke, Associated Press, as published by GoDanRiver.com, 3/24/14.
Farmers along Dan River worry about livelihood, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by GoDanRiver.com, 3/24/14.
Danville feeling toxic economic effects of spill
, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/22/14.  [This is a fairly detailed overview of the current and potential impacts of the spill on Danville, Va.]
Dan River coal-ash pollution angers and worries Virginians
, Raleigh News & Observer, 3/22/14.
Environmental groups push Duke to clean up ash ponds at rally, Danville Register & Bee, 3/22/14.
Regulators say Duke pumped coal ash into NC river [61 million gallons of water from coal-ash-storage site into Cape Fear River], Associated Press, as published by Washington Post, 3/20/14.
Group wants to intervene in Dan River coal ash case [Southern Environmental Law Center], Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/20/14.
Risks to coal ash pipe apparently cast aside [information in consultant report to U.S. EPA in September 2009 recommending that stormwater pipes be checked apparently not passed on to N.C. officials],  [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/20/14.
[Va. Gov.] McAuliffe expects Duke Energy to pay for coal ash spill, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/19/14.
Coal ash spill takes center stage in Danville, WDBJ-TV Roanoke, 3/18/14.
Gov. McAuliffe tours Danville water treatment plant, WSET-TV Lynchburg, 3/18/14.
Vacuums to pull coal ash from Schoolfield dam, Danville Register & Bee, 3/18/14.
Dominion: Yorktown coal ash landfill lacks Dan River potential, [Newport News] Daily Press, 3/18/14.
Tweak to N.C. law protected Duke Energys coal ash pits, Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/18/14.
N.C. probes wastewater dumping at Duke plant [near Cape Fear River in Moncure, N.C.], Associated Press, as published by Washington Post, 3/18/14.

Duke pledges to remove ash landfill by Dan River, South Boston New & Record, 3/17/14; N.C. wants faster coal ash removal, Danville Register & Bee, 3/17/14; and Duke: Cleanup at Dan River plant will take 2 years, Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/13/14 [regarding Duke Energy’s statewide coal-ash clean-up plan, as described in the company's March 12, 2014, letter to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla].
Virginia regulators take long view on N.C. coal ash spill [reporting on Va. DEQ news release on 3/10/14], Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/10/14.
Virginia’s response to coal ash spill focuses on long-term health of Dan River, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/10/14.
Judge rules Duke must halt groundwater pollution at coal ash sites, Raleigh News & Observer, 3/6/14.

Duke must act on ash contamination, judge rules, Charlotte Observer, 3/6/14.
N.C. officials want pipes at Duke plants probed [via video cameras inside pipes at 14 facilities], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/5/14.
Duke Energy plants cited over Dan River spill; the North Carolina company lacked permits to discharge rainwater into public waterways, Associated Press, as published in Roanoke Times, 3/4/14.
[Dan River] Basin association calls for cleanup on the Dan River, South Boston News & Record, 3/3/14.
Frustration rises as long-term impact of spill goes unanswered, South Boston News & Record, 3/3/14.
Bottle water sales spike after spill, Danville Register & Bee, 3/1/14.
Coal ash spill costs [Halifax County, Va., Service Authority] authority $10,000 so far [for extra staff time and treatment chemicals], South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/28/14.
N.C. governor to Duke: Move ash ponds, Danville Register & Bee, 2/27/14.
Coal ash site called ticking time bomb” [Danville City and other public officials tour of spill site in N.C. on Feb 25], Danville Register & Bee, 2/25/14.
NC could force Duke to move dump away from river, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/25/14.

Damage toll from spill estimated at $70 million; could rise by 10 times, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published in Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/25/14.
EPA to South Boston: Our emergency response continues, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/21/14.
[Va.] Del. [Danny] Marshall reports on Dan River coal ash spill, Chatham Star-Tribune, 2/21/14.
Whats in the fish?—Virginia DEQ begins testing fish in Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 2/20/14.
Investigation into N.C. coal ash spill widens [with subpoenas to additional 20 N.C. state employees], Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/19/14.
Duke Energy: Customers will not pay for river cleanup, Danville Register & Bee, 2/19/14.
Duke Energy says leak at second pipe halted, Danville Register & Bee, 2/19/14.
Toxins [arsenic] leaking from 2nd pipe at coal ash dump, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/19/14.
North Carolina coal ash spill raises questions about enforcement of environmental regulations, PBS NewsHour video report (6 min./57 sec). 
Official: Coal ash will not affect wastewater treatment, Danville Register & Bee, 2/17/14.
Scenic River designation likely not in danger, Danville Register & Bee, 2/17/14.
EPA officials visit South Boston Thursday to meet with public, South Boston News & Record, 2/17/14.
Danville mayor: City not taking spill lightly, Danville Register & Bee, 2/16/14.
U.S. [Attorney’s Office in Raleigh] investigates N.C. coal ash spill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/14/14.
What happens when the river floods?, Danville Register & Bee, 2/13/14.
Resident reports dead turtles, missing wildlife, Danville Register & Bee, 2/13/14.
[Halifax County Service Authority Executive] Director: Drinking water safe, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/12/14.
State, EPA say public water OK after spill on Dan River; [plus, the Va. DEQ plans to review storage compliance at 12 Virginia coal-ash ponds], Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/12/14.
Testing shows city water still within federal standards, Danville Register & Bee, 2/11/14.
Drinking water safe, but Va. Beach shuts off pipeline, South Boston News & Record, 2/12/14.
Duke [Energy] plans to dredge river as coal ash deal [is] dumped, Associated Press, as published in Washington Post, 2/11/14.
EPA checking water, sediment, Danville Register & Bee, 2/10/14.
Survivors of Americas largest coal ash spill talk about experiences, Danville Register & Bee, 2/10/14 (interviews with people affected by the December 2008 coal-ash spill in Roane County, Tenn.).
A disaster that Duke, regulators didnt see, South Boston News & Record, 2/10/14 (a very detailed account of recent developments and background of the situation).
NC admits mistake, says arsenic topped safe level, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/10/14.
Danville Riverwalk Trail users want Dan River cleanup to begin, Danville Register & Bee, 2/9/14.
EPA to hold community briefing, Danville Register & Bee, 2/9/14.
NC regulators shielded Duke’s coal ash pollution, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/9/14.
[Virginia] Beach official: Past study shows spill won’t foul water, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 2/814.
Virginia water supplies so far unaffected by Dan River coal ash spill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/8/14.
Drinking water safe; potential threat posed to aquatic life, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/7/14.
Water remains safe as work continues to stop leak at Eden site, Danville Register & Bee, 2/6/14.
For one fisherman, water woes a concern long before spill, Danville Register & Bee, 2/6/14.
Coal ash continues to settle in Dan River, Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/6/14.
Tests show different arsenic levels in NC spill, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/6/14.
More than a touch of gray, South Boston News & Record, 2/6/14.
Its like a lava flow moving slowly toward Danville, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal ash: Its still leaking, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal waste deposits turn up 70 miles from spill, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/20/14.
Coal ash lines river 70 miles from N.C. spill site, Associated Press, as published in Virginian-Pilot, 2/18/14.
More than a touch of gray, South Boston News & Record, 2/6/14.
Va. Beach halts water pumping after coal ash spill, Virginian-Pilot, 2/5/14.
Its like a lava flow moving slowly toward Danville, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal ash: Its still leaking, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
And the river ran gray, Danville Register & Bee, 2/4/14.
City: Danvilles drinking water safe, Danville Register & Bee, 2/4/14.
Broken pipe spills coal ash in Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 2/3/14.

Related item:
Hazardous or harmless? EPA to rule on coal ash, Chesterfield Observer, 2/5/14.

National Groundwater Awareness Week, Mar. 9-15, 2014, is a Good Time for Audio Glimpses of Groundwater in Virginia

National Groundwater Awareness Week, organized by the National Ground Water Association, is being observed from March 9-15, 2014.  More information about the program is available online at http://www.ngwa.org/events-education/awareness/pages/default.aspx.

In connection with Groundwater Awareness Week, the Virginia Household Water Quality Program and a Virginia well-driller were featured in three daily segments of “Pulse of the Planet,” a daily, 2-minute “sound portrait” of nature, culture, and science around the world (Web site: http://www.pulseplanet.com/).

The three segments are as follows (please click on the date/title to go to each online segment):
March 10: Water-Drilling.
March 11: Water-Surface and Ground.
March 12: Water-Well Maintenance.

More information about the Household Water Quality program, including local drinking-water clinics where homeowners can have their well-water tested, is available online at http://www.wellwater.bse.vt.edu/vahwqp.php; phone (540) 231-9058; e-mail: wellwater@vt.edu.  The program is operated by the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

And if you like podcasts about groundwater, you might also be interested in the following Virginia Water Radio episodes on that subject.  Please click on the episode number/date to go to each online episode, where the audio, a written transcript, and additional information are available.

Episode 158 (4-22-13): “In the Cave” by Pepe Deluxe, for Virginia Cave Week (2 min./56 sec.).
Episode 178 (9-9-13): Groundwater Connections and Protection (2 min./58 sec.).
Episode 191 (12-9-13): The Water Cycle (3 min./31 sec.).
Episode 198 (1-27-14): Hydrologists Sing and Study, “Where Does the Water Go?” (2 min./44 sec.).

Big Spring Dec. 10, 2006

A spot where groundwater becomes surface water: Big Spring, just north of Leesburg, Va., Dec. 10, 2006.

Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of February 2014, Plus a Quick Look at Nationwide Drought

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report, as of the end of February 2014.  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post.

First, in precipitation: Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary precipitation totals for February 2014 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, with the amount above (+) or below (-) normal for this month of the year historically in parentheses.  All values are in inches, rounded to the nearest 0.1 inch from NWS values.+

Blacksburg

4.0 (+1.2)

 

Bluefield
(Va.-W.Va. state line)

2.6 (-0.2)

Bristol
(Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va.-Tenn.)

3.3 (-0.2)

Charlottesville

2.8 (+0.1)

 

Danville

1.8 (-1.2)

 

Dulles Airport
(Loudoun County)

3.8 (+1.1)

Lynchburg

3.8 (+0.9)

 

Norfolk

3.0 (-0.1)

 

Richmond

3.0 (+0.3)

 

Roanoke

4.5 (+1.6)

 

Wallops Island
(Accomack County)

2.6 (-0.2)

Precipitation sources:  Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk)
Morristown, Tenn. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx
Baltimore-Washington (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx); and
Wakefield, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq).

The normal values used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in these provisional reports are based on the 1981-2010 period.  The National Climatic Data Center released these normal values in July 2011.  For information on the normals, see the National Climatic Data Center Web page at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/normals/usnormals.html.

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days; or the NWS’ Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at http://water.weather.gov/precip/ for a map of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years.  Shown below are the Southeast Regional Climate Center’s provisional (still needing verification) maps of precipitation and percent-of-normal precipitation for the 30-day period of January 29—February 27, 2014. Precip monthly Feb 2014

 Precip Perc monthly Feb 2014


Next, in stream flow
: According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia, average streamflow values for February 2014 at about 145 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border (that is, the monthly average of streamflow readings taken at each gage) were in the normal range at about 47 percent of gages; above normal at about 42 percent; much above normal at about 10 percent; and below normal at less than one percent.  The color-coded, flow-percentile map for February 2014 is shown below.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are as follows:
Red and maroon dots: Below 10th percentile = much below normal to record low;
Yellow dots: 10th to 24th percentile = below normal;
Green dots: 25th to 75th percentile = normal;
Light blue dots: 76th to 90th percentile = above normal;
Dark blue and black dots: Above 90th percentile = much above normal to record high.

 KEEP Stream Flow Color Code


 Streams Feb 2014

Finally, on the drought watch: The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) on March 4, 2014, categorized Virginia as being drought-free.  This has been the rating for Virginia since the January 14, 2014, Drought Monitor report.  Prior to that, Virginia had been rated as having some percentage of the state’s area categorized as abnormally dry since the Drought Monitor report of October 29, 2013.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.”  The Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
1/28/14: drought-free;
12/31/13: 0.2 percent abnormally dry;
11/26/13: 62 percent abnormally dry;
3/5/13: 11 percent abnormally dry.

Looking beyond Virginia: the March 4 Drought Monitor rated 46.8 percent of the United States (including all or parts of 36 states) as being abnormally dry or worse, and it rated 18.0 percent of the country (including all or parts of 15 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).  (On August 7, 2012, 38.5 percent of the country was in the three worst categories; that was the highest percentage in these categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000.)  The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (D0-D4) and severe or worse (D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:
1/28/14: 49.1 percent abnormally dry or worse; 17.4 percent severe drought or worse;
12/31/14: 45.8 percent abnormally dry or worse; 14.0 percent severe drought or worse;
11/26/13: 50.8 percent abnormally dry or worse; 13.8 percent severe drought or worse;
3/5/13: 63.6 percent abnormally dry or worse; 30.5 percent severe drought or worse.

In five states, over 50 percent of the state was categorized by the March 4 report as being in severe-or-worse drought:
Arizona  – 55%;
California – 91% (with 66% in extreme or exceptional drought);
Nevada – 73% (with 33% in extreme drought);
New Mexico – 67%;
Oregon – 53%.

Here are some comments from the March 4 Drought Monitor on the long-running, severe drought in California, and the modest benefits the state received from a late-February storm:

“A blockbuster storm struck California as the calendar turned from February to March, averting a record-breaking season for dryness.  From February 26-March 2, the potent storm—and a weaker, initial system—accounted for more than 75 percent of the season-to-date precipitation in California….  At the height of the second storm, on February 28, Los Angeles—with 2.24 inches—experienced its wettest day since March 20, 2011.  Los Angeles also received at least an inch of rain on 3 consecutive days (February 27 – March 1) for the first time since December 18-20, 2010. Benefits from the storms extended northward along the California coast and into some northern areas of the state, leading to a modest reduction in the coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).  However, short-term benefits from the storms were mostly offset by still-large, 3-year precipitation deficits, low reservoir levels, and a sub-par snowpack.  The California Department of Water Sources reported a slight jump in the water equivalency of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack.  The water content, which averaged just 5 inches (22 percent of the late-February normal) prior to the two storms, climbed to 8 inches (33 percent) by March 5….”

For previous News Grouper monthly water status reports during the past 12 months, please click these links:
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013

Drought in the Great Plains is Focus of Apr. 1-4, 2014, Symposium in Lincoln, Neb.

Maybe it’s not dry right now (early March 2014) where you are (say, Virginia), or maybe it is (say, California, in a big, serious way).   But in the Great Plains of the United States, drought and its effects on water resources are a constant reality or at least threat, and this has had a powerful influence on the region’s history, culture, economics, environment, and law.  Those impacts of drought are the focus of “Drought in the Life, Cultures, and Landscapes of the Great Plains,” Apr. 1-4, 2014, in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This is the 40th annual symposium of the Center for Great Plains Studies, located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  For more information, visit http://www.unl.edu/plains/2014-symposium; phone (402) 772-3082; or e-mail: cgps@unl.edu.

39 Niobrara river cliff at Fort Niobrara NWR Jul13 2011

A Great Plains water resource: the Niobrara River in Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, near Valentine, Nebraska, July 13, 2011.

California Drought 2012-2014 – A Quick Summary and Sources of Information

It’s an event of national significance when persistent and severe drought afflicts California, the nation’s third largest state in land area and largest in population (with over 37 million people as of the 2010 Census), and the source of over $44 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012, about 11 percent of total U.S. cash farm receipts that year (according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture).

As of the February 25, 2014, edition of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (online at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/), about 91 percent of California was categorized as being in “severe,” “extreme,” or “exceptional” drought (the Drought Monitor’s three driest categories, out of five).  According to Drought Monitor archives, at least 20 percent of California has been rated in severe drought or worse almost continuously since mid-March 2012.

Here are some comments from the February 25 Drought Monitor on the California drought:
“California remained the focal point of a U.S. drought that stretches from the Pacific Coast to portions of the Mississippi Valley…

“California remained the focal point of a U.S. drought that stretches from the Pacific Coast to portions of the Mississippi Valley…

“By February 26, the California Department of Water Resources reported that the Sierra Nevada snowpack contained an average of 5 inches of liquid, just 22 percent of the late-February normal.  Prior to…early-February storminess, the water equivalency of the Sierra Nevada snowpack was 3 inches, about one-sixth of the end-of-January normal.

“From a broader perspective, California completed its 12th-driest year from July 1, 2011—June 30, 2012, and its 11th-driest year from July 1, 2012—June 30, 2013, according to the National Climatic Data Center.  During the last 120 years, the only comparable period for dryness occurred from July 1, 1975—June 30, 1977, when California experienced its fourth- and third-driest years on record.  …This year, California is on track to complete one of its driest years on record; the period from July 1, 2013—January 31, 2014, broke an all-time record for dryness.  Heat has certainly not helped California’s drought situation; Needles, Calif.—with a high of 90°F on February 19—reported its earliest ever 90-degree reading (previously, 90°F on February 24, 1904).  Sandberg, Calif., has reached or exceeded the 70-degree mark on 7 days in February; the previous standard of 4 days was established in February 1963.”

Besides the U.S. Drought Monitor, here are five other resources to help you learn about and follow this significant event in the Golden State.

California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento, online at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/, phone: (916) 654-0466.  (For agricultural statistics, see http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/.)

California Department of Water Resources, Sacramento, online at http://www.water.ca.gov/; phone: (916) 653-5791.

California Institute for Water Resources/University of California-Davis, online at http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/, phone: (510) 987-9124.  (For drought-information resources, see http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/California_Drought_Expertise/.)

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) California Water Science Center, Sacramento, online at http://ca.water.usgs.gov/; phone: (916) 278-3000.

PBS “NewsHour” report of February 14, 2014, “California’s historic drought strains towns and farms in Sonoma County,” online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/california-historic-drought-strains-towns-farms-sonoma-county/ (8 min./4 sec).