NASA and FEMA are warning that groundwater supplies in half of Texas are "extremely depleted" and warn that it will take a long period of above-normal precipitation to return things there to normal. A featured NASA map on the subject also shows that western Nebraska is extraordinarily wet right now -- as is most of the upper Missouri River basin. This could set us up for another spring of serious flooding along the Missouri, especially if the winter snowpack is unusually deep once again.
Jefferson County in Alabama has declared bankruptcy due to a $4.2 billion debt they can't repay. Most of that debt ($3.14 billion) was incurred by the sewer system. It's by far the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Jefferson County is certainly not the only municipal government in financial trouble right now, but it's hard not to see the problem there and wonder about the future for many other places. Services like sewer systems are a necessary part of most municipal budgets, and they require occasional but often very large expenditures. There's been a lot of maintenance that has been deferred over the years, particularly as systems built across America around the time of the Clean Water Act have reached the end of their expected service lives. The gap between the anticipated costs of infrastructure repairs and reinvestment and the amounts customers have been willing to spend thus far is a large one.
Prices for corn and soybeans are at very high levels -- and the Federal budget is short on cash. That combination is putting a lot of pressure on the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP takes agricultural land out of production and sets it aside -- mainly in an effort to protect streams and waterways from pollution by the runoff from fertilizer applied to farm fields. The buffer that CRP acreage creates between fertilized land and the water helps filter out the nutrients in the fertilizer before it makes its way into the natural supplies of drinking water that people rely upon every day. Source water protection is a major issue for the municipal water sector, since it's extremely expensive to remove nutrients from the water -- and much cheaper to keep them out in the first place. But the very definition of non-point-source pollution is that it's not possible to identify a single source -- so it's hard to assign responsibility for the expense of the prevention measures.
We have participated in some of the educational and research efforts of the nitrates committee of the Nebraska Section AWWA. These include two recent articles in the section's journal: One is an overview of the nitrate issue, and the other is a review of treatment options. The next issue will feature an article on source-level mitigation.
We wish a very Merry Christmas to all of our friends, colleagues, clients, and suppliers. We will be closed on Monday in honor of Christmas, and re-opening on Tuesday morning. If you have an emergency, you may always reach us via our emergency paging service.
The US Army Corps of Engineers is getting more money than previously expected to accelerate the repair of levees in southwest Iowa along the Missouri River. This is good news for the thousands of households and dozens of communities that were hit by the floods of 2011 -- and that could be threatened by a new round of flooding in the spring of2012. The Corps acknowledges that it can't get all of the repairs done by next spring, but the extraordinarily mild weather we're having should help.
Most people haven't been there in person to see the damage left behind by the flooding, so we offer you this video taken in early November right around the Iowa/Missouri border, where some of the damage was greatest. It's difficult to grasp the full extent of the damage from this video taken from Interstate 29, but it's educational nonetheless. Jump ahead to the 2:36 mark to see Hamburg, Iowa:
We are working right now to assist communities in the Missouri River valley with flood-protection equipment and systems, including portable pumps and flood gates. Please contact us if you need our assistance.