Thursday, September 03, 2015

Online mapper shows flooding status across the country

The USGS is testing a new online interactive mapping tool to display flood inundation status cross the US.  On first look it appears to be a great tool for visualizing what portions of the country are troubled by flooding. The green balls represent areas where NO flood is occurring. The black triangles indicate areas under flood watch.

Clicking on a site such as i did in northeast Arizona in the image below, brings up an info box that includes a link to the original data source.

Lake Powell safe for recreation after Colorado mine spill

ADEQ and cooperating agencies report Lake Powell is safe
for all uses and encourage Lake Powell recreation.

PHOENIX (September 3, 2015) – As the Labor Day holiday weekend approaches, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) officials announced today that their analysis of water entering Lake Powell shows that the lake is safe for normal uses.

“ADEQ wants Arizona residents and visitors to know that Lake Powell is safe for Labor Day recreational activities including swimming and boating,” said ADEQ Water Quality Division Director Trevor Baggiore. “ADEQ and the multiple cooperating agencies are reviewing and analyzing new information as it becomes available as part of our everyday work to protect Arizona’s waters,” he added.

Scientists and specialists from several Arizona agencies have been and are continuing to monitor and assess data related to the mine spill. Arizona’s cooperating agencies agree that Lake Powell and the downstream Colorado River are safe for all uses including recreation and agriculture as well as a drinking water source for public water systems.

To establish baseline water quality, ADEQ conducted water quality sampling on August 12, 2015. Test results of these samples are consistent with historic water quality data from Lee’s Ferry (downstream of Glen Canyon Dam). These results, along with ADEQ’s data analysis of water entering Lake Powell (San Juan River test data collected by Utah) are available for review on the Arizona cooperating agencies’ Gold King Mine spill information website:, located on the Arizona Emergency Information Network (AZEIN) website.

As part of the ongoing water quality monitoring and assessment work, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is collecting and testing fish tissue and water quality samples from the Arizona portion of Lake Powell. As new test results become available, ADEQ will compare them with Arizona surface water quality standards and historical data to support water quality protection efforts and continue to share updated information on the AZEIN website.

[news release from ADEQ]

Geology class is the best science elective

“You should take geology because it will fundamentally transform the way you see the world.”

 That's the gist of an article on Slate magazine's site (great name to extol geology, right?) on why taking a geology class is the best elective science class.  Title, "Your World, Rocked," is one of a collection of articles on classes you should take.   It was written by Slate editor-in-chief Julia Turner.

Another great quote - "Geology is a gorgeous way to contemplate the abyss."

[Image credit, EuroGeoSurveys]

Dramatic videos of Gold King Mine spill released by EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has posted a set of short videos taken as the spill began of mineral-rich waste water from the Gold King mine in Colorado on August 5.     I've embedded one of the ten posted below, showing what looks like the full force of the waters surging out of the mine tunnel.

Thanks to David Briggs, Tucson-based mining consultant, for bringing these to our attention.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Mining and ag industries in Arizona file suit over EPA rule on 'waters of the United States'

The Arizona Mining Association passed along this announcement. This is a complex debate with dramatically different interpretations and claims of what the rule means.   Farmers are convinced EPA will regulate water in man-made ditches in their fields, leading to a nationwide campaign to "Ditch the Rule."    [Below, National Association of Manufacturers]

PHOENIX, AZ September 1, 2015. The Arizona Mining Association (AMA), Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Arizona Rock Products Association, New Mexico Mining Association, New Mexico Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona challenging the U.S. EPA’s new rule dramatically expanding the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

Kelly Shaw Norton, President of the Arizona Mining Association, explained, “EPA’s new rule rests on the implausible idea that vast expanses of bone-dry, southwestern desert can be subject to intrusive federal regulation as ‘waters of the United States.’  The focus of this lawsuit will be the new rule’s definition of ‘tributary,’ which expands ‘waters’ jurisdiction based on the presence of certain topographical features that are ubiquitous in the arid southwest, even in areas where it has been decades or centuries since any water has actually flowed on the ground.  What is worse, under the new rule, an agency official in Washington, DC, can deem an expanse of desert to be a ‘water of the United States’ even if relevant topographical features do not actually exist.”

Norton organized this broad coalition of affected southwest business groups to ensure that issues important to the arid west are front and center in efforts to rein in EPA’s dramatic overreach, and to protect southwestern businesses and landowners from unreasonable new regulatory burdens.