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Water Quality

Researchers: Lake Tahoe's worsening clarity leveling

By Chris Bowman, Sacramento Bee
May 12, 2008

Scientists who for decades reported the famously clear Lake Tahoe to be turning ever murkier have discovered that the decline actually has been leveling since 2001.

Using a new, more sophisticated computer analysis of environmental data on Tahoe, the researchers also found that the shift was not weather-related but more likely the payoff from years of costly and contentious building restrictions to curb polluted runoff into the lake.

"It's a good hypothesis that the land use restrictions and erosion controls have something to do with it," said John Reuter, a lake scientist with the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

The findings, obtained by The Bee, mark the most encouraging development in 40 years of monitoring the clouding of Lake Tahoe, according to Charles Goldman, who in the 1960s was the first scientist to foresee Tahoe's troubles and act on its behalf.

"There's promise in this data that we've crossed the line," said Goldman, a UCD professor,

The Tahoe researchers stop short of calling the post-2000 clarity measurements an "improvement" because visibility continued to diminish, only at a slower rate than that in the previous 33 years.

For entire article, please visit website.

The algae effect: Scientists harness the power of algae to remove nutrients and seidments from storm water

By Annie Flanzraich
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza News Editor
April 16, 2008

Nutrients are one of Lake Tahoe clarity’s arch enemies — add too much nitrogen or phosphorous and algae will sprout, clouding the famed crystal clear waters.

So using algae to clean water of the very nutrients that help it grow is a pretty novel idea.

And it’s working, according to research done by Alan Heyvaert of the Desert Research Institute and Steve Patterson of Bio X Design.

“Kind of ironic huh?” Heyvaert said. “It’s kind of a logical natural next step when you think about it.”

Heyvaert and Patterson began their research with the idea that if water was filtered through a tank with a biofilm — a screen covered in a layer of algae and nutrients — the algae would absorb the nutrients it needs to grow.

Then the water filtered out of the tank would be cleaned of some of the nutrients.
“We are using the algae to remove the nutrients that they grow on when they’re in the lake,” Heyvaert said. “In the lake if you put in too much nutrients they grow and you get too much algae.”

The idea seems to be working.

The process removed almost all the nitrogen in preliminary testing the team did last year with synthetic runoff water at a lab in Tahoe City for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

For entire article, please visit website.

New solar-powered water purification technology in testing process

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Reported by: Joe Vignolo, Scott Budman, NBC News

Our nation has troubled waters, but there may be some technology that can help.

They are already floating in some Bay Area lakes and reservoirs, trying to keep things clean. They're high tech, they're green, and they're working to purify the water you drink.

With both wildlife and home life watching closely, new technology is being tested in the Silicon Valley to help keep our water clean.

It may look like a small floating barge; it's actually a solar powered, lean, green, way to help keep contaminants out of our water supply.

It's called an aerator, aeration being the process of pulling air from the atmosphere into the water to keep pollutants like mercury from getting into the food chain, already used to keep some of your water clean.

Testing begins for drugs in river

Posted: 3/11/2008

The major water supplier for Reno and Sparks is checking its water for the presence of pharmaceuticals, officials said Tuesday.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority doesn’t expect to find such drugs in any significant quantity, said Paul Miller, manager of operations and water quality for TMWA. But no test has ever been done before, so a sample was taken Monday and shipped out for examination, Miller said. Results should take several weeks for the test that costs about $2,200.

“Don’t scare the customers,” Miller said. “We shouldn’t expect any contamination of the Truckee River water.” Sparked by reports of an Associated Press investigation into pharmaceuticals in municipal water supplies, water officials decided two weeks ago to look for someone to measure trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the water.

The Associated Press reported Monday that an array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

State asks locals to watch the watershed

Plan will monitor sediment flowing into the Truckee River
By Julie Brown/Sierra Sun
March 6, 2008, 11:49 AM

Placer County and the Town of Truckee are partnering to develop a comprehensive strategy to monitor the water quality of the Truckee River watershed and combat sediment that is clouding the river.

But first, they are looking to the local community to see what monitoring efforts are already underway.

“Our job is to look at the big picture,” said Bill Schell, contract manager with the Placer County stormwater quality division. “And coordinate [the data] so it all makes sense, and it’s consistent and timely. [A comprehensive monitoring plan] gives us a better pulse of what’s happening on the river, itself.”

Because of the levels of sediment in the river — in addition to the importance of the Truckee River for drinking water, agriculture, restoring groundwater supplies and recreation — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the Truckee as an “impaired” river.

The monitoring plan, which was issued to Placer County and the Town of Truckee as a technical directive by the State of California’s Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, will ultimately pinpoint where sediment is entering the Truckee River watershed.

For entire article, please visit the website.

Squaw ‘Friends’ receive conservation grant, Group aims to restore degraded stream

By Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun, acristancho@sierrasun.com
December 27, 2007

For more information regarding the efforts of the Friends of Squaw Creek, call Ed Heneveld at 583-1817. The group will be planning future workshops and meetings.

They are an informal group of residents and citizens that has organized to express concern about the health of Squaw Creek.

They like to ski and hike along the banks of the Truckee River tributary.

They are curious about the effects of well pumping on the creek and aquifer in Squaw Valley.

Some care so much for the stream’s aquatic life that they relocate trout into deeper pools as the stream dries up in the summer.

The Friends of Squaw Creek received a grant for $49,900 this month from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a California agency established in 2005 to allocate funding for environmental preservation.

The group will use the grant to create a strategy of how to “make it a better stream,” said Friends Chairman Ed Heneveld.

The strategic opportunity grant contains two elements, Heneveld said.

“We need to define the goal of our creek restoration efforts,” he said in a phone interview. “[And] try to get a handle on well pumping and aquifer interaction.”

Well pumping has been targeted by as a possible cause of the creek’s tendency to run dry in the summer and fall months.

A founding member of the Friends and a long-time Squaw resident, Pam Rocca believes three conditions are fouling and drying up the creek waters: The loss of snow storage because of tree cutting, well pumping for municipal and commercial use and the loss of many of the creek’s tributaries during past development in the valley.

The director of the Truckee River Watershed Council called the stream’s poor condition the result of previous decisions.

“From the perspective of a fishery, Squaw Creek is not a healthy fishery, and not a healthy [vegetated stream bed], we are seeing 100 years of land-use decisions,” said Executive Director Lisa Wallace of the watershed council.

For complete article, please visit website.

Truckee, Placer County target stormwater

Plan aims to control runoff and keep waterways clean: Truckee and Placer County have teamed up to create new storm runoff policies.

By Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun, ghoward@sierrasun.com
December 4, 2007

While Placer County is ready to submit its plan to state regulators this week, Truckee Town Council will consider submitting the town’s plan at its meeting that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.

Steep mountain slopes, new construction regularly breaking ground, spring melt and the occasional cloudburst all add up to big erosion potential in the Truckee-Martis area. Add in the Truckee River, a federally designated U.S. Waterway, and the monitoring and controlling of storm runoff becomes high priority for public officials.

Over the last year, the Town of Truckee and Placer County have collaborated to create two Storm Water Management Programs at the direction of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“We want to make sure only clean water goes into storm drains,” said Mary Keller, Placer County’s storm water program coordinator. “A lot of people don’t know that stormwater doesn’t go to a sewer plan, it goes straight into the creeks.”

For entire article, please visit website.

Did you know... Where your wastewater goes? (Kings Beach to Truckee)

By Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun, November 29, 2007

Starting in Kings Beach to Tahoe City, sewage is collected from the North Tahoe and Tahoe City public utility districts before being exported from the Basin through a 17-mile network of pipe.

The wastewater travels downhill along the Highway 89/Truckee River corridor, picking up more discharged wastewater from Alpine Springs County Water District and the Squaw Valley Public Service District, and finally from Truckee Sanitary District.

The five agencies that contribute wastewater to the system comprise the Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation District.

For the entire article, please visit website below.

Study: Martis Creek Dam needs repair

Posted: 11/26/2007

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is calling for immediate action to prevent the failure of Martis Creek Dam, which it considers one the of six most at risk in its entire 610-dam inventory.

In a conference call with reporters last week, a peer group of dam experts, hydrologists and engineers said they completely agree with the Corps findings.

Martis Creek Dam provides 30 percent of flood storage capacity for the Truckee River and ultimately Reno. Officials said failure of the dam might be catastrophic for downstream communities.

For entire article, please visit website below.

Rehabilitation begins on site of Hawken Fire

Posted: 11/1/2007

Rehabilitation and restoration rigorously began Wednesday on land burned in the Hawken Fire, an effort that will continue into next year.

"This is the first step," said Sonya Hem of the Nevada Land Conservancy, which is working on the project with Washoe County, the U.S. Forest Service and private groups.

Wednesday's work focused on 40 acres in the Caughlin Ranch area where homes were threatened in the July wildfire that destroyed 2,700 acres of private and federal land. Crews sprayed a variety of seed and hydro mulch designed to prevent erosion. The green-colored mixture sprayed on the area still blackened from the fire included two types of wheat grass and an annual cereal grain -- all plants that are fire-resistant and important in providing defensible space, said Lynda Nelson, natural resource planner for Washoe County Parks.
The initial part of the restoration and rehabilitation also includes construction of two sediment basins designed to help ensure soil washed from the hillsides doesn't get into creeks that feed into the Truckee River.

To view the entire article, as well as steps for how to help in protecting the watershed, please visit website below.

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