In this week’s news briefs, the three-year emergency drought order is over in California but some water-use restrictions remain, and a Tennessee worker suffers second-degree burns in a sewer lining accident


California Gov. Jerry Brown has officially lifted the state’s Drought State of Emergency in all but four counties, mostly in the agricultural Central Valley.

The emergency order had been in place since January 2014.

“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”

Related: EPA Helps Protect Oklahoma’s Waters with $11.2 Million Grant

Municipalities must still report their monthly water usage, and some water-use restrictions remain, such as blatantly wasteful irrigation, watering during and 48 hours after rain, and washing down sidewalks and hardscapes.

Although conservation efforts will continue, many had been calling for the emergency order to be lifted given all the snow and rain 2017 has seen. The Sacramento Bee reported that precipitation in the northern Sierra is twice the historical average and close to setting a record. Sierra snowpack is 61 percent above average and major reservoirs are near capacity.

“It’s been pretty clear to anybody looking out the window the last few months that at least the emergency, if not the drought, has been over,” says John Woodling of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority.

Related: EPA Helps Protect Louisiana’s Waters with $15.3M Grant

There is still great concern about groundwater supplies, though, which are low in many areas and need a lot more time to bounce back.

“Our groundwater supplies have been decimated during the drought and we know it will take several years, if not longer, to replenish what we’ve lost,” says Tracy Quinn of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “In some places we know we’ve lost the capacity of some of those aquifers, we’ve lost it for good. Clearly our surface supplies are in a much better place than they have been in the last five years. We need to be cautious going forward, and not roll back on the achievements we’ve made in reducing our water use.”

Source: Sacramento Bee

Related: Utility Thrives By Conserving And Diversifying Its Water Supply

Original Deadline Remains for Virginia City’s Combined Sewer Project
The Virginia Legislature has rejected amendments to bills requiring the city of Alexandria to fix four combined sewer outfalls by 2025.

The amendments, recommended by the governor, called for a 2027 deadline with the Department of Environmental Quality able to grant six-month extensions up to 2030. Alexandria officials had previously asked for an extension, saying the 2025 deadline wasn’t possible given the scale of work that is necessary.

“We appreciate the governor’s efforts to reach a compromise on these mega-projects, as well as those General Assembly members who supported a reasonable timeline,” Mayor Allison Silberberg told AlexandriaNews.org. “We regret the Legislature’s insistence on deadlines that engineers have determined are unreasonable, and we request that the governor veto the bills. We are fully committed to working with all deliberate speed to getting all four outfalls in Alexandria done, and to getting them done right.”

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Combined sewers flowing to the four outfalls and into the Potomac River make up 5 percent of Alexandria’s system.

Source: AlexandriaNews.org

Worker Suffers Burns in Sewer Lining Accident
A worker in Lakeland, Tennessee, is recovering after suffering second-degree burns to his face this week while repairing a sewer line.

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According to a report by Memphis TV affiliate Local 24, contracting company Layne Inliner was lining a sewer Wednesday morning when there was an explosion from the valve of the propane tank being used to heat the water, burning the worker.

He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, but is expected to recover from his injuries, according to the Local 24 report.

Source: Local 24

Lawmakers Oppose Proposed Elimination of Rural Infrastructure Loan and Grant Program
A bipartisan group of 62 U.S. representatives has issued a letter in support of a federal loan and grant program for rural water and wastewater systems that is currently part of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

A failure to protect the program, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would result in “irreparable and long lasting harm to these water systems and the Americans who rely on them,” the letter says.

The Trump Administration deemed the $498 million program “duplicative” of the EPA’s state revolving water funds, which would receive a slight bump in the budget plan, and said rural utilities using the USDA funds could turn to the EPA.

But the EPA programs have typically allocated most of their funding to larger, urban water systems, Mike Keegan, a spokesman for the National Rural Water Association, told the Huffington Post. And private financing is often more difficult for smaller systems because they lack the resources to repay loans at the preferred interest rates and payment schedules, so the USDA program is one of the best options. The letter notes that the program has a backlog of 805 applications requesting $2.2 billion in funding.

“Elimination of the USDA rural water program will disproportionately impact the most economically disadvantaged communities in the country,” Keegan says.

Source: Huffington Post


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