Water pricing strategies discussed at upcoming conference

Margaret Schneemann’s on-going water pricing study responds to a popular misconception about water supply in northeast Illinois.

“The perception in the southern Lake Michigan region is that water supply is unlimited, which is not the case,” said Schneemann, IISG water resource economist. On the contrary, water demand in the area is projected to increase by as much as 64 percent by 2050.

Schneemann will be discussing conservation pricing strategies as well as her study at the 2009 Universities Council on Water Resources/National Institutes for Water Resources Annual Conference.

The conference brings together water supply planners from across the state to explore ways to improve urban water management.

Schneemann is leading a study on current residential rate structures, based on findings from almost 300 water systems (serving populations over 1,000). “Conservation-oriented pricing would alter the incentives available to water suppliers and users and would make potentially harmful decisions more costly to pursue.” Schneemann said.

Schneemann will be speaking at the conference on Thursday, July 9, at 8:30 a.m. The conference, which takes place July 7-9, will be held in downtown Chicago at the Marriot Courtyard Hotel.


Hot off the press: Here's our latest issue of the HELM

The latest issue of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s newsletter is now available online. You can find the HELM on our website here.

Here are some headlines from this issue:

• IISG Fosters Community Stewardship through University Students
• Sea Grant AIS Website Selected for Smithsonian Kiosk
• Woud you please pass the Asian Carp?
• Sea Grant Foster New Aquaculture Markets in Ghana, Kenya


Indiana Teacher Workshop on Unwanted Medicine

Youth as Agents for Change: Informing communities about proper disposal of unwanted medicines and other toxic materials

When: Mon. June 22; 10am-3pm
Where: Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center Chesterton, Indiana (Directions will be provided upon registration.)

Prescription drug use is on the rise. When medicines expire, people often flush or throw them away. This can contaminate waterways, harming fish and other aquatic wildlife. Learn about how high school-aged students are serving as important agents for change in people’s habits to improve the quality of our waters. Find out how these projects are used to inform adult members of their communities about critical action steps to protect our waterways, reduce medicine poisoning in young children, and reduce identification theft. Join us, and learn how you can get involved by adopting this model in your classroom and community.

• Learn how to incorporate unwanted medicine and household hazardous waste (HHW) disposal into your curriculum.
• Talk with an environmental science teacher from Pontiac High School, Illinois that has already incorporated an expired meds disposal program at his school in conjunction with a civics teacher: www.p2d2program.org
• Gain ideas from Sea Grant educators about best approaches to help students develop community stewardship projects.
• Participate in fun, interactive activities to take back to your classroom provided by the Recycling District.
• Curriculum, activities and correlated State Standards will be provided!

Registration required. To register call or email Deanna Garner: 219-465-3694 or dgreenwood.rwrd@yahoo.com. Continuing credits available.

Primary focus will be for middle and high school and informal teachers; but all are invited and can benefit from this fun & educational workshop.

This workshop is a partnership of the Recycling & Waste Reduction of Porter County and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program.


Science Saturday Brings Together People, Lake

There’s a whole other world living and growing alongside Chicago’s busy streets in Lake Michigan. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have teamed up to help acquaint local residents with this world as a part of the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Science Saturdays.”

“We hope to expose the public to some of the organisms living in the lake, how we sample them, what types of questions we are trying to answer, and what the answers mean for the management of the lake,” said IISG aquatic invasives specialist Pat Charlebois.

The tour—directed towards those aged seven and up—will be held on Saturday, July 18, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. It will take place at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, where researchers from the Lake Michigan Biological Station, an INHS field station, will lead a shore-based exploration of aquatic life in Lake Michigan. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about—and at some stages touch—the invertebrates and offshore and nearshore fishes that inhabit the lake.

Science Saturdays are a part of a yearlong initiative, called Science Chicago, aiming to establish the crucial value of science and math in its residents. The museum initiative “brings together more than 140 of the area’s leading academic, scientific, corporate, and non-profit institutions to host thousands of programs that provide hands-on learning, spur thoughtful debate, and build enthusiasm for the pursuit of cutting-edge science.”

IISG, as a part of its on-going efforts to educate the public about water issues in the region, is organizing the Lake Michigan event. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase the lake and the work that researchers at the Lake Michigan Biological Station are doing to understand more about it,” said Charlebois.

All Science Saturday tours require advance registration; tickets cost $7 per tour. For more information on Science Saturday events visit the Science Saturday webpage.


IISG in the News: Invasive creatures spread to Fox River, Chain O’ Lakes

From the Northwest Herald:
Local waters might seem clearer to the naked eye, but the reason behind it could disrupt the food chain and eventually the fish supply.

Zebra mussels, which are spreading throughout the Chain O’ Lakes and the Fox River, filter through a liter of plankton-filled water a day each as they go, said Pat Charlebois, aquatic invasive specialist with the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program.

But those plankton, which fog the water, are needed to serve as the base of the food chain.

“[Zebra mussels] are bad,” Charlebois said. “Because they’re removing particles from the water, some people think the water becomes clearer. Lake Michigan is clearer now, but that is because there’s no food.” Read more.


IISG Website Featured in Year of Science 2009

Nab the Aquatic Invader!, an educational website about aquatic invasive species, is featured this month on the Fun Zone page of the Year of Science 2009 website.

Year of Science 2009 is a 12-month celebration of how science works, why science matters, and who scientists are. It is led by participants in the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS), a grassroots network composed of more than 400 participating organizations representing universities, scientific societies, science centers and museums, government agencies, advocacy groups, media, educators, businesses and industry—formed in response to recent concerns about national scientific literacy.

COPUS, which began with a grant from the National Science Foundation, has grown to be an inclusive endeavor spurring communication and collaboration in the scientific community while shining the spotlight on science throughout the year. Major sponsors include the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the University of California, Museum of Paleontology, the Geological Society of America, and the National Science Teachers Association.

Nab the Aquatic Invader! is featured as part of this month’s “Ocean and Water” theme. The web site was created by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant along with Sea Grant programs in New York, Louisiana, Connecticut, and Oregon to provide the latest information about aquatic invasive species through colorful characters and a crime-solving theme. Since its inception, the project has expanded to include species from coastal regions around the country.

"The site is clever and fun, but it’s also rich with curriculum for teachers, ideas for stewardship projects, and creative educational activities for students and other online audiences," said Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education.
In addition to visiting the Fun Zone, on this month on the Year of Science website you can meet scientists, including Dr. Richard Spinrad, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Research, enter a contest to name a newly-found jellyfish, and learn ways to get involved in protecting our oceans.

Upcoming Year of Science 2009 themes include “Astronomy” in July, “Weather and Climate” in August, and “Biodiversity and Conservation” in September.


NOAA and National Park Service Urge Beach-Goers to Break the Grip of the Rip

With summer vacation on the horizon, NOAA and the National Park Service are alerting beach-goers to the threat of rip currents and how to prevent drowning from their strong and potentially fatal grip.

Rip currents are the leading surf hazard, claiming more than 100 lives per year nationally. For that reason, NOAA and NPS are teaming up to sponsor Rip Current Awareness Week, June 7-13, with the theme Break the Grip of the Rip®.

Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the shore. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents are surprisingly strong and swift. They account for more than 80 percent of the tens of thousands of rescues performed by beach lifeguards in the United States annually.

"Before going into the water, check the rip current outlook, swim on guarded beaches and know how to escape a rip current's grip," said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Doing so can save your life.”

If you are caught in a rip current, swim in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore. Swimmers who try to swim against a rip current straight back to shore often fail to overcome its strength, risking exhaustion and drowning.

“Every year, more than 75 million visitors come to swim, fish, snorkel, scuba dive, boat and enjoy the wildlife and majestic scenery in the coastal areas of our National Park System,” said Dan Wenk, acting director of the National Park Service. “The National Park Service has a long partnership with NOAA and its National Weather Service to enhance our ability to provide visitors with the latest information on water safety.”

Rip currents can form at all surf beaches so keep these safety tips in mind:
• Check for surf zone forecasts at NOAA's National Weather Service Rip Current Safety.
• Look for signs and flags posted to warn about rip currents;
• Do not swim against a rip current;
• Escape rip currents by swimming in a direction following the shoreline until you are free of the rip current;
• Never swim alone.

“Sea Grant and the National Weather Service have placed rip current signs in English and Spanish on ocean and Great Lakes beaches throughout the nation to warn swimmers of the dangers posed by this hazard. It is critical that all beach-goers know how to identify a rip current, and that they know what to do if they are caught in one,” said Leon M. Cammen, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Sea Grant College Program.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Break the Grip of the Rip is a registered trademark of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here are some links for more information:
NOAA's homepage
NOAA Rip Current information
NOAA Sea Grant
National Park Service


In the News: BP in Whiting cited for high benzene release

From the Post-Tribune:
For nearly six years, BP's Whiting refinery emitted cancer-causing benzene at its wastewater treatment plant without proper air pollution control equipment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

BP says there's no evidence that humans or the environment were harmed, but the company could face a penalty of up to $37,500 per day for the violations, which took place between 2003 and 2008. Read more.


Get Smart Growth: New Publication Promotes Resource Protection in Indiana

Planning with POWER’s latest publication—Smart Growth and Protection of Natural Resources in Indiana—responds to a problem persistent in urban and residential development in Indiana as well as other states.

“Local land use planning in the past has not incorporated natural resources,” said POWER project leader Robert McCormick. “Typically, housing is scattered in a sprawled fashion without regard to environmental impacts. As a result, we have seriously degraded our water and other natural resources.”

The goal of smart growth—an idea promoted by the U.S. EPA Smart Growth Network (SGN) in 1996—is to protect communities’ natural resources and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods through mixed-use development, transportation accessibility, and protection of open spaces.

With help from Planning with POWER, smart growth development is already underway in Porter County and is under consideration in a handful of other Indiana counties. POWER’s new publication provides details on smart growth development in Indiana and outlines methods for implementation, including SGN’s “Ten Principles of Smart Growth.”

Planning with Power—a statewide educational program that links land use planning with watershed planning at the local level—is coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue University Extension. The project is designed to empower communities to prevent and solve natural resource problems resulting from changing land use in growing watersheds and to empower local officials to incorporate watershed protection measures into comprehensive land use plans.

For more information or to download the publication, visit Planning with Power or contact Robert McCormick at 765-494-3627.