Depending on your perspective, the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three agriculture-heavy Iowa counties to hold them accountable for harmful nitrate contamination in the Raccoon River water supply can be a few things: a battle between farmers upstream and urban water users downstream, a common sense plan to get polluters to pay, or a costly intrusion into private land use.

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California is a major agricultural state. It’s also a major oil-producing state. And never the twain shall meet, right?

Not quite. In fact, there’s a big overlap in some areas of the state that are prime for both activities, mainly in the Central Valley. Besides shared geography, the two industries share something else: water. For about 20 years, oil companies like Chevron have provided millions of gallons of recycled oil field wastewater containing trace amounts of chemicals as irrigation water to farms that prize the reliable supply. But because of California’s severe, ongoing drought, reuse of oil wastewater for farm irrigation has expanded—as has scrutiny of the practice. Read more

In a precedent-setting decision last month that received scant national coverage, a federal district court judge in Washington State ordered a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), also known as a factory farm, to monitor groundwater, drainage and soil for illegal pollution resulting from its grossly inadequate manure management practices in violation of the Clean Water Act. This first-ever ruling holding a CAFO accountable for its pollution was a result of a lawsuit by the nonprofit Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) against the Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal, Washington. The ruling upholds the terms of a 2006 settlement CARE had with the dairy’s previous owners, which the current owners subsequently ignored. Read more

A few months ago my wife gave me a home brewing kit. Home brewing is a fun activity and something I’ve done with greater (and lesser) success over the years. While I do enjoy it, I also drink more beer than I brew, so I tend to sample my share of beers made by others.

And there’s a lot of different beer being brewed, as other bloggers have explained (here and here). Domestically-produced American beers, called craft beer or microbrews, have started a revolution in terms of quality, variety and flavor. Art, science and the marketplace have combined to make better beers blissfully commonplace on store shelves around the country. And the proof is showing up in bottom lines—in spite of the overall shrinking of the beer market, the craft beer segment has thrived. What’s more, this better beer movement challenges decades of perception (and reality) of the lowly American beer. Read more