Forest Service Withdraws Proposed Groundwater Directive

On May 7, 2014, the Forest Service published an action proposing to amend its internal Agency directives for the National Forest System (NFS) to establish direction for management of groundwater resources on NFS lands.  The proposed amendment was intended to provide internal Agency direction on the consideration of groundwater resources in Agency activities, approvals, and authorizations; encourage source water protection and water conservation; establish systematic procedures for reviewing new proposals for groundwater withdrawals on NFS lands; and require the evaluation of potential impacts from groundwater withdrawals on public resources on NFS lands.

States and a number of other organizations raised concerns that the proposed directive would exceed the Agency’s authorities and infringe on state authorities to allocate water.  While maintaining that the proposed directives did not, and any future actions will not, infringe on state authority, the Forest Service has withdrawn the proposed directive and announced that next steps would be to establish a clearer and more consistent approach to evaluating and monitoring the effects of actions on groundwater resources of the National Forest System.  The Agency plans to have further discussions with key sectors and the public on this issue.  The Notice of Withdrawal appears in the June 19th Federal Register (80 FR 35299).

EPA Releases Draft Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts to Drinking Water Sources

On June 4, EPA released its “Draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources.”  The assessment is based on EPA’s study and follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal.  State regulators, tribes, local communities, and industry can use the information in the assessment to identify the best ways to protect public health and their drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing practices.

EPA’s assessment found some specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but these numbers were relatively small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, though some are not unique to hydraulic fracturing.

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday June 5, 2015.  For a copy of the study, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.  To submit comments on the report, go to:  http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/fedrgstr_activites/HF%20Drinking%20Water%20Assessment?OpenDocument

USDA Announces New Water Conservation Funding for Ogallala Aquifer Region

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has just announced that it is investing $6.5 million in FY ’15 funding through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) to help farmers and ranchers conserve billions of gallons of water and improve water quality over the next four years. Funding will be targeted to seven focus areas in five states (Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas) to support their primary water source and strengthen rural economies.  The Ogallala supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the US. It has long been the main water supply for the High Plains’ region and is being depleted at an unsustainable rate.  This conservation investment builds on $66 million that NRCS has invested through OAI since 2011, which helped farmers and ranchers conserve water on more than 325,000 acres.   View the NRCS news release HERE.

USDA Now Accepting FY ’16 Proposals for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is now accepting proposals for FY ’16 projects.  ASDWA encourages states to consider partnering with your water utilities and their local producers to submit a project proposal aimed at improving or protecting drinking water quality.  RCPP efforts are intended to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales.  Eligible partners include:  state, local, and tribal governments; water utilities; private companies; universities; non-profit organizations; and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives.  Last year, the RCPP funded 115 projects across all 50 states and Puerto Rico for a total of more than $370 million, and were estimated to leverage an additional $400 million in partner contributions.  This coming year, the RCPP will again provide $225 million for projects (at up to $10 million per project) through three funding pools:

Iowa serves as a great example for other states who are considering partnering on RCPP projects.  In Iowa, the state drinking water program partnered with the City of Cedar Rapids on the RCPP funded Middle Cedar Partnership Project to work with local conservation partners, farmers and landowners to install best management practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, wetlands and saturated buffers to help improve water quality, water quantity, and soil health in the Cedar River Watershed.

Pre-proposals for the RCPP are due July 8, 2015. For more information and to apply, read the announcement for program funding and visit the NRCS web page.

April 28th CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar Video Now Available

Thanks to everyone who was able to join us for the April 28th CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar on Using Water Quality Standards, Monitoring, Assessment, and Impaired Waters Listings to Protect and Preserve Drinking Water Quality.   Approximately 195 people participated from across the nation representing multiple state water programs, EPA Headquarters and Regions, and other agencies and organizations.  The audio/video recording of this webinar and the presentations highlighting more detailed information about Sections 1 – 2 of the toolkit, as well as three state examples from New York, Oregon, and Colorado are now available on ASDWA’s web site at www.asdwa.org/sourcewaterprotection.  You may also view the video HERE.

USGS Publishes Water-Energy Nexus Report

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has published a report entitled, “The Water-Energy Nexus:  An Earth Science Perspective.”  The intent of this report is to provide scientific insight to resource managers and the general public on the complex ways in which water and energy are interconnected and to highlight the important issues that affect availability and sustainability of water and energy resources in the US.  Issues analyzed and discussed in the report include freshwater availability; water use; ecosystems health; assessment of fossil-fuel, uranium, and geothermal resources; subsurface injection of wastewater and carbon dioxide and related induced seismicity; climate change and its effect on water availability and energy production; byproducts and waste streams of energy development; energy for water treatment and delivery, and more.  To read the report, visit the USGS web site.

AWWA and WaterRF Free Cyanotoxins Guide Now Available

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) have released a new guide to help water utility managers detect and control cyanotoxins from harmful algal blooms entitled, “A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxins.” The guide addresses cyanotoxin occurrence, source water management, and treatment strategies. It is presented in a simple Q&A format, and is available for free download from both the AWWA and WRF web sites. A more technical companion document is also in development to be published this summer, after EPA releases its new health advisory levels and analytical metthods for microcystin and cylindrospermopsin next month.

EPA, NASA, NOAA and USGS Creating Early Warning System to Detect Harmful Algal Blooms

EPA has announced that it’s developing an early warning indicator system using historical and current satellite data to detect algal blooms.  EPA researchers will develop a mobile app to inform water quality managers of changes in water quality using satellite data on cyanobacteria algal blooms from three partnering agencies:  NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey.  The multi-agency project will create a reliable, standard method for identifying cyanobacteria blooms in U.S. freshwater lakes and reservoirs using ocean color satellite data.  Several satellite data sets will be evaluated against environmental data collected from these water bodies, which allows for more frequent observations over broader areas than can be achieved by taking traditional water samples.  To read EPA’s news release, visit the web site HERE.

From Texas to Maine, NOAA’s Expanded Flood Information Tool Promotes Resilience

A NOAA flood exposure risk mapping tool that was developed in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania has now been expanded to cover coastal areas along the entire U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. The Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper, a deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, provides users with maps, data, and information to assess risks and vulnerabilities related to coastal flooding and hazards. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau population count, 39 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties subject to significant coastal flooding.  This mapping tool visualizes anticipated flood effects, thereby aiding preparation for coastal storms.

With this NOAA tool, users select their location and the flood scenario of their choosing: Federal Emergency Management Agency flood designations, shallow coastal flooding associated with high tides, or flooding associated with sea level rise or storm surge. Flood maps are then overlaid with any of three exposure maps to show how floodwaters might impact area assets. All maps can be saved, printed, and shared.

  • The societal exposure map provides information on population density, poverty, the elderly, employees, and projected population growth. Communities can use this information for community planning and to determine how floodwaters might affect vulnerable or concentrated populations.
  • Roads, bridges, water, and sewer systems can be damaged by coastal flooding. Communities can use the mapper to assess infrastructure vulnerabilities and associated environmental and economic issues to determine what steps are needed to protect these assets.
  • The ecosystem exposure map provides data and information about natural areas and open spaces—including their proximity to development — to help communities identify which areas can be conserved for future flood protection benefits. Pollution sources are also identified to show where natural resources could be affected during a flood.

This map tool was developed by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management.

Register Now for the 2nd CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar

ASDWA, the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) are pleased to announce that the Second CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar will be held on April 28th from 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (eastern).  This webinar is entitled, “Using Water Quality Standards, Monitoring, Assessment, and Impaired Waters Listings to Protect and Preserve Drinking Water Quality.”

It is the second of four webinars in a series to provide more detailed information about the CWA-SDWA Toolkit entitled, “Opportunities to Protect Drinking Water Sources and Advance Watershed Goals through the Clean Water Act:  A Toolkit for State, Interstate, Tribal, and Federal Water Program Managers.”  The toolkit was developed by a workgroup that included many state, EPA Headquarters, and EPA Regional representatives from clean water, drinking water, and ground water programs.  During subsequent webinars, speakers will share information and state examples from Sections 3–5 of the toolkit on Total Maximum Daily Loads, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits, Nonpoint Source, and Clean Water Act 319 Programs.

State and EPA water managers are encouraged to attend, and registration is open to anyone else who would like to participate.  Please view the attached flyer for the complete agenda and use the following link to register:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3949215235341082113.

4-28-2015 CWA-SDWA Toolkit Webinar No 2 – Flyer