Agricultural Source Water Protection Lessons Now Online for High School Students

The FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) has now posted 20 source water protection lessons for high school agricultural science students on its website.  The lessons are available to FFA’s network of over one million high school agriculture science students and their instructors.  The lessons are linked to National Science Education Standards for Grades 9-12, and contain hands-on and remedial activities, supplemental web and community resources, assessments, and community stewardship opportunities. Content covered includes the water cycle, drinking water basics, the watershed approach, and agricultural conservation practices to protect water quality.

The lessons are the product of a USDA-EPA partnership with FFA and a Project Advisory Committee that included members from: USDA (Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, National Institute of Food and Agriculture), EPA (Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds), US Geological Survey, The Groundwater Foundation, and the National Association of Conservation Districts.  The University of Wisconsin’s Environmental Resources Center provided significant educational content.

FFA will be promoting the lessons through several of their vehicles and venues.  State drinking water programs may also want to promote these lessons for educators in their state using the FFA Curriculum Flyer 2012 and sharing the website link at www.ffa.org/drinkingwater.

Please direct your questions to Sylvia Malm of EPA at malm.sylvia@epa.gov or 202-564-3889.

DOI Releases Draft Rule Requiring Hydraulic Fracturing Chemical Disclosure on Public and Indian Lands

On May 11, the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Federal Register Notice (FR 27691) announcing the release of a proposed rule to require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands. The rule was created by the BLM, in support of President Obama’s energy strategy and the Administration’s goal of continuing to expand responsible oil and gas production.

 

The rule contains the following three measures to ensure development continues safely and responsibly, and is in line with steps that some states have already taken requiring operators to disclose the chemicals they use in activities on state lands.

 

  1. Providing disclosure to the public of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public land and Indian land;
  2. Improving assurances on well-bore integrity to verify that fluids used in wells during fracturing operations are not escaping; and
  3. Confirming that oil and gas operators have a water management plan in place for handling fracturing fluids that flow back to the surface.

 

Comments are due to BLM by July 10 in accordance with the 60-day comment period.  The public, governments, industry and other stakeholders are encouraged to provide their input.

 

View the Federal Register Notice HERE.  The DOI press release is available HERE, along with the draft rule, an economic analysis, and an appendix.

Register for May 15 Webcast on Lessons Learned from USDA’s NIFA-CEAP Watershed Synthesis

On May 15, 2012 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm (eastern time), EPA will conduct a free Watershed Academy Webcast entitled, “USDA’s NIFA-CEAP Watershed Synthesis: Lessons Learned” to share some important lessons learned from USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) established this university-led watershed-scale research and extension projects in support of the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). CEAP addresses USDA’s need to quantify the effects and benefits of agricultural conservation practices.

This webcast will highlight a study led by North Carolina State University to analyze and synthesize key lessons learned from 13 of these watershed-scale projects on cropland and pastureland. The goal of CEAP Watersheds is to better understand how the suite, timing, and spatial distribution of conservation practices influence their effect on local water quality outcomes. The NIFA study also evaluated social and economic factors that influence implementation and maintenance of practices, as well as education critical to transferring knowledge to farmers, ranchers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to improve practice effectiveness.

The webcast will also highlight linkages between USDA’s CEAP project and US EPA’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program. Most of the 13 watersheds studied in the analysis also have 319 projects.

To register for this webcast, please visit www.epa.gov/watershedwebcasts.

 

USGS Releases Report Showing Decadal-Scale Changes in Chloride, Dissolved Solids, and Nitrate Concentrations in Groundwater

USGS has released a report entitled, “Methods for Evaluating Temporal Groundwater Quality Data and Results of Decadal-Scale Changes in Chloride, Dissolved Solids, and Nitrate Concentrations in Groundwater in the United States, 1988–2010.”  The analysis was done by the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) to determine if concentrations of these constituents have increased or decreased significantly from the 1990’s to the early 2000’s nationwide.

 

The analysis consists of samples from 1,236 wells in 56 well networks, representing major aquifers and urban and agricultural land-use areas.  Samples for chloride, dissolved solids, and nitrate collected from 1988-2000 were compared to corresponding samples taken from the same well between 2001 and 2010.  The 22 principal aquifers represented by these 56 well networks account for nearly 80 percent of the estimated withdrawals of groundwater used for drinking-water supply in the nation.

 

Although chloride, dissolved solids, and nitrate concentrations were typically less than the drinking-water standards and guidelines, the proportion of samples exceeding the EPA’s Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for dissolved solids (500 milligrams per liter) increased significantly between the first and second full-network sampling events when evaluating all networks combined at the national level. Also, for all networks combined, the proportion of samples exceeding the MCL of 10 mg/L as N for nitrate increased significantly. One network in the Delmarva Peninsula had a significant increase in the proportion of samples exceeding the MCL for nitrate.

 

Other important findings include:

  • The largest increases in chloride concentrations were in urban areas in the Northeastern and Upper Midwestern United States, including suburban Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee.
  • Dissolved solids concentrations increased throughout the nation, including areas of Florida, Illinois, and the Rio Grande region.
  • The largest increases in nitrate concentrations were in key agricultural areas, including the Great Plains, areas east of Lake Michigan, and in California.
  • The magnitudes of increases in concentrations in deeper groundwater used as a source of drinking-water supply were generally less than in shallow groundwater. However, the proportions of networks with increases for both deep and shallow groundwater were similar.

 

This report, as well as a series of interactive maps showing long-term groundwater trends, can be found online.