Nebraska Announces the Nation’s First Groundwater Based Nonpoint Source Watershed Plan Approval for 319 Funding

By Laura Johnson, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Water Quality Planning Unit

Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is proud to announce the approval of the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) Plan by EPA on October 13th, 2016. The BGMA Plan is the first groundwater focused plan in the nation to address nonpoint source pollution. The plan is the result of a collaborative effort to address groundwater nitrate contamination between NDEQ and four of Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs): Lewis and Clark, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Niobrara, and the Upper Elkhorn.

The BGMA covers 756 square miles in northeast Nebraska and is home to 10 communities and over 7,000 residents. Groundwater in the BGMA is the only drinking water source for communities and rural residents. Extensive row crop and sandy soils make it easy for land applied manure and commercial fertilizer to leach into the groundwater. The NRDs have collected data on groundwater nitrate concentrations since 1980. During that time, average nitrate concentrations have increased with some areas exceeding 30 mg/L, three times the levels safe for drinking water.

The plan is focused on reducing nitrate levels to below 10 mg/L in the groundwater by progressively adopting more protective BMPs throughout the BGMA with the community’s wellhead protection areas as the highest priority. The NRDs will utilize a combination of agricultural BMPs required by their elevated Groundwater Management plan phases and voluntary BMPs outlined in the BGMA plan that go above and beyond those requirements. Through the development of the BGMA Plan, the NRDs have created a cohesive strategy to monitor nitrate reductions in groundwater as fertilizer practices and irrigation methods are improved in the area. This monitoring data will also further refine future versions of the BGMA plan to ensure its goals are achieved.

EPA’s approval of this groundwater plan opens up funding from section 319 of the Clean Water Act available each year via NDEQ.  Previously, only surface watershed management plans have been eligible for this funding.  NDEQ hopes other NRDs and municipalities will use the Bazile plan as a template to develop additional groundwater management plans in the state and nation.

You can view the plan at http://deq.ne.gov/publica.nsf/pages/16-013 or visit any of the four natural resources districts websites (Upper Elkhorn NRD at http://www.uenrd.org/ ; Lower Elkhorn NRD at http://www.lenrd.org/ ; Lower Niobrara NRD at http://www.lnnrd.org/ ; and Lewis and Clark NRD at http://www.lcnrd.org/ )

Nebraska offers a special thanks to the BGMA stakeholders and the many individuals from various local, state, and federal organizations for their contributions to the development of this plan.  For more information contact Laura Johnson, NDEQ, at laura.r.johnson@nebraska.gov .

Location of the Bazile Groundwater Management Area

bazil-ne-gwma-map

 

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USGS Announces Cooperative Funding Opportunity for States

 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is offering a two-year cooperative agreement opportunity to state or local water-resources agencies that collect groundwater data to participate in the National Ground-Water Monitoring Network (NGWMN) in 2017-2018. Cooperative agreements will provide support for both new and existing data providers in the NGWMN. The USGS will fund new data providers to select and classify sites within existing monitoring programs, to set up web services that will link the data to the NGWMN Portal, and to produce a report describing this process. Existing data providers can apply for funding to maintain web services and keep site information current. Data providers may also apply for funding to collect data to improve site information, to maintain wells, and to drill new or replacement Network wells.  Interested states can apply online at grants.gov.  Applications will be accepted from October 27, 2016 through January 27, 2017.

Two webinars are also scheduled on November 10th at 1:00pm (eastern) and December 14th at 2:00pm (eastern) to review the application package and answer any questions about the opportunity.  For more information and to register for the webinars, visit the website HERE.  If you have questions, please contact Daryll Pope at dpope@usgs.gov or 609-771-3933.

 

New WRI Resources for Using Watershed Investment Programs to Protect Drinking Water

protecting_drinking_water_at_the_sourceThe World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a new publication entitled, “Protecting Drinking Water at the Source: Lessons from U.S. Watershed Investment Programs,” along with an accompanying blog and podcast. The report provides ideas for watershed program investors and practitioners by sharing experiences and lessons from 13 watershed investment programs from across the U.S.  The report is also based on a 3-year comparative case study analysis, and serves as a roadmap to guide utilities and communities as they work together to protect precious source waters.  Check out the report, blog, and podcast on WRI’s website.  They will also be presenting this information on the Source Water Collaborative Learning Exchange webinar next Wednesday, November 2nd at 1:00pm (eastern). (see related article)

 

Two November Webinars from the Source Water Collaborative Learning Exchange

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The Source Water Collaborative will host two November webinars as part of its continuing Learning Exchange Webinar Series as follows.

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Date/Time:  Wednesday, November 2nd from 1:00pm – 2:30pm (eastern)

Title:  Accelerating Investment in Source Water Protection 

What you will learn:  Bring your questions for this panel’s extended interactive Q&A on establishing and growing successful watershed investment programs.

Panelists:

  1. Robert Morgan, Beaver Water District
  2. Peter Stangel, U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities
  3. Todd Gartner, World Resources Institute’s Food, Forests & Water Program

Register here

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Date/Time:  November 10th from 1:00pm – 2:15pm (eastern)

Title:  Funding Source Water Protection

What you will learn:  Get ideas for leveraging funding sources and partnerships and learn about new eligibilities for accessing Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

Panelists:

  1. Kiri Anderer, EPA
  2. Les Perkins and Jerry Bryan, Farmers Irrigation District, Oregon
  3. Kelly Anderson and Tim Fenchal, Schuylkill Restoration Fund

Register here

EPA Webinar on Ohio’s Efforts to Reduce Nutrient Pollution in Lakes

EPA’s Watershed Academy will conduct a webinar entitled, “Understanding Nutrient Issues Affecting Ohio’s Inland Lakes,” on Wednesday, November 30 at 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm (eastern).  The webinar will present information on the evolution of Ohio’s efforts to protect and restore inland lakes from nutrient related impairments through the strategic collection and use of data along with engagement of appropriate watershed stakeholders. For more information and to register for the webinar, visit EPA’s Watershed Academy website.

GAO Report on Federal Agencies’ HABs Related Expenditures and Coordination 

The GAO has released a report entitled, Environmental Protection: Information on Federal Agencies’ Expenditures and Coordination Related to Harmful Algae.  The report examines how much federal agencies expended on these activities from fiscal years 2013 through 2015; and how federal agencies coordinate their activities with each other and with nonfederal stakeholders. In the report, GAO found that, “Twelve federal agencies reported expending an estimated total of roughly $101 million from fiscal years 2013 through 2015 to fund various research, monitoring, and other activities related to harmful algae…blooms in marine or freshwater environments.” In addition, GAO found that federal agencies are coordinating with each other and with other stakeholders to share information, expertise, and opportunities for collaboration; and are participating in groups, and task forces, and coordination efforts led by federal agencies, states, international organizations, or academics.  For more information and to read the report, visit the GAO website.

SWC Learning Exchange Webinar: Accelerating Investment in Watershed Protection

le_homepage_bannerThe Source Water Collaborative is pleased to announce the next webinar in the Learning Exchange Webinar Series.  This third webinar will feature a virtual panel discussion on “Accelerating Investment in Watershed Protection,” with three distinguished panelists who will share their perspectives and answer audience questions on establishing and growing successful watershed investment programs.  The panelists are Robert Morgan of the Beaver Water District in Arkansas; Peter Stangel of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, and Todd Gartner of the World Resources Institute.

NEW Date:  Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Time:  1:00pm – 2:30pm (eastern time)

Register for the webinar here.

EPA Launches Online Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center for Local Communities

EPA has launched its new online Climate Change Adaptation Resource Center (ARC-X) that will provide community leaders across the nation with information and tools to increase resilience. ARC-X users can navigate this self-guided portal to find information that is tailored to their needs, based on where they live and their particular issues of concern. The system includes information on the impacts of climate change; adaptation strategies to address the impacts; case studies that can be replicated for similar circumstances; links to EPA tools; and sources of funding and technical assistance from EPA and other federal agencies.  For more information, go to:  www.epa.gov/ARC-X
 

 

EPA Technical Assistance Now Available for Community Smart Growth Development

EPA invites communities to apply for targeted technical assistance from its Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program to help overcome barriers to implementing smart growth development approaches. Communities can choose from tools to help them make development more equitable, attract infill development, assess policies in small towns and rural areas, improve resilience to floods, or promote streets that are safe for all users and provide environmental benefits (including protecting drinking water sources).  EPA will deliver the assistance using teams of experts who conduct one- to two-day workshops in the selected communities. After the workshop, the community gets a next-steps memo with specific actions it can take if it chooses to implement the ideas generated in the workshop.

Letters of interest from communities are due by October 12, 2016. Eligible entities are local, county, or tribal governments, or nonprofit organizations that have the support of the local government on whose behalf they are applying.  For more information, visit EPA’s website.

EPA Releases Final Class VI Geologic Sequestration Guidance

EPA has released its final guidance document entitled, “Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide: Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program Class VI Reporting, Recordkeeping and Data Management Guidance,” along with two supporting documents. EPA’s Class VI Rule sets minimum technical criteria for Class VI injection wells for the purposes of protecting underground sources of drinking water, as part of the SDWA UIC Program.  This guidance will assist permit applicants and owners or operators in submitting and managing the large volumes of information associated with Class VI geologic sequestration projects. The guidance also identifies common file formats used for data and technical reports and describes how the Agency’s electronic Geologic Sequestration Data Tool can be used to meet the Class VI electronic reporting requirements throughout the duration of a Class VI project.  For more information, visit EPA’s website.