RFP Now Open for Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant Program

RFP Now Open for Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant ProgramThe 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP) is now open for the Healthy Watersheds Consortium (HWC) Grant Program. The HWC is a partnership between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, EPA, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Up to $1.2 million is available for projects that accelerate strategic protection of healthy, freshwater ecosystems and their watersheds (including drinking water watersheds) across the nation. The primary focus for proposals should be on the protection and stewardship of land in the watershed, rather than just water quality improvements. The due date for proposals is February 4, 2019. For more information, view the Request for Proposals for eligibility criteria; visit the HWC Grant Program website; and register for the informational webinar session on Wednesday, October 24, at 2:00 pm (eastern).

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Stay Tuned for New USDA NWQI Drinking Water Protection Pilot Opportunity

nrcs_logo_largerASDWA has learned that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and EPA are making a change to the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) this year (for FY 2019) that includes a new pilot program specifically aimed at protecting drinking water supplies, including groundwater. The NWQI was launched in 2012 to reduce nonpoint sources of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens related to agriculture in small high-priority watersheds in each state. NWQI provides a way to accelerate voluntary, on-farm conservation investments and focused water quality monitoring and assessment resources where they can deliver the greatest benefits for clean water.  NRCS recently announced that it is updating and expanding NWQI for FY 2019 and has committed to funding the NWQI through 2023. While many of the fundamental components of the NWQI will remain in place for FY19, there are some notable changes in the FY19 NWQI bulletin and thinking ahead for NWQI in FY20.  In addition to continuing the current NWQI focus on addressing water bodies impaired under the Clean Water Act, NWQI will now include a component to protect surface and groundwater sources of drinking water.

This is a great new opportunity for state drinking water and source water protection programs that will be coordinated with NRCS State Conservationists to collaborate on proposing SWP areas and specific projects for the pilot. NRCS and EPA’s source water protection staff in cooperation with ACWA and ASDWA are working to develop guidance and resources for NRCS staff and state drinking water agencies to get the pilot underway.  An informational webinar is being planned and a date will be announced in the coming week.  Stay tuned for more information that will be coming soon!

AWWA Publishes New Water Utility Guide on USDA Tools for Source Water Protection

AWWAAWWA has published a new guide entitled, “USDA Tools to Support Source Water Protection.” The guide highlights opportunities for water systems to leverage USDA conservation programs to expand the effectiveness of community partnerships and protect drinking water sources. It includes an overview of nutrient challenges and SWP; seven specific actions for water utilities to get involved in agricultural conservation projects in their watersheds; information about USDA conservation programs including how to apply and who to contact; along with a variety of case studies and project examples; as well as information about how AWWA is working with members of Congress and other partners on the reauthorization of the 2018 Farm Bill to provide long-term support for source water protection. The seven actions in the guide emphasize that water utilities can:

  1. Help shape how conservation dollars are spent, focusing them on the greatest benefits to source water protection.
  2. Foster mutual trust and understanding between water systems and farmers, encouraging constructive problem-solving.
  3. Make progress on specific source water concerns by focusing on practices that will best address them.
  4. Save on treatment costs or delay or avoid installing additional treatment.
  5. Reduce risks to their water supplies.
  6. Increase public confidence in both water and agricultural sectors.
  7. Leverage every dollar they contribute through NRCS and other partners.

For more information, view and download the guide HERE.

July 2nd ASDWA Webinar with USGS on Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water

usgsOn Monday, July 2nd from 1:00 – 2:30 pm (eastern), ASDWA will host its second free webinar in our series with USGS scientists entitled, “Cyanotoxins – Advancing Drinking Water Science to Protect Human Health.” This webinar will focus on cyanotoxin occurrence and potential exposures in the Nation’s surface water resources. Tools that are being developed and used to quantify changing water quality conditions that may affect drinking water treatment processes and potential for cyanotoxin exposure also will be described. Information will be presented from the perspective of USGS scientists and the Ohio EPA to demonstrate how converging lines of evidence can be used to better understand and be prepared for cyanobacteria-related events. State drinking water program personnel are encouraged to attend, along with anyone else who is interested and would like to participate. For more information and to register, GO HERE.

Kansas Water Office Partners in Milford Lake Watershed RCPP Project

milford lake algae bloomGuest article by Matt Unruh, Chief of Planning for the Kansas Water Office

Throughout the United States, harmful algal blooms (HABs) impact operations for many raw water sources utilized by public water supplies.  When HABs are present toxins and taste-and-odor compounds can be produced which can lead to increased treatment costs for water suppliers as well as public health concerns. Milford Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir in north-central Kansas near Junction City and Fort Riley, is a prime Kansas example of the impacts HABs can have on drinking water sources as well as collective efforts which are in progress to reduce the magnitude and frequency of HABs occurring.

Phosphorus loading from the Lower Republican River Watershed is one of the contributing factors leading to the formation of HABs in Milford Lake. In an effort to reduce the phosphorus loading entering Milford Lake from the Republican River, the Kansas Water Office (KWO) engaged with a number of partners including the state drinking water program and the Section 319 Nonpoint Source program in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), other state agencies including the Kansas Department of Agriculture – Division of Conservation (KDA-DOC) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWPT),  four public water suppliers including the cities of Topeka, Lawrence, Olathe and Water District No. 1 of Johnson County (WaterOne) which are impacted by releases as they travel downstream of Milford Lake along the Kansas River, as well as agricultural commodity groups and organizations, county conservation districts, and non-profit organizations. milford lake map

This partnership team and their direct and/or in-kind contributions were included within a proposal submitted to the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project within the Lower Republican Watershed in Kansas with the objective of reducing phosphorus loading entering Milford Lake by providing additional technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers within the project area. With the project involvement of American Water Works Association (AWWA) member WaterOne, KWO was able to utilize technical assistance provided by the 9b Group through the AWWA Farm Bill Initiative to receive technical support for the development of the pre-proposal and final proposal for the project during 2017. In December 2017, KWO received word from NRCS that the Milford Lake Watershed RCPP Project had been successful in receiving a commitment from NRCS of $2.88 million to be utilized in conjunction with partner team contributions to provide financial and technical assistance within the watershed to increase the adoption of conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

A number of sources of funding will be utilized to provide financial assistance to producers within the Milford Lake watershed through this project. These include Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 319 Nonpoint Source funds administered by KDHE, KDWPT funding, KDA-DOC funding, and State Water Plan funding through the Kansas Water Office. Funding from these sources will be utilized along with NRCS funds to provide sign-up incentive payments for certain practices as well as up to 90% cost share on identified core phosphorus-reducing practices for cropland and livestock-related land use. It is estimated that the first producer sign-up period for this project will take place during the Fall of 2018.

In Kansas as well as nationwide there is a growing trend from public water suppliers in recognizing the value in source water protection-related activities leading to the investment of technical and financial resources to work with agricultural producers to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. Partnerships such as those in place for the Milford Lake Watershed RCPP Project will play an important role in the successful development and implementation of programs such as the KDHE Drinking Water Protection Program and related programs in other states. Knowing the details of programs available to leverage technical and financial resources such as NRCS RCPP can help to provide vital resources towards source water protection-related activities as well as build partnerships necessary for long-term success.

For more information about this RCPP project, contact Matt Unruh, Chief of Planning, Kansas Water Office, Matt.Unruh@kwo.ks.gov, (785) 296-0861.

NEMWI Report and Briefing on the Cost of Nitrate Treatment for Mississippi River Basin Water Utilities

NEMWIThe Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) recently published a report and hosted a Congressional briefing on “Source Water Quality and the Cost of Nitrate Treatment in the Mississippi River Basin.” The report shares the findings of a ten-year study showing that levels of nitrate in source water exceeding the SDWA maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L are occurring with increasing frequency. The study focused on three water treatment plants in the Upper Mississippi River Basin:  Des Moines, Iowa; Decatur, Illinois; and Vermilion County, Illinois, and tracked nitrate levels and the contributors to these increasing levels as well as the related treatment costs for the water utilities. For more information and to read the study, go here.

The associated briefing was held on Capitol Hill on May 23rd and was hosted in collaboration with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The briefing featured a panel of four science and policy specialists who presented on the importance of conservation initiatives and water quality monitoring to preserve the health of the Mississippi River Basin. For more information and to view a recording of the briefing, go here.

EPA Nonpoint Source Measures Report for Hypoxia Task Force States

HTF MS River statesEPA has published its “Progress Report on Coordination for Nonpoint Source Measures in Hypoxia Task Force States” that provides a summary of nutrient reduction measures among member states. The report was developed by the Hypoxia Task Force Nonpoint Source Workgroup and focuses on the coordinated effort to account for nonpoint source (NPS) changes, primarily agricultural, that influence nutrient loading from a variety of methods. This effort provides additional critical metrics for tracking and informing progress towards reducing nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico that complements other historical aspects of tracking nutrient loading, including Mississippi River and tributary water quality monitoring and tracking point source metrics. For more information and to read the report, visit the website.

ACWA Releases First State Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker Report

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The Association of State Clean Water Administrators (ACWA) has released its Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker 1.0. The report summarizes the survey data received from state clean water programs in the fall of 2017 on state progress to reduce nutrient loads beyond the adoption of numeric nutrient criteria for lakes, estuaries, and flowing waters. This is the first in what will be a series of Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker reports and includes responses from 31 states on state strategies, monitoring, assessment, non-point sources, point sources, and drinking water.

The ACWA Nutrients Working Group (NWG) that developed the Tracker is a partnership between ACWA, EPA, and ASDWA and currently includes two drinking water questions about the number of public water systems (PWSs) in violation of the Nitrate MCL and the estimated number and percent of PWSs operating to meet the Nitrate MCL. ASDWA is providing input on additional drinking water questions for next year’s Tracker survey that would help further explain the impacts of nutrient pollution on PWSs, both in terms of cost avoidance and additional costs for treatment, beyond conventional treatment. To view the report and to learn more about this effort, go here.

ASDWA Session Held this Week at the AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference

The AWWA Sustainable Water Management (SWM) Conference was held this week in Seattle where ASDWA co-sponsored a technical session entitled “Harness the Power of the Clean Water Act to Protect Sources of Drinking Water.” Approximately 400 people attended the meeting from across the US including representatives from water utilities, associations, federal agencies, consulting firms, and four state drinking water programs. Other sessions at the conference focused on the sustainability of water supplies, water utility climate change adaptation, source water protection, pay for performance best practices for forest preservation and wildfire prevention, land use and water integrated planning, and more.

The ASDWA session speakers included:  Michelle Tucker from EPA Region 10 who provided an overview of how the Clean Water Act (CWA) can protect sources of drinking water; Sheree Stewart from the Oregon Source Water Protection (SWP) Program who spoke about how the state is using GIS to address point and nonpoint sources of pollution and emerging contaminants at the source; Corina Hayes from the Washington SWP Program who shared information about state efforts to use Drinking Water SRF funds to help communities develop SWP plans; David Dunn from the Washington Department of Ecology who spoke about how to leverage different CWA funding mechanisms (including the CWSRF) for SWP in Washington State; Bill Trueman from the Skagit Public Utility District (PUD) who shared how they used CWSRF funding to purchase land to protect their drinking water source; Deirdre Mason from ASDWA who spoke about ASDWA, state, and EPA CWA and Safe Drinking Water Act (CWA-SDWA) coordination efforts to address regulated and emerging ; and Bo Williams from EPA Headquarters who spoke about the National Source Water Collaborative’s CWA-SDWA infographic for water utilities and local stakeholders to provide input into state CWA provisions and permitting efforts. To learn more about these efforts, check out:

For more information about the AWWA SWM conference, visit the AWWA website.

Two USDA NRCS Funding Opportunities Available for Easement Restoration and State Conservation Innovation Grants

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Easement Restoration Funding:  NRCS is requesting proposals from qualified individuals and organizations to complete restoration work on eligible degraded wetland, floodplain and forestland properties. Up to $250 million is available for these restoration projects in all 50 states and territories. Restoration activities may include: designing restoration plans, installing conservation practices including structural and vegetative, construction management and inspection. Agreements will be three years in length. Potential applicants should review the funding opportunity, USDA-NRCS-US-WRP-ACEP- EWPP-HFRP-18-01, at https://www.grants.gov/, which includes application materials and submission procedures. Applications are due by May 18, 2018. For more information on wetland, floodplain and forestland easements, visit the NRCS easements page. See the full announcement here USDA-NRCS-US-WRP-ACEP-EWPP-HFRP-18-01.

State Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG):  The NRCS CIG offers both national and state grant competitions. The national competition closed in late February but in 2018, twenty states are offering CIG funding opportunities and many state competitions are still open. These state CIG competitions target small projects (maximum award size is $75,000) that address natural resource concerns (including drinking water quality) at a local or state level. The following states and territories currently have opportunities posted on Grants.gov LAORMDMIMOVAAZMECAIDKSSDPAGANMRINYIAOK, the Pacific Island Area and the Caribbean Area. For more information on any of these competitions, please contact the relevant NRCS state office.