Organizations are Gearing Up for the 2018 Farm Bill

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It’s that time again to get ready for the reauthorization of the next Farm Bill in 2018. ASDWA is engaging in discussions with a variety of partner organizations as well as the Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA), to help emphasize the connections to drinking water quality and protection in the Farm Bill’s conservation title. Here is what some of them are doing with regard to their Farm Bill priorities.

AWWA:  The American Water Works Association (AWWA) issued a press release emphasizing the opportunity to encourage partnerships in the Farm Bill. This includes working with water utilities and all stakeholders interested in productive farming practices and safe water to form innovative collaborations that can achieve mutual goals. The AWWA press release notes that they would like to see Congress make an explicit connection between conservation measures and drinking water quality in the Farm Bill’s conservation title. AWWA wants to see that change by:

  • Providing strong funding for conservation programs.
  • Adding a specific goal of protecting sources of drinking water as a priority for all Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS) conservation programs.
  • Encouraging NRCS state conservationists, state technical committees, and working groups to work with water utilities in identifying priority areas in each state.
  • Increasing the NRCS cost-share for measures that provide considerable downstream water quality benefits.
  • Dedicating ten percent of conservation funding to protecting sources of drinking water through existing programs.

Visit AWWA’s web site to view the full press release.

NASDA:  The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) established priorities for the next Farm Bill that call for enhanced investment in American agriculture that provides producers the tools they need to succeed. NASDA also emphasized that the Farm Bill is vital to providing consumers access to the safest, highest quality and most affordable food supply, which is essential for our nation’s economy and security. Some of NASDA’s priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill include trade promotion; voluntary conservation programs; specialty crop block grants; research, education and economics; and food safety. While the NASDA press release does not specifically mention water, the NASDA staff have expressed their support for conservation measures that protect water quality, and are planning to have further discussions with ASDWA and ACWA as efforts move forward on the Farm Bill.

FIFBC:  The Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition (FIFBC) released its 2018 Farm Bill recommendations that focus on the need to continue to support rural communities, rural jobs, private forest owners, and the economic and environmental benefits forests provide. The National Association of Conservation Districts, the Nature Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land are among the 42 members of the Coalition that represents forest owners, conservationists, hunters, anglers, forest industry, and natural resource professionals. Three of the five priorities outlined by the Coalition that are particularly relevant to water and drinking water include:

  • Increasing the long-term protection and conservation of forest resources from threats such as wildfire, insects and diseases, and promote the use of fire as an important forest management tool.
  • Encouraging the retention and perpetuation of forestland and associated values, goods, and services.
  • Streamlining and otherwise improving forest and conservation programs to better enable use by private landowners and land managers to address the above issues.

The FIFBC press release about the Farm Bill acknowledges clean water among the benefits that the nation’s forests provide, though it is not specifically mentioned in the priorities for the Farm Bill.

 

 

 

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GWPC Annual Forum and Source Water Protection Workshop Held Last Week

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The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) held its Annual Forum last week in Boston, Massachusetts, that included a source water protection workshop and multiple sessions on ground water connections to drinking water, private wells, stormwater, brownfields, Underground Injection Control and state oil and gas programs, and more. Forum attendees included representatives from state and EPA ground water and source water programs, state oil and gas programs, the Department of Energy, energy companies, associations (including ASDWA), and consulting firms.

The Source Water Protection Workshop was held the day before the Forum to highlight effective collaborations and discuss opportunities at the national, state, and local levels to protect drinking water. Opening remarks were provided by Peter Grevatt, Director of EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, and Jane Downing of EPA Region 1 who spoke about the importance of source water protection as well as continuing challenges with emerging contaminants (e.g., PFAS and 1-4 Dioxane), extreme weather, chemical spills, and emergency response. Presentations during the workshop included information about the Source Water Collaborative tools; Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act coordination; working with USDA NRCS State Conservationists; the Iowa Source Water Agricultural Collaborative; working with state geologists; and a new source water protection scorecard tool being used for the Hudson River in New York. Key takeaways from the workshop included the need to:

  • Use visible “science” and accurate data as a catalyst to motivate action and engage partners, as shown by the attention drawn to drilling trucks arriving on farms for groundwater investigations in Iowa.
  • Use state geologists as a resource, as highlighted by the valued added in sharing and understanding ground water connections by use of geologic maps during the recent Vermont State Workshops.
  • Get more information and tips on navigating opportunities to work with NRCS and agricultural partners on the ground, as discussed in relation to current nation-wide funding initiatives and projects that are underway in Connecticut.

After the workshop, the GWPC Annual Forum kicked off with opening session that included remarks by GWPC’s President Marty Link of Nebraska and by the Ground Water Research and Education Foundation President Stan Belieu, also of Nebraska. Bethany Card, the Deputy Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection also shared information about her state’s efforts to address lead in schools, climate change, drought and water withdrawals, and clean water act coordination. In addition, Nancy Johnson of the Department of Energy highlighted their activities to address energy, water, and seismicity; and Peter Grevatt of EPA provided perspective on the Agency’s efforts to work with states on source water protection and UIC activities. Other highlights from the Forum’s concurrent sessions included:

  • Information about GWPC’s efforts to develop a produced water report on using flowback water from oil and gas wells for beneficial uses.
  • Presentations about efforts to assess and address PFAS in New Hampshire, and by the National Ground Water Association to develop a report on the State of Knowledge and Practice that will be published this fall.
  • Presentations from the University of New Hampshire and EPA Region 1 on potential impacts to ground water from stormwater infiltration, and from SCS Engineers on connecting human health with brownfields remediation and revitalization.

Other interesting presentations included information about Connecticut’s first state water plan, land use and source water protection planning in Vermont, and New Hampshire’s efforts to inspect above ground storage tanks and conduct emergency response exercises. For more information, visit the GWPC website.

New Pay-For-Performance Conservation Guide Provides Alternative Nonpoint Source Reduction Solution

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Winrock International and Delta Institute have published a “Pay-For-Performance Conservation:  A How-To Guide.” The guide is intended to serve as a handbook for agricultural and conservation organizations, as well as publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) and municipalities who are interested in planning and implementing a flexible solution to agricultural nonpoint source pollution. The alternative “pay-for-performance” (PfP) conservation approach presented in the guide uses field and farm specific information, combined with nutrient and economic modeling to calculate payments to farmers based on quantified estimates of nutrient reductions. The guide describes the steps for implementing a new PfP program and also provides examples of challenges and successes from existing programs in Iowa, Vermont, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.  Download the guide HERE.

NASCA Webinar on Conservation Program Success Stories

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On May 16th, from 10:00am to 12:00pm (eastern), the National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA) will host a webinar entitled, “Success Stories of Voluntary, Incentive-Based Conservation Programs.”  The webinar will showcase success stories of work led by conservation districts, state conservation agencies, and their partners to address natural resource issues. REGISTER HERE

Today at 2pm! USDA NRCS Webinar on NWQI Watershed Planning

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NRCS will host a webinar today, April 25th, at 2:00pm (eastern) with presentations on “Watershed Planning from a National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) Perspective”. Participants will learn about the watershed assessment process and the importance of partnerships for NWQI watershed efforts.

How to join the webinar? You may join the webinar by clicking the ‘Join’ button HERE within 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.

AWWA is Accepting Abstracts for 2018 Sustainable Water Management Conference

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AWWA wishes to invite authors and experts in the field to submit abstracts on a variety of sustainability topics for its Sustainable Water Management Conference being held March 25-28, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.  Abstract topics may include:

  • Water Resources Planning & Management
  • Water & Energy Efficiency
  • Sustainable Utilities & Infrastructure Resiliency
  • Water Conservation Programs
  • Climate Change Mitigation & Adaption

The abstract submission deadline is Friday, July 14, 2017.  For a detailed list of abstract topics and more information, visit the website HERE.

 

April 20th EPA Water Quality Modeling Webinar

 

EPA’s Water Quality Modeling Workgroup will host a webinar, entitled “Introduction to SWAT” on Thursday, April 20th at 1:00pm to 3:00pm (eastern) as part of its webinar series. This webinar will introduce the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) water quality model developed by USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Texas A&M AgriLife Research. SWAT is a small watershed to river basin-scale model to simulate the quality and quantity of surface and ground water and predict the environmental impact of land use, land management practices, and climate change. SWAT is widely used in assessing soil erosion prevention and control, non-point source pollution control and regional management in watersheds. The webinar will also present several examples where SWAT has been applied in real world settings.  Register HERE.  Previous webinars are also available at: http://www.epa.gov/tmdl/tmdl-modeling.

The Nature Conservancy Publishes Source Water Protection Benefits Report

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The Nature Conservancy has published a report entitled, Beyond The Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection in partnership with the Natural Capital Project, Forest Trends, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Water Funds Partnership.  The report discusses the benefits of healthy source waters as vital natural infrastructure for water quality and quantity, biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, food security, and human health and well-being.  The report also analyzes investment costs and co-benefits for protection and restoration activities and best management practices at local and global scales, using examples from cities in the U.S. and across the globe.

NRCS Announces FY ’17 Funding for Regional Conservation Partnership Program Projects

By Kira Jacobs, US EPA Region 1

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced its funding for the FY 2017 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects.  This year, $225 million will be invested nationwide!

This is the third round of projects being funded for the RCPP.  The RCPP provides conservation assistance to producers and landowners for the purpose of improving the nation’s water quality (including drinking water sources), combating drought, enhancing soil health, supporting wildlife habitat, and protecting agricultural viability.  Partners must provide matching funds or in-kind contributions, and may include state government agencies (including drinking water programs), water utilities, NGOs, and universities.

In the spirit of collaborating with other partners, I encourage you to read through the list of FY 2017 RCPP projects by state.  Some of them indicate an obvious connection to source water protection (such as projects on the list in Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, and West Virginia).  In other cases, the nexus with source water protection is more subtle.  I encourage you to “dig a little deeper” if you see a project in your state that is located in a source water protection area where you are currently working or would like to work.  The purpose of these projects is to encourage collaboration and leverage the expertise of numerous partners.  NRCS offices in each state can assist you in identifying and reaching out to the partners if you are unable to find information online.  Also, the NRCS website includes projects awarded for the past several years (the program began in 2015).  Since most programs are multi-year, you may want to refer to the past years’ projects as well.

Click here for the full list of 2015 projects.

Click here for the full list of 2016 projects.

An example of an ongoing RCPP project where source water protection is a key component of the project is the Connecticut River/Long Island Sound RCPP.  This 2015 RCPP project brings together dozens of partners in six states.  Source water protection is a stated priority for this project, even though the Connecticut River is not a drinking water source!   When the project was conceived, the Connecticut Association of Conservation Districts decided to include source water protection in one of its three focus areas for the project, Land Protection.  It was determined that, because this vast watershed is home to so many large municipal drinking water supplies, it is important to protect their sources.  As a result, $3.25 million is being directed to land protection in priority source water protection and critical habitat areas.  To learn more about this project, please refer to the project website:  http://www.lisw-rcpp.com/

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EPA Finalizes Stronger Standards for Pesticide Applicators

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 EPA has finalized its new standards for applicators who apply restricted-use pesticides that are not available for purchase by the general public, and require special handling.  The benefits of this rule include fewer acute pesticide incidents to people and reduced chronic exposure.  EPA’s stricter standards would require all people who are certified to apply restricted use pesticides as well as those working under their supervision to be at least 18 years of age. These certifications must be renewed every five years. Learn more about how the pesticide application rule protects workers from pesticide risk.  Read a blog post by Assistant Administrator Jim Jones about the strengthened standards.