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!

EPA Webinar on Source Water Protection

downloadOn Tuesday, June 26, from 2:00 to 3:30 pm (eastern), EPA’s Office of Research and Development and Office of Water will hold a free webinar on Source Water Protection as part of the Small Systems Monthly Webinar Series. Presentations during the webinar will include:

  • Source Water Protection 101 and Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters (DWMAPS): This presentation by Kara Goodwin and Bo Williams of EPA will provide basic information about source water protection (from source water assessments to implementation and partnership building) and will showcase EPA’s DWMAPS tool, which can be used to update source water assessments and protection plans, prepare utilities for emergency situations, and support partnerships efforts.
  • Collaborating for Source Water Protection: This presentation by Kim Swan of the Clackamas River Water Providers (CRWP) in Oregon will discuss how the CRWP was formed, its mission and source water protection goals, current program efforts, and the benefits of working together to jointly fund projects and studies that would otherwise be too costly to fund individually.

State primacy agencies, tribes, community planners, technical assistance providers, academia, and water systems are encouraged to attend. For more information about EPA’s Monthly Small System Webinar Series and this webinar, visit the EPA website. Register for the webinar 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.

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.

 

EPA Fact Sheet on Funding Agricultural BMPs with CWSRF

EPA CWSRF Fact Sheet

EPA has published a fact sheet on how the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) can be used for agricultural best management practices (BMPs) to protect water quality, including drinking water sources. The fact sheet shares information about the types of projects that can be funded, along with state examples highlighting the Maryland and Virginia Farm Credit Banks that can provide financing to farmers for the entire cost of a project and can be partially repaid by a USDA grant; and the Minnesota Ag BMP Loan Program that has used CWSRF funds for over 13,000 projects by leveraging funding from the state and other sources. State drinking water programs are encouraged to reach out to their Clean Water Act program partners to discuss CWSRF funding options like this (if you haven’t already) that may be used to implement BMPs in sensitive source water protection areas. View the fact sheet here.  For more information about other uses of the CWSRF, you may also want to read through EPA’s document entitled “Financing Options for Nontraditional Eligibilities in the CWSRF Programs“.

Register Now for AWWA’s Sustainable Water Management Conference

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AWWA’s Sustainable Water Management Conference is being held on March 25-28, 2018 in Seattle and ASDWA is co-sponsoring a technical session this year on Sunday, March 25th entitled “Harness the Power of the Clean Water Act to Protect Sources of Drinking Water.” The session will feature national, state, and local leaders who will speak about their efforts to leverage regulatory programs and funding mechanisms of the Clean Water Act to protect sources of drinking water and using the Safe Drinking Water Act to advance watershed goals.

The conference brings together water sector organizations and professionals to discuss critical matters related to resilient and efficient water management. Attendees will gain insights into best practices for managing water resources, source water protection, sustainable utility planning, analyzing the costs and benefits of water conservation and exploring alternative water sources including stormwater and reuse. The early registration deadline is February 23rd. For more information and to view the program and register for the conference, visit the AWWA website.

AWWA Webinar on Leveraging Private Capital to Protect Source Waters

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AWWA will host a webinar on April 4th from 1:00 to 2:30 pm (eastern) entitled “Leverage Private Capital to Protect Source Waters.” During the webinar, participants will hear how healthy forests can reduce costs to municipalities, utilities, and water-dependent companies by ensuring clean and abundant water supplies and by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires and floods. A brief overview of the state of the science, research, and analysis of the importance of source water protection will be given, and case studies of other utilities’ experiences will be offered. The cost is $75.00 for members and $125.00 for non-members. Register for the webinar here.

USDA Releases 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles

USDA farm bill principles

On January 24th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles document. The principles in the document are categorized into a variety of topics to serve as a roadmap for Congress to understand and address the needs of agricultural and forest landowners in the next Farm Bill. Some of the principles in the document that can support drinking water protection include:

  • Ensure that voluntary conservation programs balance farm productivity with conservation benefits…
  • Support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resource benefits.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority and increase coordination with states to promote job creation and improve forest health through shared stewardship and stakeholder input.
  • Offer the tools and resources that incentivize private stewardship and retention of forest land.

For more information, visit USDA’s website to read the press release and view the principles document.