Monthly Archives: November 2008

Science Wednesday: Going with the Flow – Does Stream Restoration Work?

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the Author: Erich Hester recently finished his Ph.D. in the Ecology Curriculum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research was funded in part by an EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship.

Most Americans live in urban areas or their suburban fringes, and many more live near forests or agricultural lands. As kids, many of us enjoyed splashing in streams in our backyards or in the park down the street. Although we probably did not know it, major changes were occurring in those streams during our lifetimes because of human activities such as urbanization, agriculture, and even climate change.

Streams and rivers are important for humans, and not just for kids. They provide what are known as “ecosystem services,” such as supplying drinking water and rendering nutrients and toxins less harmful. But the capacity of aquatic resources to provide these services is being overwhelmed in many places.

To address these issues, billions of dollars are currently being spent on “stream restoration.” Nevertheless, the science connecting restoration practice to ecological recovery and ecosystem services is often weak, and many restoration projects fail to achieve their stated goals. I’m trying to fill scientific gaps between restoration design and ecological response so restoration projects can have a more positive impact on stream ecosystems, a goal shared by EPA scientists.

Through modeling and field studies, I evaluated how humans impact the exchange of water between streams and groundwater, which is critical to many stream ecosystems. I focused on how certain natural stream features, often used in stream restoration, can help restore surface to groundwater exchange. One key component of this exchange is heat, as temperature is the single most important condition affecting the lives of organisms, and humans can induce heat stress in aquatic organisms by warming the water. I determined how these features can help moderate peak temperatures in streams that are overheating due to deforestation or climate change.

This information will help improve design guidance for stream restoration currently being developed. I’m also participating in the Virginia Stream Alliance, a working group created by the Virginia legislature to foster knowledge transfer among academics, consultants, and government about the fast changing field of stream restoration.

I plan to continue research on this and related themes when I become an assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech in January 2009.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Memo to Future Deputies

About the author: Marcus Peacock is EPA’s Deputy Administrator.

Congratulations. Here are ten suggestions from a former Deputy:

1. Be your agency’s Chief Operating Officer. No one else has the scope of authority to do this job.
2. Listen. Within the first 15 days interview 10 to 20 people who know the agency well. Ask them:

  • What are the best things about the agency?
  • What are the top few things that should be changed?
  • Who are the most respected people in the agency? (Make sure you interview these people.)
  • If you were in my shoes, what would you work on?
  • What are the major obstacles to successfully finishing the work you suggest and how can they be overcome?

3. Plan. Take what you learned from the interviews to your boss. With your boss, write down what you will accomplish in your first year. Include items 4 through 8 below. Include specific mid-term goals. This is your personal performance plan. Your inbox will relentlessly try and knock you off your plan. Don’t let it.
4. Learn. Have key agency performance measures reported to you at least every quarter (shoot for every week). The measures must reflect the President’s priorities. After two reporting cycles you will know more about the agency than anyone else.
5. Get help. Establish a team that can help you interpret the performance data. They should look for trends, anomalies, and best practices.
6. Manage. Regularly meet with the head of every major office (e.g., the Under Secretaries) to review the office’s performance. Use performance data to improve operations, formulate budgets and make policy decisions. Measures for reporting don’t mean much. Measures for managing are vital.
7. Motivate. Link awards, promotions, pay increases, bonuses, and other recognition to the agency’s performance. Personally recognize people who exceed expectations.
8. Show the world. Publicly release performance data at least every quarter (shoot for every week). Accountability is your best friend.
9. Be honest. In Washington DC, reputation is the coin of the realm.
10. Have a blast.

One last thing, if a former Deputy calls, always take the call.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

New Climate for Action: Be an H2O Hero

About the author: Ashley Sims, a senior at Indiana University, is a fall intern with EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection and Environmental Education through the Washington Leadership Program.

Last month EPA launched the climate change and children’s health education campaign. In an effort to promote action among middle and high school students, this campaign focuses on daily action steps we can take to address global climate change.

Let’s get started on our weekly discussion. Today, many teenagers brush their teeth or shave while leaving the water on rather than turning it off. This increases energy use and greenhouse gas emissions into our environment. Public water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to people’s homes. Saving water, particularly hot water, can cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Choosing to turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or taking a shower instead of a bath, can cut energy use and reduce greenhouse gases. Turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save up to 8 gallons of water each day. The same is true when you wash dishes. If you take a shower instead of a bath, you can save about 50 gallons of water! As you can see, saving water at home is an easy thing to do.

Another thing you can do to conserve water is encourage your parents to inspect your house for leaky faucets or toilets. You could be wasting up to 200 gallons of water each day. I bet this information will motivate your parents to repair any leaks right away! Also, washing your bike or car with a bucket instead of a hose is another way to conserve water.

Remember these tips:

  • Turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath; doing so can save about 50 gallons of water!
  • Inspect your house for leaky faucets or toilets
  • Use a watering can instead of a hose in the garden.

Let’s do our part for climate change and reduce the energy we use where we live, learn and play! It is good for our health and the health of the planet. And don’t forget to let me know what you do to conserve water.

To learn more information on water usage, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/kids/index.htm and http://www.epa.gov/watersense/kids/hose.htm

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: If you could ask the public one question about the environment, what would it be?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Here on the blog team, we try to come up with Questions Of The Week that are relevant and engage reader interest. But we also want the questions to be balanced and avoid leading the reader to any particular conclusion. What question would you ask?

If you could ask the public one question about the environment, what would it be?

.

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Aquí en el equipo del blog, tratamos de elaborar Preguntas de la Semana que sean relevantes y generen el interés del público. Sin embargo, también queremos que las preguntas sean equilibradas y eviten encauzar al lector a una conclusión en particular. ¿Cuál pregunta haría?

¿Si pudiera plantear al público una pregunta sobre el medio ambiente, cuál sería?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.