Healthy Waters

Breaking the Ice

By Cameron Davis

Midwesterners as a general rule are a friendly bunch. They don’t gripe much. Even harsh winters—for which the region is legendary—typically draw commentary, not complaints.

So while recent temperatures are eliciting lots of opinions on city streets and in offices, one thing that’s not drawing as many comments is Great Lakes water levels. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lakes Michigan and Huron (hydrologically counted as the same lake) reached record low levels in December, the lowest recorded levels since the previous record, in 1964.

Warmer air temps mean warmer water temperatures, both of which mean falling lake levels. Warmer water temperatures mean the Great Lakes don’t get as much ice in winter time. Ice seals in water and reduces evaporation.

‘So what?’ you might ask because most people don’t use their coasts in wintertime.

Though lower levels may mean wider beaches for summer recreating, there are many other impacts that hurt recreation. Warmer water temperatures can mean more swimming advisories as conditions improve for harmful pathogens. Boats can have a more difficult time getting in and out of their ports as lake levels drop, which means more sediment can be stirred up when dredging needs to happen so boats can move. The list of impacts goes on.

Check out the Corps’ forecasts for yourself.

And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a new “dashboard” to help you understand water.

Find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, or follow me on Twitter (@CameronDavisEPA). If you missed out on Great Lakes Week and still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box or send me a tweet.

About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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.

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Women in Science: Nancy Stoner – Beaches and Clean Water

By Nancy Stoner

As I look out my window, the budding trees, blooming flowers and falling rain signal that spring is coming. With the warmer weather, my family and countless others will be headed outdoors to enjoy time by the water. For many of us, this means trips to the beach.

Recently, I spoke at the National Beach Conference to discuss water quality at beaches and efforts to protect them from pollution. Beaches are among the most beloved water bodies for my family and many Americans. In fact, about 100 million people visit America’s beaches every year. Beach tourism also pumps more than $300 billion into the U.S. economy annually.

As a mother and an environmental professional, I am deeply motivated to protect human health and the environment, which includes our beaches and the people who visit them. We shouldn’t have to cancel beach trips – or become ill or develop skin rashes – because of pollution in our coastal waters.

EPA is working closely with state and local officials across the country to develop better measures for beach water pollution. Since 2000, EPA, in partnership with state, territorial and tribal governments, has made significant progress in improving the protection of public health at our nation’s beaches. From 2004 to 2009, U.S. beaches have been open for swimming about 95 percent of the time.

EPA grants have helped fuel this progress. During the last decade, EPA provided $102 million in grant funds to 37 coastal and Great Lakes states, territories and tribes to implement programs to monitor beaches for pollutants like bacteria and to notify the public when water quality problems exist. This year, EPA is providing almost $10 million in grants to continue and expand this important monitoring.

Additionally, to make our waters safer for swimming and to prevent pollution, we are working with communities to improve sewage treatment plants; strengthening storm water regulations to reduce polluted runoff from cities and towns; and working with our federal partners to prevent marine debris from entering our oceans.

We can all do our part to help keep beaches clean by taking actions such as planting more trees, installing rain barrels, picking up pet waste, keeping trash off the beach and properly disposing of household toxics, used motor oil and boating waste. After all, clean water is important to my family and yours!

Stay tuned to Greenversations throughout Women’s History Month and check out the White House website.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

EPA launches its “Healthy Waters of the Mid-Atlantic” blog

I’d like to invite you to our new “Healthy Waters of the Mid-Atlantic” blog, which is designed to bring new voices and perspectives to our work in restoring and protecting water resources in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region. “Healthy Waters” is one of the Mid Atlantic Region’s top priorities, and your ideas will help advise EPA teams working on the next generation of water protection practices. You should expect a new entry each week.

“Healthy Waters” recognizes that it takes partnerships to build on our progress in achieving clean water. By engaging and commenting on this blog, you will have a unique opportunity to help us tackle some of the most current and challenging water protection issues of the 21st century.

If you would like to learn more about our Healthy Waters Priority and its four areas of focus – agriculture, land, mining and transportation – please see our Healthy Waters Website.

Thanks for visiting. We value your feedback and look forward to reading your comments.

About the author: Shawn M. Garvin is regional administrator of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.

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.