water

Enforcing the Superfund Law, Past and Present

By Cynthia Giles

Back in 1986, I was an assistant U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia. I was working on a variety of civil enforcement cases, and learning about the importance of holding violators accountable for pollution in American communities. That year, I took on one of the nation’s earliest Superfund trials – U.S. v. Tyson. The U.S. Government was seeking to hold several parties responsible for contaminating a dump site with hazardous substances that ultimately were released into local Pennsylvania waterways.

While holding polluters accountable is always important, this trial in particular had great significance. In the early days of the Superfund law, it was essential to demonstrate that the U.S. government was serious about following through on its commitment to Americans, and prepared to take responsible parties to trial to assure they were held accountable for cleaning up pollution they created. The trial in the Tyson case lasted for three weeks and all the parties involved were found responsible for the contamination. This trial helped to establish the foundation of Superfund’s polluter pays principle.

This winter, as we reflect on the 35th anniversary of Superfund, I’m proud of what EPA’s Superfund enforcement program has achieved. Just as in U.S. v. Tyson, EPA has followed through on its commitment to ensure that responsible parties participate in performing and paying for cleanups. This “polluter pays” principal stands strong – we are committed to making polluters, and not the taxpayer, pay for cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

By placing the burden of cleanup on those responsible for the contamination, EPA is saving American taxpayers money and protecting the environment. For every one dollar spent on Superfund civil enforcement activity, approximately eight dollars in private party cleanup commitments and cost recovery is obtained for cleaning up contaminated sites across the country.

Here are a few examples of how we’ve held responsible parties accountable for cleaning up pollution:

  • Last year EPA, along with the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the bankrupt debtor’s trustee, settled a historic fraudulent conveyance case. The settlement put nearly $4.4 billion to work in communities from New Jersey to California.
  • A settlement last year with Eastman Kodak Company and the state of New York established a $49 million trust for cleanup. In addition to putting much needed funds into cleaning up the local environment, including the Genesee River, the cleanup dollars will support the creation of new jobs in Rochester, New York.
  • In 2009, EPA joined forces with other federal and state agencies during a corporate We pursued and achieved a $1.79 billion settlement to fund environmental cleanup and restoration at more than 80 sites around the country.

Today, just as was true back in 1986 in Philadelphia, the polluter pays for cleaning up toxic pollution in communities. Thanks to this important law and public servants across the country implementing it, America is a cleaner, safer place to live.

Learn more about EPA’s Superfund enforcement program.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Behind the Nutrient Recycling Challenge

By Joseph Ziobro

It’s pretty great when your job involves finding the cutting edge of innovation. Over the past few years, I’ve been looking into technologies that make it easier for livestock producers to manage manure, protect water quality, and create new sources of revenue.

One area where we see promise is in nutrient recovery technologies. These technologies extract nutrients from manure and create fertilizer products that can be applied more precisely to crops and affordably transported greater distances. Thousands of livestock producers are asking for these technologies, but they are still not efficient enough to be in wide use.

That’s where innovation challenges come in. My teammate, Hema Subramanian, and I reached out to key players in manure management and asked, “What can we do together to get producers the technologies they want, and protect water quality?” People were extremely excited, so we convened a planning committee with dairy and pork producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, scientists and environmental experts.

Together, we identified barriers to technology adoption and began crafting a prize competition to overcome those barriers. The Nutrient Recycling Challenge was born.

In a nutshell, we’re asking innovators to develop better and cheaper nutrient recovery technologies. A major draw of prize competitions is that they reach innovators from different backgrounds who can bring fresh perspectives to the table. We want outside-the-box thinking from innovators of all stripes — tenured scientists or weekend garage tinkerers.

Phase I of the Challenge is open now through Jan. 15, and we are looking for your concept papers describing technology ideas. Later in 2016, EPA and partners will identify the most promising entries and support semi-finalists as they turn their concepts into working technologies.

EPA is committed to building relationships with the livestock industry through partnerships. The Nutrient Recycling Challenge exemplifies this collaborative approach. Our starting point is that EPA and farmers both want healthy waters and prosperous agriculture. And we’re looking for your innovative ideas to help us get there.

For more information and to enter, go to www.nutrientrecyclingchallenge.org.

About the author: Joseph Ziobro is a physical scientist in the Rural Branch of the Water Permits Division at EPA. Joseph supports the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program as well as voluntary initiatives with the livestock industry.

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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Lungs of the Sea

As a diver and marine biologist for EPA, I spend a fair amount of time underwater. My area of expertise is in the study and conservation of seagrass. These underwater meadows can cover vast swaths of the seafloor and they serve as important nurseries for many fish and shellfish species.

Recently, I had the great fortune of taking a family trip to France and spending some time along the southern coast. It was my first visit to the Mediterranean Sea and I was looking forward to exploring the underwater realm. We stopped in the small town of Cassis, which reminded us of Gloucester, Mass. Cassis has its own fisherman’s statue. It does not have a greasy pole to climb like Gloucester, but it does have its own unique tradition. Local fishermen mount planks on the back of two dories. Boys of about 10 years old are lifted up onto the planks wearing pads on their chests and are given lances. The boats then drive directly at each other and the boys joust until one or both fall into the water.

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The local culture was interesting, but Cassis is also known for “les calanques.” Calanques are inlets surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs; they also are known as mini-fjords. Within these inlets, seagrass flourishes in the clean, calm protected waters. The French refer to seagrass as “les poumons de la mer,” which translates to the lungs of the sea. Like all plants, seagrasses produce oxygen through photosynthesis. On sunny days, it is common to see bubbles of oxygen being released from the leaves of seagrass into the water.

In Cassis, protecting seagrass is taken very seriously with a variety of rules. Boaters are not allowed to anchor or place a mooring in seagrass meadows. Boaters are required to stay in the marked navigation channels and when in shallow water reduce their speed so no wakes are produced. In our three days in Cassis, we watched many boats come and go, and not one of them broke the rules.

I approached one of the local fishermen and with my limited French asked him about the local seagrass meadows. He spoke little English. I spied a shoot of seagrass floating near his boat. He scooped it up and held it close to his heart and said “les poumons de la mer.” Posidonia

We didn’t speak the same language, but our common love of the ocean easily transcended the language barrier.

More information on EPA Seagrass research: http://www2.epa.gov/sciencematters/epa-science-matters-newsletter-how-deep-are-seagrasses

Connect with EPA New England on Facebook: facebook.com/EPARegion1

Connect with EPA Divers on Facebook: facebook.com/EPADivers

About the author: Phil Colarusso is a marine biologist in the Coastal and Ocean Protection Section of EPA’s New England office, and is an avid diver.

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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45 Years of Fulfilling our Mission

By Gina McCarthy

Just two weeks after the EPA was established in 1970, our first-ever Administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, issued a statement calling the birth of our agency the start of America’s “reclaiming the purity of its air, its water, and its living environment.”

Just last week, 45 years later – nearly to the day – President Obama honored Ruckelshaus with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his tireless work to get our agency up and running, protect public health, and combat global challenges like climate change.

In bestowing the award, President Obama said, “Bill set a powerful precedent that protecting our environment is something we must come together and do as a country.”

Each day, when I come to work and walk the halls at EPA, I feel proud that our agency is continuing to build on Bill’s legacy.

Later this week, I will join the US delegation to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, where our agency will play a central role in negotiations that could mark a historic turning point to protect our planet for generations to come. I’m confident that the US can get the job done.

Ruckelshaus’ well-deserved honor is a reminder of the amazing progress we’ve made as an agency in just four and a half decades. We have evolved into a world-class model of environmental protection under the law.

We’ve come so far together. Fifty years ago, we pumped toxic leaded-gas into our cars; people smoked on airplanes; and residents of cities like Los Angeles could barely see each other across the street.

Today, EPA’s work has changed all of that – and more. We’ve cut air pollution by 70 percent; we’ve phased out leaded-gasoline; we’ve removed the acid from rain, we’ve helped clear the air of second-hand smoke; and we’ve cleaned up beaches and waterways, all while our economy has tripled.

Throughout it all, EPA has embodied the concept of participatory government. We’ve engaged states, communities, industry partners, and the public. We’ve listened to the needs of people on the ground, and we’ve worked transparently, hand in hand with citizens and families to protect their health, their communities, and their ability to earn a decent living. That’s something to be proud of.

At every step of the way, we’ve followed the science and the law to tackle immensely difficult challenges. And that work is continuing every day.

I thank and congratulate everyone who has played a part in building EPA’s legacy.

Here’s to working together to fulfill our mission for another 45 years!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Working for Clean Water is a Dream Come True

By Joel Beauvais

I grew up in rural Connecticut in the Housatonic River watershed. My childhood revolved around water, whether it was swimming and fishing in the lakes and streams near my home or hiking in the forested foothills of the Berkshires. It’s a remarkably beautiful part of the country and its waters are a big part of that. But I also learned that problems can lurk beneath the surface, as we were taught early on not to eat the fish we caught because of legacy contamination.

My first job out of college was in Central America, where I worked for several years with indigenous communities to protect the BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, the second largest tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere. I spent much of my time traveling by river, living a couple days travel by dugout canoe from the nearest road, electricity or running water. For the communities with whom I worked, water is everything – not just drinking water, but their primary mode of transportation, source of food, and the key to understanding their whole landscape. That experience really brought home to me how critical water is – and how vulnerable poorer communities can be to environmental degradation.

These days, I work in an office instead of the jungle, but I find myself returning to the water again and again. My family loves to canoe and we get out to hike trails by the water every chance we get. Like many families, we visit the ocean every summer – in our case, the Maine coast. When I look at our family photos, it seems every other one is on the water – those experiences are a touchstone for us, as for so many others across the country and the world.

While I’ve worked most of my career on energy and climate issues, my real passion is environmental conservation. Water, to me, is at the heart of that. It’s central to our health, our communities, and our economy.

So I am absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to lead EPA’s Office of Water. I have immense respect for the office and those who work here, as well as for our regional water offices and all of our partners across state and local government and the private sector. I’m really looking forward to listening to, learning from, and partnering with all of you.

During the past two years leading EPA’s Office of Policy, I’ve had the opportunity to play a key role in finalizing some of our key water rules, including the Clean Water Rule to better protect our nation’s streams and wetlands, the Steam Electric rule that keeps 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollutants out of waterways each year, and the Cooling Water Intake rule that protects fish and shellfish in rivers.

I’ve also played a leadership role on the Agency’s efforts to help communities grow sustainably and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, which has given me a lot of exposure to the Office of Water’s work on green infrastructure, stormwater management and sustainable water infrastructure.

As we look to the year ahead, this is an exciting time for the Office of Water and there’s no question that there’s a tremendous amount to get done. We must continue to help communities build resilience to climate change, finance improvements to infrastructure, provide safe drinking water, and reduce pollution in waterways where people fish and swim. EPA’s continued support for the work of our state, local, and tribal partners and for innovation and technology in the water sector will be critical.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you on all these fronts.

Joel Beauvais serves as the acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water at EPA. Prior to his appointment in the Office of Water, Joel served as Associate Administrator for EPA’s Office of Policy, the agency’s primary arm for cross-cutting regulatory policy and economics. He also served as Associate Assistant Administrator in EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, where he oversaw a broad portfolio of domestic and international air quality and climate policy issues, and as Special Counsel to the Office of the Administrator in EPA’s Office of General Counsel. He previously served as counsel to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives, worked in private practice, and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Release of the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report

By Adriane Koenig

I’m excited to announce the release of a new joint report from EPA, DOE and NSF that articulates a bold vision for water treatment. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report outlines a range of research and actions to transform today’s treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. The report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at the Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop held last April in Arlington, Virginia.

The meeting was convened as many wastewater treatment facilities, pipes, and related infrastructure in cities around the country approach the end of their expected service life. EPA estimates that it will require an investment of about $600 billion over the next 20 years to continue reliably transporting and treating wastewater and delivering clean drinking water. Given the state of the country’s water infrastructure, this is a prime opportunity to encourage an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. By applying new research and technology, this shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Experts from industry, academia, national laboratories, and government who participated in the workshop determined that WRRFs should perform four major types of functions:

  1. Efficiently recover the resources in wastewater
  2. Integrate production with other utilities
  3. Engage and inform stakeholders
  4. Run “smart systems”

The group also discussed challenges, including regulatory, technical, social, and financial barriers, all of which must be overcome to enable wide-scale evolution toward energy-positive WRRFs. Finally, participants identified research opportunities that could produce or significantly advance the needed technology.

This report is intended to stimulate further dialogue and accelerate the wide-scale transition of advanced WRRFs. The agencies, in cooperation with the Water Environment Research Foundation, are already addressing one frequent suggestion at the workshop by identifying facilities to serve as potential test beds for new technologies. I encourage you to visit the DOE website to view workshop materials and presentations as well as the full-length report.

Water Headlines

A new report outlines a range of research and actions needed to transform today’s water treatment plants into water resource recovery facilities that generate clean drinking water, biofuels, chemicals, and other water grades for specific uses, like agriculture. Energy-Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report summarizes discussions and ideas presented at workshop held jointly last April by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

With the nation’s aging water infrastructure, a unique window of opportunity exists to apply new knowledge and technology to create an industry shift from wastewater treatment to water resource recovery. Such a shift offers the potential to reduce the financial burdens on municipalities, decrease stress on energy systems, cut air and water pollution, improve system resiliency to climate impacts, and support local economic activity.

Read more.

About the author: Adriane Koenig is an ORISE Research Participant serving in EPA’s Office of Water, where she promotes new technologies and innovative practices that advance sustainability in the water sector. She has a M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. 

 

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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Providing Clean Water to an African Village: Not a Simple Turn of the Tap

By Emily Nusz

EPA brings in students every summer to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread is proud to feature several blogs written by these interns, focusing on what motivates them to work in the environmental sector and what attracted them to EPA. We’ve already posted blogs by Andrew Speckin, Sara Lamprise and Kelly Overstreet. Our fourth blog is by Emily Nusz, who continues to intern with our Environmental Data and Assessment staff.

How far away is the nearest water source from where you are sitting now? An arm’s length across your desk? A few feet? Right outside the window?

Villagers carry water jug and food basket

Villagers carry water jug and food basket

Next time you get the urge to take a drink of fresh, ice cold water, take a moment to think about places that may not have the same laws and regulations.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the global water crisis. Many communities in developing countries don’t have easy access to clean drinking water. They must walk miles each day with heavy jugs on their heads, just to collect muddy water from puddles or rivers. This water is then used to drink, wash dishes, and sanitize their bodies. The water is filled with bacteria, parasites, and waste that can cause a variety of debilitating diseases including malaria and cholera. As a result, thousands of people die every day from avoidable diseases caused by contaminated water.

Little do they know, the water they so desperately need is often right beneath their feet.

Emily Nusz (center) with group of Kenyan children

Emily Nusz (center) with group of Kenyan children

A few hot summers ago, members of my church and I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. Our mission was not only to provide care for children in orphanages, but to provide a village with clean water. We decided the best way to accomplish this task was to build the community a water well in the heart of the village for easy accessibility. Our team raised money for the well, and then we were ready to make a large time and energy commitment to a long-term solution for the people. The excitement of our arrival was very powerful. I remember every face in the village beaming with joy.

Water wells can provide clean water for hundreds of villagers. A pump or a tap built in the center of the community can save an entire day of walking to the nearest muddy puddle, and save hundreds of lives by preventing exposure to harmful or even deadly diseases.

Water can be found in underground, permeable rock layers called aquifers, from which the water can be pumped. An aquifer fills with water from rain or melted snow that drains into the ground. Aquifers are natural filters that trap bacteria and provide natural purification of the groundwater flowing through them. Wells can be dug or drilled, depending on the time and cost of the project. They can be dug using a low-cost, hand-dug method, or built using either a high-cost, deep well method or a shallow well, low-cost method. Safe drinking water can usually be found within 100 feet of the surface.

Kenyan countryside in summer

Kenyan countryside in summer

Although I was not physically involved in building the village well, we all contributed to the mission we set out to accomplish. A well was built by drilling a hole that reached down far enough to reach an aquifer, and even lined with steel to keep out pollutants. Our team put together pipes and hand pumps that enabled the villagers to pull the water out of the well and use it safely. Our team was very gratified to know that the well we built will provide clean water for a community of up to 500 people for many years to come!

Learn more about water wells. The best way to keep our water clean is to stay informed of ways to help reduce the risks and protect the source. Learn how you can help. To learn more about global water statistics, visit Global WASH Fast Facts.

About the Author: Emily Nusz is a Student Intern at EPA Region 7, who worked full-time this summer and will continue part-time during the school year. She is a graduate student at the University of Kansas, studying environmental assessment. Emily is SCUBA certified, and one of her life goals is to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reefs off the coast of Australia.

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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Photography Tips for Citizen Scientists Capturing the 2015 King Tide

By Tammy Newcomer Johnson, ORISE Research Participant

The sidewalk is flooded at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  Photo by Tammy Newcomer Johnson.

I’m a scientist working at EPA and an avid photographer. I have exhibited nature-related photography in a 2-artist show, and I occasionally shoot weddings— preferably on the beach!

“King Tides,” are the highest tides of the year and they provide a glimpse of the future challenges that climate change brings to coastal communities facing rising sea levels. The main 2015 Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Seaboard King Tides will occur on October 28th. Check out this King Tides Map for predicted times. This is a bounty for photographers and a wake-up call for local planners.

Recording King Tides is a great citizen science opportunity. Anyone with a camera can participate!  Images and video of King Tides can help local planners, elected officials, and community members visualize and prepare for future flooding events from sea level rise, high tides, and coastal storms. For example, the King Tides Project teams up with classrooms in coastal communities to empower students to educate local planners about future flooding risks. Likewise, many of the National Estuary Programs are actively engaged in capturing the King Tides. The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership in Maine has an interactive King Tides Trail and an annual King Tide Party to document high water levels. What a fun way to combine art, science, and coastal management!

Want to learn more about King Tides? Check out EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management for some great resources.

Here are my King Tides photography tips:

  1. Location, location, location! Choose a place that is vulnerable to coastal flooding. Make sure that you include some familiar landmarks so that it is easy to identify the area.
  2. The early bird gets the worm! Arrive at your location about 45 minutes before the high tide to scout out the best shot.
  3. Quantity leads to quality! Take a lot of pictures so you can compare them and pick your favorite. During a recent wedding I photographed, I took over 2,000 photos. I found some real gems among all of these photos!
  4. Bonus points! Get some photos of the low tide to show the contrast and/or take a time-lapse video.

I encourage you to share your King Tides photography with the King Tides Project, the MyCoast App and your local National Estuary Program (if you are in one of those watersheds). Thank you for helping your community to be ready for climate change!

About the author: Tammy Newcomer Johnson is in the ORISE program with EPA’s Climate Ready Estuaries team. She has a Ph.D. in Marine Estuarine Environmental Science (MEES) program from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she explored the impacts of urbanization on the ecology and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

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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EPA-funded Program Leads at-Risk Youth to a Brighter Future

I’m  Derron Coles, an engineer and instructional designer in Portland, Oregon who engages young men of color in protecting the environment – a cause most of my students have never considered. I help run Grounding Waters, a youth mentoring program funded through an EPA Urban Waters grant that connects students to nature and encourages them to become advocates for the environment.

Grounding Waters is now mentoring 8th and 9th graders from Alliance High School, Roosevelt High School, and George Middle School in Portland. The program targets students in middle school because when you lose students in math and science then, it’s hard to get them back. Many students who have completed programs like Grounding Waters have gone on to college; 25 percent chose science majors.

For me, the work is personal.

I’m from Baltimore and was in the same position as these students. In high school, I was exposed to engineering. In college, I studied mechanical engineering and the Chesapeake Bay. Later, I earned a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Oregon State University, where I taught as a graduate student. Teaching gave me a new perspective on how to help the environment. I got excited about being able to create change beyond what I could do alone.

Students in Grounding Waters have weekly meetings with their mentors, who are professional men of color from the Portland area who volunteer their time. Twice a month or more, they participate in weekend activities, with black environmental science college student mentors, to learn how the urban environment affects water quality through restoration and conservation activities like removing invasive plants and conducting water quality experiments.

The students will have an opportunity in March 2016 to present at the Black Student Success Summit in Portland on the impacts community members can have on the urban environment. Participants will move full circle from students to educators as they share what they have learned about their watershed. We’re hoping that by seeing the impacts on water quality, they’ll see their connection to the environment. That’s what stewardship is all about.

This project is supported by Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant. The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program is a public-private partnership program led by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and EPA’s Urban Waters Program. Portland is part of EPA’s Making a Visible Difference in Communities initiative, which provides focused support to 50 communities across the country seeking to become more sustainable.

About the author: Derron Coles is a Principal Consultant with DRC Learning Solutions writing curriculum and supporting youth programs for nonprofit clients like the Blueprint Foundation. While he fully intended to put his civil engineering graduate degree to work in industry, he’s been a dedicated educator for over 14 years.

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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Water Management Shouldn’t Stay in Las Vegas

By Ellen Gilinsky

What happens in Las Vegas shouldn’t stay in Las Vegas – when it comes to water management.  While attending the Watersmart Innovations annual conference to give out EPA’s prestigious WaterSense Partner of the Year Awards, I toured several Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) projects designed to ensure that Las Vegas area residents have clean and reliable water for years to come.

The region gets its water from Lake Mead, where the severe and lengthy drought has put the existing two water intakes at risk. SNWA didn’t wait until disaster struck. They pulled together years ago to fund and design a mid-lake deep water intake and low-lake level pumping station to minimize the risk of not being able to provide good quality water to its customers.  This, coupled with an aggressive water conservation program that has reduced net water use by 45 percent since 2002, has improved the area’s water future.

Lake Mead also receives return water from the Las Vegas wash, where fast-moving runoff from storms, coupled with treated wastewater flows, had resulted in eroded banks and poor water quality. This created the need for additional water treatment, which consumed energy and challenged water quality.

The SNWA assembled a diverse stakeholder group – the Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee – and with funding from a variety of sources including the EPA CWA Section 319 program and other state grants, implemented a comprehensive source water protection program. The efforts focused on stream and wetland restoration that slowed down bank erosion, created wetlands, trapped sediment and nutrients with dams, and provided a diverse and attractive habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as for citizens to enjoy as a park.

These key actions to protect a valuable and essential water source could never have occurred without regional cooperation and advance planning.  Many other areas of the country are being impacted by climate change, from severe droughts to stronger storms to serious flooding.  Water resource agencies nationwide, with the help of federal and state agencies, need to band together to build climate resiliency into their plans so they can continue to provide adequate water of high quality to all users. Water conservation, source water protection, and water reuse are pieces of that puzzle as seen in Las Vegas – and it shouldn’t just stay there.

Ellen Gilinsky serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for Water at EPA. In this position Dr. Gilinsky addresses policy and technical issues related to all EPA water programs, with an emphasis on science, water quality, and state programs. Prior to this appointment she served as Director of the Water Division at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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