Skip to content

Comments will close March 31

2010 March 29

Thanks to everyone who shared comments. It’s great to see so many informed, thoughtful discussions.

We have begun compiling comments so they may be submitted to the Coming Together for Clean Water conference. Thank you again for your participation!

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.

27 Responses
  1. March 31, 2010

    The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked for over 50 years to protect and restore freshwater and watershed resources. Our mission is to protect the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To accomplish our mission we develop and implement science-based management approaches that focus on how people can live, work, and thrive in ways that meet the needs of people and nature.

    I am pleased to see EPA’s growing focus on healthy watersheds. Protecting healthy watersheds and restoring those which are impaired brings a much needed multi-discipline and multi-objective approach to watershed and water management. The recognition that the quality of our waters, our fish and wildlife, our communities and our economy depend not just on the quality of the water, but on how we live on and use the land and water is an important step to achieving our national, state and local goals.

    As this effort highlights, we will only achieve our broadly shared goals if we focus on a systems-based approach to the use and management of our freshwater and coastal resources. Across TNC we are finding there are at least two key elements to implementing a systems-based approach.

    The first is a focus on maintaining key physical and ecological processes. Freshwater and coastal systems are dynamic and they, by their nature, depend on this range of natural conditions to sustain and renew themselves. The second is the need to clearly define the ecological and social outcomes we hope to achieve and measure our progress toward achieving these outcomes. For example, despite the big success of the federal Clean Water Act, we have all learned that focusing on water quality alone will not achieve our national goals for ‘fish and swimmable waters’ and for ensuring the ‘chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters’. We need to move to more holistic and outcome-based management.

    A key way to shift our focus to maintaining and restoring key physical and ecological processes is to explicitly use these processes to define our desired outcomes, assess current conditions, and be a primary focus of our management and protection efforts. This means defining a major part of our success as maintaining these key processes within some part of their natural range of variation while we also meet human needs. A focus on key processes will also be critical to defining what constitutes compatible human uses. The key processes on which we must focus include:

    A. Hydrologic and tidal regimes
    B. Sediment & nutrient regimes
    C. Floodplain and river corridor processes
    D. Lateral and longitudinal connectivity
    E. Biotic interactions and other ecological processes
    F. Geomorphic processes, and
    G. Sequestration of carbon

    In addition to these key processes, the Healthy Watersheds approach can be an important step in clearly defining the ecological and societal outcomes we hope to achieve. With so many different federal, state and local programs focused on different aspects of our freshwater and coastal systems it is often difficult for people to understand what exactly we are trying to achieve and how close or far we are from achieving it. Quantifiable ecological and societal outcomes will help everyone visual what success looks like and how we can best achieve these outcomes.

    There are already good examples of where we are making progress on defining measurable outcomes. Several states, including Maine and Ohio, are leading the way in developing biological criteria and defining biological and ecological goals that help define success. In addition, in the Upper Mississippi River the Corps, EPA and other stakeholders are working together to create biological indicators that will meld data for various sources to come up with the best measure of successful outcomes.

    Similarly, we need to develop tools and metrics to guide our use of these resources so that our communities can grow and thrive while being confident they are using these resources in a sustainable manner. For example, Michigan has recently implemented a web-based groundwater management system that helps people and business locate water withdrawals in appropriate locations.

    Restoring and maintaining key processes, defining clear ecological outcomes, and providing tools that allow us to compatibly use our lands and waters can be the foundation for creating shared goals within watersheds, across agencies, and in our communities. This approach has the potential to provide the coordination and cooperation between the many jurisdictions, people and entities that has been missing from our current management structure and can help ensure we will have healthy watersheds.

    Finally, a focus on healthy watersheds is a critical element for climate change preparedness and adaptation. Healthy watersheds are more resilient and therefore better able to meet the needs of people and nature in a climate that will continue to change for decades to come. The focus on key physical and ecological processes and on defining ecological outcomes will help us identify strategies that are robust under a range of future conditions and will help to ensure we invest our precious and scarce resources — natural, economic and social — in a thoughtful and sustainable manner.

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide some thoughts and comments. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the conference and participating in the work ahead.

  2. March 31, 2010

    Topic 1: The Watershed Approach

    As stated in the discussion document, EPA should begin addressing more diverse sources of pollution. Agricultural and silvicultural (forestry) runoff, stormwater discharges from urban and suburban development, and hydrologic and habitat modification (such as channeling, creating dams or waterway erosion) are among the leading sources of water quality impairments in the United States, and they are even more important to consider in as-yet-unimpaired watershed where new development is occurring.

    EPA can integrate its watershed protection work with its Smart Growth initiatives – the biggest threat to many watersheds is the current land use patterns of low density, sprawling subdivisions, shopping areas, and office parks. To maintain a watershed’s health in the face of increased population, communities must change current patterns of development by encouraging higher density where infrastructure already exists, and holding onto natural areas so they can continue to provide the ecological services necessary to maintain quality of water, air, land, and life.

    This becomes especially important with climate change concerns – it will be even more important to maintain a watershed’s resiliency against climate change by keeping its natural areas, and to bring greater efficiencies to our cities, transportation systems, and infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (see http://www.hrwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/FINALWinter2009.pdf for more information on climate change’s impact on a watershed level)

    We would support further EPA efforts (i.e. the Healthy Watersheds Initiative) on the protection and conservation of healthy, functioning watersheds, which provide the ecological support system essential for achieving water quality restoration. Identifying the locations of healthy watersheds and using that information to prioritize restoration and protection efforts can provide a strategic, cost-effective approach for State water resource management.

    EPA needs to have more tools to address nonpoint sources of pollution from agricultural lands and maintained drains in rural areas. USDA should require performance measures of conservation practices and expand cost-share programs through the Farm Bill to include two-stage channels as an accepted conservation practice – this will require a change in how the national Farm Service Agency values BMPs based on soil type.

    We recommend EPA expand TMDLs to flow impairments and integrate the TMDL program with state and federal programs for regulated dams, including FERC relicensing. We have successfully used TMDL’s to create watershed management plans for many of the subwatersheds in the Huron River watershed – EPA needs better enforcement to ensure the plans are implemented by the stakeholders (local communities, etc.) who participated in creating the plan.

    Integration of other NPS TMDLs into stormwater regulation is a good idea and should provide a good mechanism toward enforcement. Unfortunately, too many states do not follow through with stormwater enforcement and the EPA needs to encourage states to do so.

    Watershed-wide coordination of stormwater management could be effective if watershed collaborations are given the latitude to be innovative and if accountability and funding mechanisms are built in. Management of stormwater as it impacts rivers, streams and lakes, is best done at a multijurisdictional level (i.e. watersheds), but decisions are best made by local watershed entities rather than central state agencies. Allowing for and encouraging multijurisdictional stormwater management agencies could prove effective.

    • Looking more mid- to long-term, what actions are needed to improve our ability to identify and protect healthy watersheds and identify and restore impaired watersheds?

    EPA needs to provide adequate personnel and financial resources at state level so the focus is on protecting and restoring water resources.

    • What are examples of effective practices and strategies that could be “scaled up” to State and national levels for greater effectiveness and wider implementation?

    Michigan needs riparian buffer protection at state level. Currently each of the 1800 local units of government in Michigan make their own regulations regarding all manner of land use planning, including stormwater, setbacks from waterways, wetland protection, etc. Many regulations related to watershed protection could be made more consistent through enacting state laws.

    Topic 2: Exploring the elements of an effective nutrient strategy

    • What new or underutilized practices, strategies, or programs (both regulatory and non-regulatory) hold the most promise for driving nutrient reduction progress?

    EPA should continue to advocate for the adoption of numeric nutrient water quality criteria into state standards to better manage excess nutrient enrichment in surface waters. Emphasis on load-based TMDLs for nutrients.

    An example of successful efforts at the watershed level is the City of Ann Arbor phosphorus fertilizer ordinance that is playing a major role in nutrient reductions in middle Huron TMDL area.

    Promotion and support of Green Infrastructure installations utilizing deep-rooted native species.

    Funding mechanisms like stormwater utilities create a user pays mentality and encourages efficiency and nutrient reduction.

    • What contributions can other actors (e.g., corporate stewardship, NGOs, States, etc.) make to achieve reductions?

    Revise TMDLs when better information comes available – practice adaptive management at the state level.

    • Looking more mid- to long-term, what actions are needed to create an effective basis for driving and sustaining reductions in nutrient pollution?

    Education on the long-term water-quality effects of uncontrolled sprawl and the benefits of sustainable design. Monetary incentives to back that up would help.

    Discussion topic 2: Sustainable Communities

    • In light of the principles of smart growth, including green infrastructure, what practices or approaches have you seen in urban settings that have been effective in supporting achievement of the CWA goals?

    Stormwater management as art.

    • What additional practices or approaches do you believe hold potential to support achievement of CWA goals?

    Water conservation/efficiency programs in municipalities to conserve water, reduce energy use and related production of CO2.

    • What actions can EPA and others take to promote these practices or approaches in support of achievement of CWA goals?

    See http://www.hrwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/FINALWinter2009.pdf for a discussion of why climate change matters at the watershed level.

  3. March 31, 2010

    Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments about this important topic. I would agree that the Clean Water Act (CWA) is a remarkable piece of legislation and has resulted in much improved water quality though out the Nation. It is because of the effectiveness of the CWA that many who are concerned about water quality may fear that opening it up to revisions could result in changes that could weaken its effectiveness. Despite the effectiveness of the CWA there is still much to be done to meet the original goals of the CWA to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s Waters”. We should continue to implement those programs that are working. However, in order for the Nation to take the next great step forward in water quality protection and restoration we must must stop doing what is not working and find effective ways to resolve those water quality issues that are not currently being effectively addressed. Meeting this challenge will take courage and leadership, but is necessary to protect and preserve our precious water resources to meet the needs and wants of present and future generations.

    The CWA has been most effective in reducing the pollution of surface water from point source effluent discharges. Where point sources have been the major source of pollutants for water bodies we have seen the greatest improvements in water quality. Key elements in the CWA that have made it effective have been: identifying beneficial uses, establishing water quality standards to protect those beneficial uses, and setting effluent limits to achieve standards in the receiving waters. In some cases this has been achieved through the application of highest and best practical technology requirements and in other cases where monitoring indicates standards are not being met the establishment of water quality based effluent limits through the TMDL process.

    However,the CWA has not been nearly as effective in protecting groundwater quality; reducing pollution from non-point sources; interpreting the impacts of land use and land use conversion on water quality; understanding the effectiveness of watershed restoration activities or interpreting monitoring data to better understand issues of relative risk, trends, extent, and scale in moving toward watershed based water quality management strategies.

    Groundwater Quality: With groundwater it is truly “out of sight, out of mind”. In many areas of the Nation surface water supplies are fully allocated and groundwater is increasingly used to meet new water needs. Groundwater makes up approximately 95% of available freshwater resources. Surface water should be thought of as the tip of the iceberg supported by a vast hidden reservoir of groundwater. Climate change in the western U.S. will result in reduced water supplies increasing demands on groundwater. Groundwater is a critical resource providing for municipal and domestic drinking water and base flow for rivers, lakes, and wetlands. In Oregon 70% of all residents rely on groundwater for all or part of their drinking water and over 600,000 rural residents are completely dependent on groundwater as a drinking water source. Groundwater Quality assessment in Oregon and throughout the nation frequently detect contaminants that exceed drinking water standards or health advisory concentrations across wide areas that affect significant populations. In agricultural areas where residents are most likely to rely on groundwater, extensive areas are contaminated with nitrates and pesticides at concentrations that pose health risks. These extensive groundwater contamination issues are largely being ignored, particularly when they fall outside the scope of hazardous waste clean-up programs.

    Groundwater quality protection is largely an afterthought in the CWA. Most of the programs that have made the CWA effective for surface waters have not been applied to groundwater. These programs include: standards, listing waters not meeting standards, and requirements for developing plans to bring waters into compliance with standards. In addition many of the groundwater quality impairments are from non-point sources which in general are not being well addressed under the CWA.

    Non-point Source Pollution: Under the CWA there have been tremendous reductions in pollutants discharged to surface waters from regulated point sources. Point sources have borne most of the attention and costs for improving water quality. There has not been a corresponding reduction in pollutants from nonpoint sources. Nor have non-point sources been held to the same standards for paying the costs to reduce pollution stemming from non-point sources. In many areas pollution and habitat alteration from non-point sources is the primary cause of impairment to watershed health. The strategies and methods that have proven effective for point sources simply have not been effective with non-point sources. In the absence of effective regulatory programs to reduce pollution from non-point sources, efforts have focused on technical assistance, outreach, and voluntary implementation of best management practices (BMPs). While these approaches certainly have merit, the changes in practices generally are not being implemented at a scale that has resulted in widespread measurable watershed scale improvements to water quality.

    Runoff from Agriculture and urban lands are the two most significant sources of non-point sources pollution. Water quality impairments from both are similar including; nutrients, sediments, fecal bacteria, and toxics. To be effective in reducing non-point source pollution future programs will need to have stronger incentives. To achieve those stronger incentives a combination of regulatory and voluntary incentives will be needed.

    Relative Risk, Extent, and Trends: Understanding the extent and relative risk that pollutants and other stressors pose to human health and aquatic life is essential in developing solutions that provide the most effective watershed health improvement plans. The current process of listing impaired waters on the 303d list and developing TMDLs, if not applied thoughtfully, can result in spending a lot of our resources on something that posses a relatively small risk to the resource while ignoring other issues that may pose greater risks or affect more extensive area. The key to understanding the relative risk of stressors and the extent of impairment is a well designed and adequately supported monitoring program. Monitoring programs that can provide statistically representative data at multiple scales and include biological monitoring to understand the relationship between stressors and risks are essential to provide the information needed to make cost effective water quality management decisions. After water quality improvement strategies have been developed and while they are being implemented, monitoring needs to be conducted to determine if the strategy is achieving the anticipated improvements in watershed health. Water quality improvement strategies need monitoring data to inform the effectiveness of implemented activities to suggest course corrections if needed.

    Watershed Based Water Quality Strategies: Water quality at any given point in a watershed reflects the cumulative impacts to water quality occurring upstream from that point. This connection between water quality and what is occurring within the watershed make watershed based water quality management strategies both logical and effective. By looking at watershed health as a function of the watershed, we will be able to develop more holistic approaches that are more likely to achieve the desired improvement in watershed health. I agree with the comments of Susan Davies regarding the importance of using biological integrity as an indicator for watershed health. The goal of the CWA is not to meet water quality standards, but is to “maintain and restore the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters”. As Susan stated, standards are developed primarily to protect human health and aquatic life, and I would add the basis for most standards are the aquatic life requirements.

    There are challenges in implementing a watershed approach with the CWA as it is currently structured. One of those challenges is the current listing process that makes it difficult to use probabilistic data to describe populations of water bodies and requires the listing of specific water bodies. Another challenge is once a water body is listed in a watershed the regulatory process tends to drive attention and resources toward TMDLs and the point sources even though those solutions may not be effective in addressing the primary causes of impairment in the watershed.

    Again, thank you for this opportunity to provide these comments and I hope you have a very successful conference.

  4. Nancy Stremple, RLA permalink
    March 31, 2010

    If we are to successfully address our water quality and quantity issues, we need to see the big picture. Communities can then have a better understanding of how our natural resources are interconnected; work as a system; and begin to see how the cumulative landuse decisions impact our natural resources. If these natural resources, that support us, are managed sustainably, we can begin to see the critical social, economic, and environmental benefits that they provide and improve our health, safety and welfare.

    We are glad to see how the Healthy Watersheds Initiative adopts the holistic green infrastructure approach that is needed to identify and protect our healthy watersheds while creating a benchmark to measure our restoration of our impaired waters. It is proactive instead of reactive and provides the scientific systems approach that is needed to address these interconnected land/water resource concerns. More importantly, it engages the stakeholders residing within and benefitting from a healthy watershed. I see how the Healthy Watersheds Initiative compliments and integrates other EPA programs by creating a framework to focus those programs. It also demonstrates the opportunity to integrate other related federal, state, and local programs and efforts.

    EPA is in a unique leadership position to orchestrate these efforts. It may require breaking down “stove-piped” programs to work together as a team with other related federal, state, and local natural resource managers. The healthy watershed or “holistic” green infrastructure approach is a positive step forward to protecting our water and supporting land resources.

    Nancy Stremple, RLA
    Urban Forestry Specialist, Former county natural resource adminsitrator

  5. March 31, 2010

    If we are to successfully address our water quality and quantity issues, we need to see the big picture. Communities can then have a better understanding of how our natural resources are interconnected; work as a system; and begin to see how the cumulative landuse decisions impact our natural resources. If these natural resources, that support us, are managed sustainably, we can begin to see the critical social, economic, and environmental benefits that they provide and improve our health, safety and welfare.

    We are glad to see how the Healthy Watersheds Initiative adopts the holistic green infrastructure approach that is needed to identify and protect our healthy watersheds while creating a benchmark to measure our restoration of our impaired waters. It is proactive instead of reactive and provides the scientific systems approach that is needed to address these interconnected land/water resource concerns. More importantly, it engages the stakeholders residing within and benefitting from a healthy watershed. I see how the Healthy Watersheds Initiative compliments and integrates other EPA programs by creating a framework to focus those programs. It also demonstrates the opportunity to integrate other related federal, state, and local programs and efforts.

    EPA is in a unique leadership position to orchestrate these efforts. It may require breaking down “stove-piped” programs to work together as a team with other related federal, state, and local natural resource managers. The healthy watershed or “holistic” green infrastructure approach is a positive step forward to protecting our water and supporting land resources.

  6. March 31, 2010

    It is apparent that a great deal of time and money has been spent on research and developing regulations. There has been little to no enforcement of these regulations. By such lack of enforcement, the general concept is that there are no repercussions for not adhering to the regulations. In my general local, you can see the lack of concern for EPA regulations from commercial interest as well as municipalities. There is currently a plan to discharge treated sewage water back into the aquifer. Although the water may be treated, it will most likely carry the remains of medicines and chemicals flushed down the toilets. In an area where we have observed dead zones in our river and off our coast line, it is very disturbing that funds have not been allocated for enforcement of all regulations. We can not live without water. We can not live long on water that has been debased by all the chemicals and residues left in the water supply that the current nanofiltration and reverse osmosis will not remove. This is one area of concern. Another is storm water runoff. Research, regulation training, and public education has occurred for storm water runoff and associated BMP’s but the general concept in these areas is the same – nothing has to be done as there are no enforcement measures nor repercussions for failure to adhere to the guidelines. We are very concerned about our coastal estuaries and the resources that are derived from these sources. The dollars that are derived from coastal tourism as well as the commercial fishing industry are reliant on these coastal resources. If we as a population continue to take away from these valued resources rather than putting back through the proper implementation of enforcement and BMP’s, the staggering realization is that our children will be left to figure out a way to find clean water because of our failures.

  7. March 31, 2010

    I second these comments from my colleague Nick Bennett at NRCM.

    1. In Maine, the largest source of pollution on our major rivers is far and away pulp and paper mills. We frequently hear from political leaders and regulators that point sources have been addressed and that now we have to worry about non-point sources. For big rivers in Maine, this is simply not true. Maine’s pulp and paper mills are generally poor performers compared to good mills in the US and especially in comparison to good mills in South America and Europe. Our Department of Environmental Protection is not willing to push Maine’s mills to improve their performance because of the political might of the paper industry.

    USEPA did not help the cause of Clean Water in Maine or throughout the US in the 1990s when it adopted Option A (requiring chlorine dioxide susbstitution for chlorine bleach) under the Cluster Rules rather than Option B (requiring oxygen delignification) which would have helped clean up our rivers and made our paper industry more competitive internationally. USEPA has also not been helpful in the permit battles over the Androscoggin River in Maine. This river still does not meet Clean Water Act standards nearly 40 years after the act was written. This is particualalry tragic because it was largely the problems with the Androscoggin River that inspired Senator Muskie to draft the Act.

    So, in short, we ask EPA for help. Help us clean up our large rivers in Maine by requiring our antiquated pulp and paper mills to modernize. This will benefit both our rivers and our pulp and paper industry.

  8. March 31, 2010

    Environmental Education with a focus on aquatic resources is a vital part of the effort to conserve, restore and improve our nation’s water quality. Students and young adults bond with lakes, rivers, wetlands, streams and coastal waters when educators and citizen science groups engage them in learning about, observing and testing these waters. Young people must have ample opportunities to have empirical knowledge of this most essential resource – water. When the EPA and other organizations educate and train students continuously, we develop a population of people who care about water quality and identify with their local bodies of water. We need the EPA to offer sufficient support for state and tribal governments and NGOs to foster the vigorous protection of our waters’ health. This can best be done through an increase in grants for hands-on aquatic education (i.e., where students have contact with natural water bodies) and citizen-science initiatives.

  9. March 31, 2010

    COMMENTS ON THE WATERSHED APPROACH

    The watershed management approach is the best protocol for implementing and enforcing the protection of our water resources, as required under the federal Clean Water Act. Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been promoting the watershed approach for evaluating and protecting our water resources because it provides data and methodologies for appropriate management strategies.

    The EPA has recently determined that even 10% relatively impervious cover in a watershed will result in degradation of our water resources. It is, therefore, critical that personnel at the state level be properly trained to understand the watershed approach as related to issuing NPDES permits. Evaluation of NPDES applications must incorporate groundwater quantities as well as quality, in addition to surface water quantities as well as quality. Surface water and groundwater are one integral unit. Forests, especially on mountain ridges where precipitation is the greatest, intercept rainfall to allow recharge of our groundwater and to slow the rate and quantity of runoff into our headwater areas. Conversely, deforestation facilitates surface runoff in greater quantities at greater rates, inhibiting groundwater recharge. Groundwater recharge is critical for our water supplies and also critical for providing water to streams during times of drought (due to the weather and/or due to misuse or overpumping of our groundwater supply).

    Because deforestation on our mountain ridges facilitates greater surface runoff at greater rates of discharge to our headwater areas, the aquatic habitats in the headwater areas are destroyed. This, in turn, impairs the headwater aquatic organisms which break down organic compounds for use by downstream aquatic organisms. The greater discharge to the headwater areas also causes stream bank erosion, which directs sediment into the streams, again degrading the aquatic habitats in the streams.

    It is, therefore, critical to protect the headwater areas in the mountain ridges in order to protect our groundwater, our surface water, and aquatic habitats in our streams. Currently, the stormwater drainage permits (NPDES) being approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) are evaluating only small portions of construction projects which direct drainage into culverts from mountain ridges. The watersheds into which the culverts are discharging are not being evaluated (please reference NPDES permit registration number WVR104137 and the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board case number 09-15-EQB). Also in reference to WVR104137 and EQB 09-15-EQB, engineers are being allowed to use misrepresentative runoff coefficients in the stormwater discharge calculations, indicating greater stormwater runoff in forested areas and less runoff in construction areas. This results in the appearance that stormwater discharge will be less than it will actually be. The result of this misrepresentation of runoff coefficients thus allows negative impacts to watersheds. Construction projects which have received NPDES permits are proceeding without any watershed evaluation in Virginia (Highland New Wind project in Highland County, VA) and in Pennsylvania (for example, the Dunning Mountain wind project in Bedford County, PA). It is critically important that personnel issuing NPDES permits be trained to evaluate the impacts to our water resources using a watershed-based approach. The watershed approach allows evaluation of cumulative impacts, instead evaluation of small, discrete areas. It is well documented on websites of the U.S. Geological Survey that cumulative impacts on our watersheds have already started to severely impact our water resources, including quantity of water in addition to water quality, throughout the U.S.

    Pamela C. Dodds, Ph.D.
    Registered Professional Geologist

  10. March 31, 2010

    The PA Chapter of the Sierra Club, representing approximately 25,000 members, thanks the EPA for initiating this forum.

    We urge the EPA to take a leadership role in supporting state efforts to identify and protect healthy watersheds. The watershed approach is critical to effective watershed protection and restoration.
    Broadly speaking, emphasis should be upon the protection of healthy watersheds as a proactive approach. This approach reduces the need for restoration, the reactive approach. State efforts to use cost-effective proactive/protective approaches should be supported by the EPA since restoration is often more expensive and much more difficult than protection. There are critical social and economic benefits of protecting healthy watersheds and providing he resulting abundant, reliable source of clean water.

    Scientific research1 has made it clear that intact headwater streams, intermittently flowing streams, and wetlands are crucial to healthy watersheds and water quality, especially in the light of climate change. Healthy streams and wetlands:

    reduce flooding by storing flood waters from rain events and snow melt, which will be increasingly important as major storm and flooding events increase;

    recharge groundwater and replenish downstream flow, which will be increasingly important as water quantity and stream flow are stressed by increases in droughts and evaporation rates;

    moderate flow rates and provide cooler waters to downstream streams and rivers by storing water, functions that will become increasingly vital as climate change places stresses on stream flow and causes temperatures in many waters to increase;

    filter out harmful pollutants such as nutrients and pathogens, which will increase with increased intensity of storm events;

    removal by small streams of nutrients and other pollutants as water makes much more contact with the bed of the stream in smaller streams.

    Despite the importance of these wetlands and streams, millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams are losing Clean Water Act (CWA) protections in the wake of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (SWANCC) and 2006 (Rapanos) and subsequent Corps of Engineers and EPA guidance. EPA must use the full extent of its legal authority under the CWA and other statutes to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”

    Water resources at risk are:

    Intermittently flowing streams: According to EPA, 59% of stream miles in the coterminous U.S. are intermittent or ephemeral and many are at risk of losing Clean Water Act protection as a result of the 2006 Rapanos decision and 2007-2008 Rapanos guidance. These smaller streams provide important drinking water, flood control, and aquatic habitat functions.

    Wetlands: An estimated 20 million acres of wetlands – or 20% of all remaining wetlands in the lower 48 states – are already losing Clean Water Act protection after the SWANCC decision. Many more are at risk after Rapanos.

    Drinking Water: EPA estimates that one-third of Americans get their drinking water from public supplies fed in whole or in part by intermittent, ephemeral, and headwater streams vulnerable to pollution under these decisions.

    Treating polluted drinking water is expensive. New York City estimates that pollution of small streams and wetlands in the city’s drinking water source areas could cost up to $6 billion for treatment plant construction and $300 million/year for operation. Healthy watersheds with greater forest cover substantially reduces drinking water treatment costs. See http://www.epa.gov./healthywatersheds/concept.html.

    Migratory Bird Habitat: After the 2001 SWANCC decision and guidance, the Corps and EPA abandoned Clean Water Act protections for millions of acres of geographically isolated wetlands, including those of the Prairie Pothole Region. These wetlands provide essential breeding habitat for 50- 75% of North America’s duck population.

    Flood Plains: The Midwest has suffered two 500-year floods in a recent 15 year timeframe. Wetlands and intermittently flowing streams naturally absorb flood waters, moderating peak flood stages and reducing flood damage. A 1% loss of a watershed’s wetlands can increase total flood volume by almost 7%. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods caused an average $15 billion in damage annually between 2003 and 2008. Recent flooding in Illinois and Iowa underscores the need for wetland protection. These two states have lost over 85% of their wetlands.

    Forested Buffers as a Powerful Tool in Protection of Healthy Streams and Wetlands

    The PA Chapter of the Sierra Club supports rules/legislation to require buffers of at least 100 feet (and larger buffers for special designation and imparied streams) on both sides of every stream in PA. Forested buffers are the best way to protect from erosion, pollution, flooding and drought and to provide clean drinking water, higher property values, good fishing, growing ecotourism, and healthy economies. We urge the EPA to use the full extent of its authority to increase the use of forested buffers as a best management practice.

  11. March 31, 2010

    We are very glad that EPA is considering strengthening protection of “healthy waters”. DRBC has prioritized the protection of high quality basin waters. Over three quarters of the non-tidal Delaware River is included in the federal Wild and Scenic River Designation. DRBC has supported that designation by designating the whole non-tidal Delaware River (197 miles) as “Special Protection Waters (SPW)” with the target of no measurable change to existing conditions. Based on years of monitoring we know that existing conditions exceed water qualtiy statndards. We believe this is the longest stretch of antidegradation waters in the nation. Following is a link to a summary sheet on our SPW Program.

    http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/SPWflyerNov2008.pdf

  12. March 31, 2010

    We are very glad that EPA is considering strengthening protection of “healthy waters”. DRBC has prioritized the protection of high quality basin waters. Over 150 miles, three quarters of the non-tidal Delaware River is included in the federal Wild and Scenic River Designation. DRBC has supported that designation by designating the whole non-tidal Delaware River as “Special Protection Waters (SPW)” with the target of no measurable change to existing conditions. Based on years of monitoring we know that existing conditions exceed water qualtiy statndards. We believe this is the longest stretch of antidegradation waters in the nation. Following is a link to a summary sheet on our SPW Program.

    http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/SPWflyerNov2008.pdf

  13. March 31, 2010

    I am a supervisor of staff implementing the Clean Water Act in Wisconsin.

    A major source of impairments to Wisconsin waters is phosphorus. Much of this comes from nonpoint sources. Given severe staff shortages due to budget problems it is very hard to find the resources to address this issue. Complicating this situation is the insistance by EPA that we continue to direct staff toward point source actvities that are very unlikely to result in improvements to water quality: Specifically, the expectation that we inspect major point sources annually even if they have established a good compliance record. The same can be said for pretreatment program expectations. More flexibility is needed in the area of how the states can use staff funded under federal grants.

  14. March 30, 2010

    I have studied DVDs and read both foreign and domestic comments on fluroide added to our drinking water; Over 2,000 scientists and professionals agree this additive to drinking water is almost criminal. As you must know it is a waste by-product of the alumin industry and is TOXIC, So much so- if dumped into rivers and steams it is illegal -I met with our mayor who is in agreement. So WHY DO WE STILL add it when most european countries outlaw it added to water use. It’s useless for dental reasons. But well known as a human toxin.

  15. March 30, 2010

    Thanks for the opportunity to make comments regarding our nation’s water. Of all pollutants over all time with which we have managed to contaminate our waters, the unknown toxins being added to our watersheds, and possibly our aquifers, in at least 34 states (maybe more) by the gas fracking/drilling process will most likely prove to be our ultimate killer. If the research being done by scientists like Dr. Theo Colburn —-http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/home.php —- on the pollutants from these wells was examined NOW, we may at least avoid the continuation of creating what could possibly be superfund type sites by the thousands across the country. We already have thousands of waste water holding ponds containing unknowns— unknown because the oil and gas industries don’t have to tell what their formulas are that they add to the fresh water used in fracking. Evaporation of these waters add some of these contaminants to our air as well. Disposal of this water is casual, sometimes careless, possibly criminal in some circumstances. No disposal methods being used that I know about are designed around the levels of damage that endocrine disruptors can cause once loose in the environment. It’s as if we are allowing children to take care of nuclear waste——but at least we seem to have a grasp of that potential danger. We exhibit incredible irresponsibility toward our water being polluted by chemicals .
    IF Dr. Colburn and others who research endocrine disruption are correct in their studies, we face an entirely new prospect regarding human —and all other—-health and life. Everything else pales by comparison. Some things are bigger than politics—Get on it, EPA!

  16. March 30, 2010

    The comment below will combine the bracket of suggested categories. First and foremost, it is critical to understand that water is a transport mechanism for pathogens. Pathogenesis can be augmented by other constituents found in water such as pharmaceuticals and antibiotic resistant genetic information including genetic material conferring enhanced virulence. These genetic fragments are not affected by disinfectant levels typically used in water treatment and are so small that they pass through many of the water plant filters to be found next in the drinking water. Let me repeat—–Antibiotic resistant genes are now found in drinking water.

    All these materials that augment pathogenesis are found in the discharged wastewater reaching the nation’s lakes and rivers, water which next becomes the nation’s drinking water.

    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US EPA studied various methods of disinfecting wastewater discharged from sewer plants. One of the principal findings was that sewer plants generated and released antibiotic resistance. That report may be found at the following and it should be required reading for anyone dealing with water quality.

    http://aem.asm.org/cgi/reprint/43/2/371.pdf

    The report states———”It is evident from this work as well as the work of others (10,13-15,29) that antibiotic resistant coliforms are entering the aquatic environment via treated municipal wastewater effluence. When bacteria which carry transmissible R-factors (R+ bacteria) (R=resistance) are ingested by a human host, the R-factors may transfer into commonly occurring bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract (32). “

    “Several researchers have pointed out that waste water, treated or untreated, is a primary contributor of bacteria to the aquatic ecosystem (12,16,17,20,27,29). Studies have been conducted which demonstrate that significant numbers of mutli-drug-resistant coliforms occur in rivers (17), bays (9), bathing beaches (28) and coastal canals (13). Waters contaminated by bacteria capable of transferring drug resistance are of great concern since there is the potential for transfer of antibiotic resistance to a pathogenic species.”

    “Available information documents that conventional wastewater purification methods without disinfection are not adequate for removal of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (14,15,29). Wastewater disinfection is, therefore, the only means whereby communities can limit the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the water environment since it seems unlikely that antibiotic chemotherapy will be reduced. ”

    “These organisms may subsequently transfer this resistance to pathogenic organisms, resulting in reduced efficacy of antimicrobial chemotherapy in the event of an infection. In vivo studies have shown that when individuals carrying R+bacteria are subjected to antibiotic therapy, these organisms flourish and transfer their resistance to other bacteria (25).”

    EPA needs to revisit this study and it needs to be very transparent about the fact that sewer plants and their byproducts transmit pathogens and antibiotic resistance to the surrounding environment.

    Sewer plants because of the above will need to be completely redesigned, including many drinking water plants. The current levels of funding for infrastructure improvement should not go for a repeat of the same old designs for sewer plants, but plants and processes that eliminate these issues of pathogens and resistance. Until that is done, the drinking water in this country is and will remain at risk.

    Dr Edo McGowan
    Santa Barbara

  17. March 30, 2010

    Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is not a good idea. It pollutes groundwater with all sorts of industrial chemicals. And it’s one of the unconventional sources of fossil fuels that we must not exploit if we are to avoid really catastrophic global warming. I have read James Hansen’s book “Storms of my Grandchildren” carefully, and I think his scientific conclusions are valid. We must not exploit such new sources as gas from shale.

  18. March 30, 2010

    I believe that compliance with storm water permits could be improved simply by requiring applicants to submit their SWPPP to EPA or the states. Everyone knows that enforcement/inspection funds and staff are very limited and when applicants know that EPA doesn’t even have a copy of their SWPPP, it tends to either not get prepared or sit on a bookshelf and not get implemented. Storage space at EPA or the states for all of the hard copies may be a concern, so maybe applicants should be required to at least submit a copy on CD.

  19. March 30, 2010

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this very important topic. I bring to this discussion over 50 years of environmental protection experience.
    The only way in which to restore or maintain adequate water quality in the waterways of the US is to reduce the amount of pollution being discharged into the waterways. That is not a “rocket science” statement. It is a statement of the obvious. But unfortunately regulators, environmentalists and the regulated community seem to forget that basic concept. The CWA sets up a basic structure, that if followed will do wonders to restore and maintain the waters of the US. Unfortunately for a number of reasons EPA and the States have moved away from the basic elements of the CWA and focus on launching a whole bunch of new programs and forget about the basic “blocking and tackling” envisioned in the CWA. One of the most critical elements is the NPDES permit program and the related enforcement program to insure that dischargers comply with those permits. Those permits can and should provide the basic building blocks for the watershed approach, control of wet weather discharges, the control of nutrients, etc. But as I said, EPA and the States have moved away from that basic concept much to the detriment of clean water in the US. This erosion has occurred due to budget issues and the lack of will to take on the tough issues associated with the issuance and enforcement of sound permits.

    I would like to see EPA and the States do the following:
    1. Return to what the CWA requires and that is to issue appropriate and current permits that control the amount of pollutants that are allowed to be discharged and that require full compliance to be achieved by a date certain. Entirely too many permits are out of date and do not reflect the current state of knowledge on the control of discharged pollutants and do not require full compliance with the CWA. The issuance and reissuance of permits must be a priority item or the waters of the US will not be protected. It is as simple as that!
    2. Enforce the permits to require dischargers to comply with the stated conditions in a timely fashion and by a date certain. If the permits are not enforced they become meaningless documents with the result that the waters of the US suffer-along with human health, etc.
    3. Truly address wet weather issues. It is often overlooked that wet weather discharges are basic raw sewage being mainlined into the waters of the US. There is a Federal combined sewer overflow (CSO) policy that is not being implemented. It is a very reasonable policy that would do wonders to addressing wet weather issues if it truly would be implemented. There are far too many cities across the country that are not fully implementing the CSO Policy (Milwaukee, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, etc). “Implementing” means doing what the CSO Policy envisions and that is to control combined sewer overflows by a date certain. It does not mean “continue to implement pieces” that will eventually (maybe) bring the discharges into compliance. EPA should hold the States accountable for the full implementation of the CSO Policy or EPA should take the appropriate enforcement action to accomplish the objectives of the Policy in a timely fashion.
    4. Truly address sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). As stated in number 3, it is often overlooked that sanitary sewer overflows are basic raw sewage being mainlined into the waters of the US. SSOs are controllable. I fully realize it takes time and money to control them. But again, it is not rocket science. If it is a financial burden on the city, that can be addressed by an expanded schedule. But these discharges must be address and not ignored like they are now. All SSOs should be put on a schedule for elimination ASAP.
    5. Learn from what others have accomplished. There are a number of examples of where the watershed approach has worked to restore waters. But for some reason, EPA, the States and the local communities always seem to want to reinvent the wheel and treat each watershed as a totally new thing. A good example of a program that has worked extremely well in a partnership between the State of Michigan, EPA and a number of local communities to restore a watershed is the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project in the Detroit, Michigan area. For some reason EPA and the States are reluctant to require the use of tools that have been effective elsewhere. That should change.
    6. Stop using the “watershed approach” as an excuse to not do the basic things required by the CWA such as issuing and complying with NPDES permits. The watershed approach should be a way to do things in a more comprehensive fashion but that does NOT mean ignoring the basic things on controlling discharges of waste to the waters of the US. Issuing and reissuing NPDES permits is one of the basic building blocks of the watershed approach-or should be!
    7. Update and upgrade water quality standards across the country. Another basic element of the CWA is the establishment of current water quality standards to fully protect the waters of the US. There are a large number of areas in the country where water quality standard have not been upgraded for years if not decades. It is time to apply the science of the 21st century to updating water quality standards as opposed to continuing to use the science of the 1970s in existing water quality standards.
    8. Strongly get behind the needed amendments to the CWA to address the recent Supreme Court decisions that have seriously weakened the CWA. Push and push hard to get the necessary fixes in place. Without a concentrated push by EPA and the States the law will not get fixed!
    9. Revisit how wetlands are being protected. Way too many wetlands are being lost every year. The present program is not working as demonstrated by the continuing loss.

  20. March 30, 2010

    Enforce existing environmental laws and regulations. For locally led conservation to succeed, fund county conservation districts, locally. We are a nationwide network of dedicated professionals governed by local citizen volunteers. We can do most conservation planning, restoration and protection more efficiently and cost-effectively than any other agency, group or organization.

  21. RH Brittian permalink
    March 29, 2010

    Many rural communities are experiencing the expansion of animal feeding operations/factory farms or CAFO’s…..all three are classified the same but vary in size. I think these farms are allowed to locate too close to streams/creeks which could impact local watershed’s. The research I have done concludes that a variety of pharmeceutical compounds are included in the feed products that are fed to animals which eventually could end up in our streams/creeks or watersheds through waste. It is essential that the EPA take a closes look a these operations to protect our water quality.

  22. March 29, 2010

    this watershed agenda approach recognizes the variety of inputs in a watershed and must address (1) the technologies available to meet target goals; (2) the need for trained, competent and in some instances certified service providers to assure appropriate levels of attention are devoted to system maintenance and operation; (3) the need for a responsible management entity to sustain the infrastructure through time; and (4) effective rules and regulations to meet existing watershed mandates and future needs.

    There is no single approach to assure the success of a watershed agenda and programs must recognize the value of a variety of approaches from single onsite systems to larger facilities. The CWA recognized the value of a basin-wide approach to environmental management and many elements of the comprehensive approach were addressed initially through these 208 efforts.

    all systems which purport to protect and improve water quality must be included as a part of a watershed-wide management effort. These efforts become a permanent part of a watershed-wide infrastructure.

  23. March 29, 2010

    I would like to see more empahsis placed and resources allocated towards maintaining/preserving the biological integrity of any last high-quality resources. In my tenure with CT DEP most if not all of the high priority work has been focused on the restoration of imparied waters. Much of which, due to extremely a complicated cause and source like impervious cover, end up with very large sums of money, huge allocation of staff time, and frustrated citizens who niavely thought 319 funding and TMDL would actually work to restore the resource.

    If even 10% of this funding and staff time were allocated towards the proactive prevention of waters reaching impaired status we would have made a significant difference.

    Tools like the Biocondition Gradient and Tiered aquatic life water qualtiy standards should become the rule not the exception. It is time to shift some substaintial resources to the protection and preservation of high quality systems before our entire list of waterbodies attains “impaired” status.

    Mike

  24. March 29, 2010

    Thank you to the EPA for initiating this discussion forum. It is clear that consensus across the country on the need for clean water is pretty unanimous but how to best initiate clean water programs is nearly impossible. Each community is going to have very different problems, issues and priorities that they need to address that may have detrimental implications for other communities. Issues need to be addressed by watersheds and the smaller the watershed the more likely it can be successful. A twelve-digit HUC is probably a good starting point.

    Local citizen groups working in specific watersheds are known to be very successful because they can build community consensus and garner the support needed to build the type cooperation necessary to implement projects through diverse collaborations. There was a strong push by the EPA in the 90′s to support local watershed initiatives that has since died off. Section 208 of the Clean Water Act was visionary for its time by encouraging a multitude of watershed-based citizen groups to engage in water quality efforts in their region. However, most watershed groups didn’t exist back then and it eventually became a single issue group of wastewater dischargers who actively opposed water quality standards. The supporters were not organized then but once they began to get traction in the late 90′s the EPA was no longer supporting Section 208 at the same intensity that it once did. There needs to be a renewed effort by the agency to support the grassroots again. Now is the time.

    There is a disconnect between the EPA at the regional level and the local citizen groups at the grassroots level. Budget constraints have forced EPA to eliminate much of their former initiatives and staff dedicated to community engagement. However, many statewide watershed organizations have sprung up over the past decade to fill those gaps. This is an opportunity to provide cost-effective support to the statewide groups who can engage and motivate local citizen groups in the implementation of simple solutions to non-point source pollution from agricultural runoff, mine drainage, stormwater runoff, residential encroachment in riparian areas, wildfire mitigation and the education and outreach needed to further inform the public.

    The proposed Clean Water Restoration Act is an important tool to help define waters of the US and implement regulations that are necessary to improve the environmental integrity of our nations waters. However, it is devisive and will do more to create confrontation than cooperation among varying stakeholders. In the meantime, while this piece of legislation is being debated little is getting done to reduce nutrient pollution. Many farmers and ranchers along with their associated conservation districts and industry associations prefer looking for solutions to help with this problem that is not a strain of their economic viability and many times the simple solutions that are proposed are quite ingenious. The same holds true for local mining communities that can significantly reduce metal loading into headwater streams with simple solutions like removing a tailings pile or closing a draining adit but cannot get liability protection through a Good Samaritan bill. There are many more examples of opportunites missed that can be avoided if the agency can work or a more case-by-case basis with citizen groups.

    In conclusion, I am not promoting the relaxing of environmental regulations to improve water quality but suggesting that limited financial resources can be put to better use by better engaging the citizen watershed groups across the country through the same type of vision that was initially established with the passage of the Clean Water Act.

  25. March 29, 2010

    EPA should redirect resources toward prevention of BIOLOGICAL DEGRADATION (loss of species and healthy, sustainable aquatic ecosystems), and restoration of BIOLOGICAL INTEGRITY in rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, through increased support to biological monitoring programs in state CWA regulatory agencies. A large measure of the “value” society places on watersheds, and all associated aquatic resources, resides in the waterbodies’ capacity to support and sustain a diverse, dynamic community of indigenous species, including fish, macroinvertebrates, mussels, etc, and the associated birds and mammals that are dependent on them. All WQ problems are ultimately expressed as either human health problems or as problems expressed in the loss and alteration of AQUATIC LIFE . Since implementation of the CWA much attention has been directed to preventing and controlling water quality problems that affect human health but very little attention has been directed to manage for optimal aquatic life condition. The science of biological assessment and biologically-driven managment of water quality has advanced far beyond the antiquated EPA policies that are still driving the allocation of WQ managment fiscal resources.
    Consideration of aquatic biological data in the context of state agency water quality managment programs allows scientists and managers to strategically address the following questions: What is the current biological condition of this waterbody?, What are the critical risks to this resource? What is its highest attainable aquatic life goal condition?, What are the actions needed to protect/restore it to maintain/attain its aquatic life goal condition?, Did the actions taken achieve the desired results, in terms of optimal biological outcome? Because biological assessment evaluates the actual health and sustainability of the aquatic life living within managed resources it is uniquely able to help drive resource managment institutions towards optimal environmental outcomes by providing information feedback about the overall success of managment decisions and activities. Biological assessment focuses on the end result of ALL managment actions, thus it is the only way to know if WQ managment is doing what it is supposed to do. Watersheds cannot be deemed to be “protected” or “restored” in the absence of sound biological assessment information. Several State monitoring programs that are based upon sound applications of biological assessment and biological criteria (e.g., VT, ME, OH, MN) are producing more effective and innovative water resource management approaches to prevent and to solve biological and general water quality and quantity problems. These innovations include Best Management Practices designed to reduce the detrimental biological effects of urbanization and impervious cover, in order to achieve an improved biological outcome; evolution of progressive state landuse and shoreland protection rules designed to maintain existing high biological quality in streams subjected to land use alteration; and water quality standards that incorporate tiered aquatic life uses that trigger Clean Water Act anti-degradation provisions in very high quality waters, to PREVENT problems, when biological decline is likely. New tools are available that allow highly technical biological assessment and stressor information to be readily grasped by managers and the public (e.g., the US-EPA Biological Condition Gradient ) . Future generations will truly condemn us if we continue to relegate our national treasures of aquatic biological diversity to the backwaters and stagnant side-channels of state and national water policy.

  26. Cynthia Norman permalink
    March 29, 2010

    Ban pesticide use by anyone without a rigorously-tested Pesticide Applicator’s license. Require IPM training as part of applicator’s licensure. Use agronomists trained in water quality to monitor manure and fertilizer applications (as is done in Quebec). Encourge no till agriculture, permaculture and riparian buffers. Ban television advertizing for prescriptin drugs at least–preferably all drugs, and begin education campaign to educate people about the effect of pharmeceuticals on water quality and fresh-water ecosystems.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. treatment solutions network

Comments are closed.