EPA: Protecting Water: A Precious, Limited Resource

Summer is when many families head to our oceans, lakes, and streams to fish, swim, and enjoy our nation’s waters—bringing water quality and safety to the top of our minds. EPA has a critical mission to make sure our nation’s water resources are safe for drinking, for recreation, and for aquatic life.

Earlier this summer, I asked EPA employees to share the innovative work they’re doing to protect our nation’s water resources. I’d like to share some of their great stories with you.

Green Infrastructure: Stormwater is a big problem in urban areas. Hard surfaces like pavement and roofs keep precipitation from naturally soaking into the ground where it is filtered—instead, the water runs into storm drains, sewer systems, and drainage ditches, carrying pollution with it. EPA’s New England Office worked with the City of Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to design and construct a bioinfiltration basin at J.T. Owens Park near Mashapaug Pond.

The results: Now, 2.6 million gallons of stormwater will be treated each year at the site. EPA is also working with folks in the city to develop financing recommendations for small-scale green infrastructure projects in urban neighborhoods.


Wetland Preservation: The Central Florida Phosphate District (CFPD) or “Bone Valley” is the largest phosphate mining area in the nation, with mines totaling 80 square miles. Phosphate producers submitted permit applications to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct new or extend existing phosphate mines.

The results: The new mines could significantly impact wetlands. So the Corps and EPA, working with federal, state and local agencies, tribes, and NGOs developed a wetlands avoidance, minimization and compensatory mitigation framework. This strategy for protection and restoration has already saved 3,740 acres of wetlands and 45 miles of streams.

Technical Assistance: EPA Region 4 partnered with state drinking water programs and water systems to protect public health with a Drinking Water Optimization Program. An innovative filter backwashing procedure reduces the water wasted during treatment and improves drinking water quality.

The results: At least 14 water treatment plants in Alabama are now using the practice, and together, these plants are saving more than 500 million gallons of water every year.

Collaborative Partnerships: The United States has more than 330 million acres of agricultural land that produce our nation’s food, fiber and fuel, but nutrient runoff can be a problem in some areas, including in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Watson Run is a 2.74 square-mile watershed located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and is home to a large farming community. EPA worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Lancaster County Conservation District Office and the farming community to reduce nutrient runoff to surface- and groundwater.

The results: Farms in the Watson Run watershed now have conservation and manure management plans in development or in place to reduce nutrient runoff. The Watson Run partnership’s success is now a model for other hot spots in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Water Quality Modeling: Water quality models help predict environmental impacts on water when data from monitoring are not available or are not cost-effective. Region 6 hosted a Water Quality Modeling Conference and Workshop last fall, bringing together experts from across the country. In addition, Region 6 has invested in a state-of-the art computer with the latest modeling software and tools, providing a resource for states and other regions to improve water quality.

The results: States in the Region 6 area are able to use modeling to better control water pollution by issuing NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits that are more protective of aquatic life.
I’m excited to hear about these efforts and I thank all of the participants for their innovative ideas. Keep up the great work.

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