This Week in EPA Science

By Kacey Fitzpatrickresearch_recap_250

Happy Friday! Here’s what’s new this week in EPA science.

Intermittent River Ecology
Half of the world’s river networks are at least partially intermittent, meaning they have channels that are periodically dry. Due to human activities, perennial rivers (i.e., rivers with year-round continuous flow) are increasingly becoming intermittent—making intermittent river ecology a more popular research focus. Read more about this research in Dr. Ken Fritz’s blog Intermittent River Ecology: It’s Not a Dry Topic.

Remembering Larry Bock
EPA’s Jim Johnson wrote a tribute to Lawrence (Larry) Bock, founder of the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Read about Larry’s passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the blog Remembrance of Lawrence A. Bock.

Children’s Environmental Health Research
This week EPA announced almost $28 million in joint funding with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to five Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers to promote health and well-being in communities where children live, learn, and play. Learn more about these research centers in this press release.

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She is a regular contributor to It All Starts with Science and the founding writer of “The Research Recap.”

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Saving Endangered Mussels in Missouri’s Big River

By Cody McLarty

When you want to spend a relaxing day outdoors in the Heartland, few places are more peaceful than Rockford Beach Park, just northwest of House Springs in east central Missouri. A low head dam, built in the late 1890s to power the now nonexistent Rockford/Bonacker Mill, still stretches partway across the Big River. This aging dam creates a tranquil waterfall that has enticed patrons of the Jefferson County Parks system for decades.

Photo of old Rockford/Bonacker Mill, near present location of Rockford Beach Park.

Photo of old Rockford/Bonacker Mill, near present location of Rockford Beach Park. (Courtesy of Jefferson County, Mo. Library, Northwest Branch, Special Collections)

Other patrons of the Big River also enjoy the benefits provided by the Rockford Beach dam: a vast, diverse community of freshwater mussels. Yet, unbeknownst to many, just below the babbling waters of the Big River, these abundant mussel species are becoming more endangered every day.

A visual inspection of the dam conducted by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) in January 2015 found that it had experienced heavy deterioration and was in a state of partial failure. Sections of the stone had washed away, leaving voids beneath the surficial concrete shell. Moreover, MDNR noted that if no action was taken, the dam would eventually experience a total breach.

EPA was placed in charge of this project because if the dam were to fail completely, it would result in the release of stored sediment behind the dam, which is contaminated with mining-related metals, and just 200 yards downstream from the Rockford Beach dam are three federally-listed, endangered mussel beds.

Eastern portion of Rockford Beach dam

Eastern portion of Rockford Beach dam

I’m a remedial project manager in the Special Emphasis branch of the Superfund program at EPA Region 7, and was assigned to the Rockford Beach dam project in September 2015. I had been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on several other projects through interagency agreements, so I was familiar with the process and had pre-established contacts within the USACE in the St. Louis area.

A 2009 study of freshwater mussels throughout the Big River found a total of 2,198 living specimens representing 33 unionid species at 19 study reaches in the river. Nine species of state conservation concern were found, including three federally-listed species (Pink Mucket, Lampsilis abrupta; Scaleshell Mussel, Leptodea leptodon; and the recently listed Spectaclecase, Cumberlandia monodonta). The majority of the mussel population in the Big River occurs downstream from the Rockford Beach dam.

A breach or failure in the remaining section of the dam would release trace elements of lead, arsenic, barium, cadmium and zinc – all elements routinely found around older mining and industrial sites. As benthic, filter-feeding organisms, freshwater mussels are directly exposed to contaminants in sediment and surface water.

That kind of significant release would severely impact a large number of freshwater mussel species located downstream, and the Big River has an incredibly diverse mussel community.

Apart from biological impact to the endangered mussel beds, the failure of the Rockford Beach dam could present a myriad of other environmental and safety issues to the surrounding area. That contaminated sediment, if released, would be made available downstream to the floodplain and further into the Meramec River. Those deposits could disperse a concentrated volume of lead into the environment, making it a much larger problem to remediate in the future.

Construction to stabilize western portion of Rockford Beach dam

Construction to stabilize western portion of Rockford Beach dam

In January 2016, EPA entered into an Interagency Agreement (IAG) with USACE to conduct a removal action to stabilize the western portion of the dam. The eastern portion of the dam had already partially failed, which now allows for fish passage. This partial failure was not significant enough to cause the release of built-up contaminated sediment. Under the IAG, the USACE planned, designed, and constructed an interim solution to stabilize the western side of Rockford Beach dam.

Many other state and local agencies provided support to the project, including local fire and police departments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, and MDNR’s Dam and Reservoir Safety Program.

In Superfund, we often work on projects that can span a lifetime, so it’s nice to be able to start a project, see it run smoothly, and witness the completion. It’s not often that you get to work on a project that allows you to build strong and lasting relations with a community, and at the same time, protect and safeguard endangered species.

About the Author: Cody McLarty serves as a remedial project manager in EPA Region 7’s Superfund program. He mainly works in the southeast Missouri mining district. Cody has a bachelor’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Kansas.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Helping Freshwater Mussels Clean Up the Delaware River

These mussels help to filter the water by removing sediment, algae and pollutants.

These mussels help to filter the Delaware River by removing sediment, algae and pollutants.

by Steve Donohue

During a recent survey on the Delaware River, I helped collect for scientific research, a freshwater mussel that was likely in the river below me when I was a kid in the 60s driving over a nearby bridge in the backseat of our family’s station wagon. While some species can live to 100 or more, the one I’m holding – and after examining, returned to the water – is probably 50-60 years old and has been silently filtering water all that time.

These freshwater bivalves, like their saltwater relatives, oysters, provide valuable “ecosystems services” by filtering water and removing sediment, algae, and pollutants, while also stabilizing the bottom substrate. According to the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE), a National Estuary Program  partner, one adult mussel can filter 20 or more gallons of water a day so this one mussel has probably treated several hundred thousand gallons of water over its lifetime.  Multiply that by hundreds or thousands of mussels in a healthy population and the numbers add up quickly.

Not long ago it was believed some species of freshwater mussels were extinct in the Delaware River due to pollution and spills from the River’s industrial past, over-harvesting for bait, loss of forests along streams, loss of fish hosts needed for reproduction, and dams that block fish passage.

In 2007, the PDE launched the Freshwater Mussel Recovery Program (FMRP) to help the comeback of the one dozen native species classified as reduced, threatened, or locally extinct.

EPA’s Scientific Dive Unit is collaborating with PDE, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the Philadelphia Water Department in restoration efforts.  One goal is to determine where freshwater mussels are located, and how many are present.  This will help quantify the current benefit they provide to water quality in the Delaware and the potential benefit a larger, healthy population would provide for future generations.

 

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 25 years.  He is the Unit Dive Officer on the EPA Mid-Atlantic Scientific Dive Unit and works to address climate change issues and improve the efficiency and sustainability of public and private sector facilities.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Mapping the Way to Climate Justice

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About the Author: Jad Daley directs the Climate-Smart Cities Program at The Trust for Public Land. The program is advanced through deep partnership with cities, community groups, and others to advance multiple-benefit green infrastructure for climate action and climate justice. Learn more about Climate-Smart Cities Program in this video.

 

Heat risk became a reality for me after my wife was in a car accident. During her in-bed recovery, an extreme heat wave hit Washington, D.C., and the air conditioning unit in our tiny apartment gave out. As my wife lay in bed, unable to walk, the temperature steadily climbed in our apartment.

That night was truly terrifying. I ran to the store and bought a fan, which was just enough to cool her through the night. Within a day, we were able to find a technician to fix the A.C. unit but at a cost that I am still paying off today – a few years later. Regardless, we are fortunate to have this financial capacity.

Heat Island Map

This map highlights Urban Heat Island Hotspots (The Trust for Public Land).

Many Americans in low income communities are not so lucky. In such situations they are reliant on cooling centers or other means for protection. The recent climate health report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program highlighted extreme heat from climate change to be a primary threat to human health. Low income families without air conditioning, the elderly, and people with pre-existing health conditions are at greatest risk.

With a phenomenon known as the “Urban Heat Island Effect,” our cities make heat risk worse. This effect occurs when city pavement and other built materials absorb and re-radiate heat, which creates an oven-like effect. A report published by the EPA reveals that heat islands can raise local temperatures as much as five degrees Fahrenheit during the day and as much as 22 degrees at night.

Low income communities are further disadvantaged. Home design can dramatically impact indoor air temperature, and many low-income communities, rental homes, and public housing units are not well designed to lessen heat. For example, in some cases renters are unable to access enough power to run window air conditioning units.

In addition to building design, tree canopy and other green infrastructure are complementary and cost-effective natural solutions to reduce urban heat islands and protect people’s homes. Here is where climate justice comes in. In virtually every American city, tree cover strongly correlates with income—wealthy neighborhoods generally have significantly more tree cover.

How can we bring more protection to the neighborhoods that need it the most?

I believe a catalyst can be the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to illustrate our green infrastructure deficits, like how insufficient tree canopy overlaps with our most vulnerable 2populations. The latest version of the EJSCREEN, the EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, includes this very information.

We also overlay other issues in these neighborhoods like the increased rate of flooding from extreme rainfall patterns resulting from climate change. After all, the problem that triggers urban heat islands — too much pavement, not enough greenspace — is the same land use pattern in many low income neighborhoods that leads to problems like basement flooding. If we see where these problems of heat islands and water management overlap, then we can develop green infrastructure solutions like green alleys that are designed to address both issues.

Mapping this threat is urgent because it is not a clearly assigned responsibility. Cities have water departments, transit departments, but not “urban heat island departments.” This risk is infrequently covered by the health department, but those agencies are not well positioned to advance strategies to protect key neighborhoods.

That is where GIS mapping comes in.1

My organization, The Trust for Public Land, maps heat islands, who is at risk in these areas, and how strategies like trees and other green infrastructure can help protect these neighborhoods.

If you can’t map climate justice, it is very unlikely that cities and their partners will make the focused investment to solve problems like urban heat islands and flash flooding. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, a map is worth a million. We have gotten immediate attention from city agencies and even mayors by using GIS to show where these climate justice issues exist, which is leading to unprecedented collaboration for climate justice by city agencies in cities such as Boston, New Orleans, and Chattanooga.

It is clear to me that finding the road to climate justice will take a very good map!

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Getting rid of bed bugs

By Lina Younes

Bedbugs are a nuisance. When you have a bed bug problem, you search franticly for help to get rid of these unwanted critters quickly! Did you know that bed bugs are one of the most searched items in the EPA website? In fact, “Our Top Ten Tips to Prevent or Control Bed Bugs” is among our most popular webpages both in English and Spanish.

If you suspect you have a bed bug problem, make sure that the pesky pests in your home are actually bed bugs and not some other small insect. Learn more on how to find them.

You can take several steps at home to take control of your bed bug situation, like eliminating clutter and preparing for the best treatment.

We have registered over 300 products to use against bed bugs. Some of these products can be used by consumers, but others can only be used by specially trained professionals.

Controlling bed bugs effectively requires a comprehensive approach. There are no quick fixes and sometimes particular treatments might not work for multiple reasons.

Learn more about controlling bedbugs in order to stay safe and protect your family.  And, above all, as with any pesticide product, before using it remember to read the label first!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison in EPA’s Office of Web Communications. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several federal and state government agencies over the years.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Eliminar las chinches

Por Lina Younes

Las chinches son una molestia. ¡Cuando tenemos un problema de chinches en casa, buscamos frenéticamente cómo eliminar estos odiosos animalitos de la manera más rápida posible! ¿Sabía que las chinches figuran entre los temas más buscados en el sitio web de la EPA? De hecho, nuestra página sobre los “Diez consejos útiles para eliminar las chinches de cama” es una de las páginas más populares tanto en nuestro sitio web en inglés como en español.

Si sospecha tener un problema de chinches, asegúrese de que los insectos que quiere eliminar de su hogar sean realmente chinches y no otro tipo de pequeño insecto. Infórmese acerca de dónde encontrarlos.

Usted puede tomar varios pasos en su hogar para tomar control de la situación para eliminar las chinches, como eliminar el desorden y preparar la casa para efectuar el mejor tratamiento.

Hemos registrado sobre 300 productos para usar en la eliminación de las chinches. Algunos de estos productos pueden ser usados por consumidores, mientras que otros están registrados para ser usados exclusivamente por profesionales capacitados.

El controlar las chinches de manera efectiva requiere un enfoque global. No hay remedios rápidos y a veces ciertos tratamientos quizás no funcionen por múltiples razones.

Infórmese sobre cómo controlar las chinches para permanecer sano y proteger a su familia. ¡Sobre todo, antes de utilizar cualquier tipo de pesticida, siempre recuerde de leer la etiqueta primero! Para más información en español sobre el control de chinches y otras plagas, visite: https://espanol.epa.gov/control-de-plagas

 

Acerca de la autora: Lina Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002. En la actualidad se desempeña como la enlace de comunicaciones multilingües de la EPA en la Oficina de Comunicaciones del Web. Con anterioridad, ella fue la directora de la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha trabajado también como funcionaria en agencias gubernamentales federales y estatales a lo largo de los años.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Remembrance of Lawrence A. Bock

By Jim Johnson

A leader, pioneer and a visionary, Lawrence A. Bock was also an enthusiast for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. I am saddened by the loss of such an influential individual. I first met Larry in July of 2013. He always represented himself as a professional and a “let’s get the job done” type of person.

Larry Bock with the USSEF in the backgroundYou may recognize the name from his entrepreneurship of many profound startups—but we at EPA know Larry best as founder of the San Diego Science Festival, which grew into the USA Science and Engineering Festival that is now held in Washington, D.C. biennially.

His purpose in creating these festivals was to promote STEM education. He told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2014: “As a society, we get what we celebrate. We celebrate athletes, pop stars and Hollywood actors and actresses, but we don’t celebrate science and engineering. So why not have the largest celebration of science and engineering in the U.S., and that’s what we have endeavored to create.”

Larry believed STEM is an educational priority for our country, and his plan to deliver that message was quite successful. The success of the festival led to the U.S. Senate declaring in 2014 that a week in April be National Science Week in support of the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

I am grateful for his allegiance to STEM and his support of EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Plant (P3) design competition, a unique college competition for designing solutions for a sustainable future. P3 offers students quality hands-on experience that brings their classroom learning to life.

Early on he recognized the synergy between P3 and the USA Science and Engineering Festival. This past spring was the second time EPA’s P3 program was part of the nation’s largest science festival. With 365,000 people in attendance, the festival provided an excellent platform for the P3 program to highlight its mission. In 2014, he even supported the creation of an USA Science and Engineering Festival-sponsored elevator talk competition for P3 grantees to try and sell their ideas to potential investors.

Although this tremendous man is no longer with us, his lasting impact on STEM education will be felt for generations to come.

About the Author: Dr. James H. Johnson Jr. is the Director of EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

When it’s hot, we can help “shave the peak”

By Gina Snyder          

“Shave the Peak,” said the email message. My local light department was asking me to join in its efforts to help reduce the summer’s peak electrical demand and with that, also reduce the cost of electricity. The highest electric use runs from June 1 through Aug. 31. There are a few really hot days when everyone is running air conditioning on top of other appliances, which causes a spike in electricity use – the peak.

Air conditioners in particular put a high demand on electricity. The email explained that about 25 GinaElectricusepercent of our electric bill is determined by how well electricity is conserved during that peak time. In my area the peak occurs on a hot weekday afternoon sometime in June through August, usually between 2 and 5 pm.

The defining hour represents the highest point of customer consumption of electricity for all of New England. The prediction of the peak is done by the Independent System Operator – New England. One of the commissioners of our local light department has said nearly $1.1 million could be saved simply by reducing “peak afternoon electricity use.” He noted that this would also cut emissions.

Why would reducing afternoon electricity use lower costs and cut emissions? Mainly because of how electricity is generated and used. Picture electricity flowing through the wires like your drinking water flows through the pipes. When you turn on the faucet, water pours out. When you turn on the switch, it’s as though electricity ‘pours’ into the appliance to make it run.

Drinking water is easy to store, so that if the water treatment plant can’t keep up with demand, there’s a storage tank that has gallons and gallons of water stored to provide water when it’s needed. But we don’t have storage like that for electricity. Instead, as demand goes up, more power plants have to come online.

This means that some power plants run all the time and some power plants only run on the hottest days of the year. The latter plants sit there year round, costing money and maintenance, only to run a few hours or a few days a year. And everyone has to pay to have those “peaking plants” available.

The result is we pay all year for the electricity to be available to us during that very brief peak time. Peaking plants typically are the least efficient and most expensive to run and often come with higher emissions per unit of electricity generated than other plants. To encourage people to avoid using electricity during those afternoons, electric companies have developed rates called “Time of Use” or TOU. In my town, you can sign up for a time of use rate and, by avoiding electric usage during those peak times, save money.

You’d also be helping the environment because peaking plants mostly run on oil or natural gas, with attendant emissions. So by cutting down on power needs during peak times, you can also help lower emissions from those extra plants going online. So, start watching your own “time of use” and see if you can help lower emissions and the cost of electricity in Massachusetts.

You can help by not using appliances like stoves/ovens or washers and dryers during the hottest time of the day, shutting off pool pumps for a few hours, turning off or raising the setting on your air conditioning thermostat a few degrees or cooking dinner on the grill.

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About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee. She llives in Reading, Mass.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Investing in America’s Water Infrastructure – Answering the “How to Pay?” Question

By Jim Gebhardt, CFA

Clean and reliable water is critical for life and, as our Administrator recently said, “needs to be available to everyone—no matter what part of the country you live, no matter how much money you make, and no matter the color of your skin.” Yet, despite the notion of water as an inalienable right and that most Americans value well-run drinking water and wastewater delivery systems, communities across the country continue to struggle with setting up adequate and sustainable revenue structures required to support needed infrastructure investment and system management.

That’s why we launched our Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center last year to explore leading-edge solutions to funding and revenue challenges, and identify and support best practices.

As I blogged about earlier, EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund has provided more than $141 billion in low-interest loans to state and local water infrastructure projects since 1987. Today these state-run programs operate with almost $60 billion in program equity that will continue to be available to support sustainable lending programs.

Looking ahead, we see lots of opportunities for states to support market-based solutions that address stormwater mitigation challenges, source water protection, on-site wastewater management, and marketplaces for nutrient pollution credit trading. It’s also encouraging to see some states exploring how their triple-A credit rating can be used to guarantee debt and provide additional credit access to stimulate these kind of water quality investments.

But we aren’t stopping there.

We’re looking at emerging and promising finance mechanisms that address water quality and quantity challenges such as Pay for Success, Pay for Performance, green bonds, energy and water performance contracting, water quality trading, and conservation financing strategies.

We’re researching procurement and funding strategies associated with public-private and public-public partnerships in the water sector.

We’re working with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina to develop public-private and public-public project (P3) profiles and an evaluation tool to help local officials determine if there is value in pursuing P3 opportunities in their community.

We’re busy developing a water finance information clearinghouse. The first portal will provide up to date information on stormwater management frameworks, funding and revenue solutions. We plan to launch the portal this fall.

No matter where you live, we are here to help. We also invite you to attend one of our upcoming engagement opportunities:

EPA Twitter Chat: On July 27 at 2 pm EST EPA experts will be answering your water infrastructure finance questions. Direct your questions to @EPAwater and use the hashtag #WaterFinance.

Environmental Financial Advisory Board meeting: On August 9 and 10 the Environmental Financial Advisory Board will meet in Denver, Colorado, to discuss ideas and advice to provide EPA on ways to lower the costs of and increase investments in environmental and public health protection.

Regional Finance Forums: EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center will continue hosting regional forums across the country to bring together communities with water infrastructure financing needs to network, hear local success stories from peers, and have an opportunity to meet key regional funding and technical assistance contacts. Check out our website for upcoming dates and locations.

About the author: Jim Gebhardt is the director for EPA’s Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center. The Center identifies financing approaches for public health and environmental goals by providing financial expertise to help communities make better-informed decisions about drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Intermittent River Ecology: It’s Not a Dry Topic

By Dr. Ken Fritz

Half of the world’s river networks are at least partially intermittent, meaning they have channels that are periodically dry.  Due to human activities, perennial rivers (i.e., rivers with year-round continuous flow) are increasingly becoming intermittent. In the past, the scientific field of river ecology has largely focused on perennial systems. However, after years of little attention, the ecological study of intermittent rivers is trending upward.

Intermittent waterways are interesting systems because they are fundamentally transformative in nature. While nearly all waterways expand and contract with pulses of water availability, these changes are particularly noticeable for intermittent waterways. They transition from flowing (even flooding,) to fragmented pools, to completely dry channels. This makes it more of a challenge in predicting patterns and processes compared to rivers which flow year-round. Recognition of the increasing prevalence of intermittent waterways across the globe has spurred greater interest in these systems, particularly in how they function and influence downstream waterbodies.

The difference between a flowing and dry state of an intermittent stream in April (left) and September (right) of the same year. North Fork of Bakers Fork, Wayne National Forest, Ohio (looking upstream)

This intermittent stream is in a flowing state in April (left) and a dry state in September (right). North Fork of Bakers Fork, Wayne National Forest, Ohio, looking upstream.

That’s why the August 2016 special issue of the scientific journal Freshwater Biology focuses on intermittent waterways research. This special issue is titled Intermittent River Ecology as a maturing, multidisciplinary science: Challenges, developments and perspective in intermittent river ecology, and it brings together 13 manuscripts that guide the research and management of this dynamic field of freshwater science. It addresses the most recent intermittent river ecology developments and is freely accessible until August 31st.

As one of the Guest Editors for this issue, I had the privilege of working with Co-Guest Editors Drs. Thibault Datry (Institue National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l’Environment et l’Agriculture) and Catherine Leigh (Australian Rivers Institute) who were both funded through the project, Intermittent River Biodiversity Analysis and Synthesis (IRBAS). This special issue is one of the many products on intermittent rivers coming from this group of researchers.

As the special issue testifies, the study of intermittent waterways is not a dry topic but a multifaceted and exciting one. I encourage you to read these articles if you are interested in the ecology and management of systems where stationarity is a myth.

Check out these resources to learn more about EPA research related to intermittent streams:
Headwater Streams Studies
Field manual for determining permanence in headwater streams
Ephemeral streams report
Connectivity report.

About the Author: Dr. Ken Fritz has been a Research Ecologist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development since 2002. He is among the Agency’s leading researchers of intermittent and ephemeral streams.

 

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EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.