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EPA Releases Clean Water Act Strategy

August 24, 2010

On Friday, August 20, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft strategy for improving clean water goals.  The new draft strategy is open for public comment until September 17.  A final strategy is expected before year’s end.

Comments may be read and made here.

According to the draft, “Despite our best efforts and many local successes, our aquatic ecosystems are declining nationwide. The rate at which new waters are being listed for water quality impairments exceeds the pace at which restored waters are removed from the list.”

The document sites clean water inventories that name the main sources of water degradation as agriculture, stormwater runoff, habitat, hydrology and landscape modifications, municipal wastewater, and air deposition.

For agriculture, attention in the strategy focuses on using the “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) program to address agricultural “nonpoint” sources, targeting pollution from livestock operations, and coordinating USDA farm bill conservation funding with EPA funding available through the 319 Program and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to foster improved nutrient management.

Scattered within the nine page document are broadly-worded suggestions that the Administration will pursue legislative and regulatory changes.  For instance:

“We will support legislation and consider adminstration action to restore the WCA protections to wetlands and headwater streams…”

“Propose changes to the federal water quality standard regulations that would clarify and strenghten antidegredation regulations to protect high-quality waters.”

“Implement current regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and propose new regulations to more effectively achieve pollutant reductions necessary to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.”

“Propose a national rule which will streamline the regulatory authority to designate an animal feeding operation (AFO) as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).”

“Develop NPDES permit requirements to reduce pesticide discharges to waters of the U.S.”

The strategy does not get into specifics about when or how such regulatory changes would be forthcoming.

No specific mention is made about strengthening the weak and loophole-laden existing CAFO regulations other than the Chesapeake Bay-related recommendation.

The strategy closes with some thoughts on linking clean water action with sustainable communities, an Administration priority.

For instance, it suggests EPA would “implement policies and help direct national attention toward more sustainable water management practices that better integrate traditionally siloed areas such as: water quantity, quality, energy requirements, carbon emissions, development and land use at the watershed/aquifer level.  Building on synergies within the water sector, integrated approached can allow communities to more sustainable manage water infrastructure and supply costs and investments and adapt to climate change, as well as potentially reduce overall energy consumption…”

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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