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Coordinating U.S. Water Policy: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

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Presentation on theme: "Coordinating U.S. Water Policy: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities"— Presentation transcript:

1 Coordinating U.S. Water Policy: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities
Adam Reimer Postdoctoral Research Associate W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Michigan State University

2 Webinar Outline Brief history of U.S. water policy
Major federal water laws and agencies Ongoing and emerging challenges Recent policy trends and innovations

3 Overview of Water Policy
Two traditional threads Water use/ consumption Water quality Policy fragmentation State vs. federal Increasing: coordination landscape-scale management public involvement ecosystem restoration adaptive management

4 History of Water Policy

5 History Colonial-1850: local control and abundance
: expansion, transport : water supply infrastructure : Environmental era : Devolution, experimentation, and collaboration

6 Major Water Laws and Agencies

7 Clean Water Act (CWA) Passed in 1972 Two major mechanisms:
Designate uses and WQ standards for waterways Regulate point sources of pollution National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)—national permitting system

8 Other Federal Laws Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
Public drinking water standards Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) New bill in conference now

9 Water Agencies U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
Traditionally focused on navigation, flood control Manages 25% of U.S. hydroelectric power Bureau of Reclamation Provides water storage for irrigation, drinking water, recreation

10 Water Agencies Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Primary federal agency in charge of water quality Administers CWA provisions, including: NPDES List of impaired waters Technical, financial resources for pollution reduction CWSRF & DWSRF

11 Ongoing and Emerging Challenges

12 Water Supply

13 Water Usage by Sector Municipal supply: residential & commercial uses
2005 USGS data, last year federal estimates are available

14 Water Supply: Surface Water Rights
Three traditional state doctrines Riparian rights (eastern states) Water rights part of property Prior appropriation (western states) “First in time, first in right” Hybrid systems (Great Plains & Pacific coast)

15 Water Supply: Groundwater
Groundwater policies disconnected from surface water Some states combining ground- and surface water policies Typically first come, first served policies Mostly privately developed Groundwater depletion serious concern

16 Groundwater depletion between 1900 and 2008 (source: USGS)

17 Water Supply: Emerging Issues
Prior appropriation: no efficiency incentive Use it or lose it States adjusting policies Increased pressure on existing water supplies Population growth Increased per capita use Aging infrastructure State, local (and private) systems, with federal support Clean Water Action (

18 Water Supply: Efficiency and Conservation
Mostly state/local effort thus far (EPA technical support) Water loss management Water reuse and recycling programs Market mechanisms Cooperative water management Conjunctive land use and water planning

19 Water Supply: Climate Change
Girvetz, Roy, and Maurer (Tetra Tech Consulting) Water sustainability in the contiguous United States. Evaluating Sustainability of Projected Water Demands Under Future Climate Change Conditions, Natural Resources Defense Council.

20 Water Quality

21 Water Quality Environmental movement of 1960s changed perception of water Initial concern with point source pollution Heavy metals, sewage, petrochemicals, PCBs CWA, NPDES 40 years after CWA, still significant impairment Impaired Waters of the US: 100,000 miles of rivers and streams 2.5 million acres or lakes 800 mi2 of bays and estuaries 55% of streams in poor condition for aquatic life (source: EPA)

22 Water Quality Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution
Variety of sources, difficult to identify Nutrients (N&P), sediment, road chemicals Now major source of water impairment 25% of streams with too much N 40% of streams with too much P Source: NOAA

23 The Dead Zone: Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico

24 Emerging Pollutants of Concern
Household chemicals with uncertain impacts Pharmaceuticals Household cleaners Personal care products Widespread

25 Emerging Pollutants of Concern
Kolpin et al Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, : a national reconnaissance. Environ. Sci. Tech.

26 Water Quality 1990s transition to holistic WQ management
1992 CWA amendments: Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Whole water body management Determines uses, calculates acceptable pollutant levels Apportions levels to various actors

27 Water Quality TMDL process addresses PS and NPS
Mandatory limits for PS, only voluntary for NPS Watershed-based, cut across political boundaries Public involvement Courtesy NRCS

28 Recent Trends and Innovations

29 Coordination and Collaboration
Agencies increasingly working together Federal-state-local-private collaboration Integrate water supply mgmt, WQ mgmt California Federal-Bay-Delta Program (CALFED)

30 Watershed Management Management by basin, rather than jurisdiction
Goes hand-in-hand with coordination and collaboration Targets NPS TMDL process Citizen involvement key Civic watershed groups related to implementation of TMDL plans1 1Hoornbeek, J., Hansen, E., Ringquist, E., and Carlson, R Implementing water pollution policy in the United States: Total Maximum Daily Loads and collaborative watershed management. Society and Natural Resources 26:

31 Public Involvement Public awareness of water issues
Multiple use management EPA 319 Program

32 Ecosystem Restoration
Hundreds of years of water system modification and degradation Loss of ecosystem services: Flood control & storage Water filtering Wildlife & fisheries habitat Storm protection Example: Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan

33 Adaptive Management Experimentation in policy design
Importance of monitoring, flexible administration Response to climate change Courtesy: Government of British Columbia

34 Thank you Questions

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