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Federal Water Tap, September 9: EPA Proposes New Water Quality Standards

A Little Clarity
After years of talk, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released six amendments to the water quality standards that guide how the Clean Water Act is implemented.

The amendments do not set numeric water quality targets; they deal with definitions and procedures, such as how to set designated uses for water bodies, how to protect high-quality waters from deteriorating, and how to issues variances, which are set by the states and give more time for particular polluters or pollutants to meet standards. Under the proposal, variances would have an expiration date, be subjected to EPA approval, and be reviewed every three years.

Extreme Events in 2012
The weather last year was a doozy. Some of the oddity can be attributed to climate change, according to an analysis led by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Kingdom’s leading climate research center.

Attribution for specific cases is a field where one treads cautiously, but the researchers found some evidence that a warming world was a “contributing factor” in six of 12 extreme events. Several cases, such as the wet European summer, were studied by different research teams using different methods, datasets, and models. For the science, this multiplicity of viewpoints may be even more instructive than putting equivocal attribution labels on complex events.

No Mess EIS
Your hair-pulling search for information about environmental impact statements just got a little less frustrating. The EPA developed a mapping tool that organizes all EISs since 2004. You can search by year, by state, or by EISs with open comment periods. You can also see EPA comments on recent EISs.

Pojoaque Regional Water System
Aquifer hydrology and the mechanics of storing water underground were the topics of highest concern during the public scoping process for a regional water system the federal government will build in northern New Mexico. The Bureau of Reclamation received comments from 65 people and organizations. More than one quarter of the comments touched on the planned aquifer storage and recovery wells, according to the public scoping report.

The Pojoaque Regional Water System will divert 4,000 acre-feet per year from the Rio Grande for delivery to pueblos and Santa Fe County customers. A portion would be stored in local aquifers. A draft environmental impact statement for the $US 177 million project (in 2006 dollars) will be ready by late 2015.

White Mountain Apache
The Bureau of Reclamation will begin the public scoping process for a $US 200 million tribal water system in Arizona. The system, included in a water rights settlement signed by the Interior Department in July, will feature water treatment facilities, pipelines, pumping stations, and a new reservoir. Comments on the scope of the environmental review should be sent to jmcglothlen@usbr.gov by October 28.

Water Storage Bill
A Republican congressman who represents the eastern plains of Colorado said he would introduce a bill to create an office within the Army Corps of Engineers to handle permits for reservoirs. Rep. Cory Gardner says that regulatory delays are holding up water supply projects.

Groundwater Webinar
The U.S. Geological Survey will host a webinar October 2 on using a new mapping tool to assess the effects of groundwater pumping on stream flows. Two basins in Nebraska will be case studies. Follow the link for registration details.

Fracking Virginia
The U.S. Forest Service will decide by the end of the month whether to allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas within George Washington National Forest, the Washington Post reports. The southeastern edge of the gas-bearing Marcellus shale formation overlaps the forest, whose 15-year management plan is up for review.

Like Water for Chocolate
A renewable energy area in the Chocolate Mountains of Southern California will prioritize technologies that use little water, according to a Bureau of Land Management resource plan. Wind development will be excluded because it would interfere with military operations in the area, but solar and geothermal leases will be permitted.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

Author: Brett Walton  is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.

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