Federal Water Tap, June 3: U.S. Farm Conservation Programs Double As Drought Adaptation, Study Finds

Farmers in regions of the U.S. facing a higher risk of drought are more likely to enroll in federal land and water conservation programs, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study.

The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers not to plant on land that is easily eroded, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program promotes farming techniques that preserve soil moisture. If drought risk increases because of climate change, more farmers may want to participate in these programs thus requiring changes to current enrollment policies, the study argues.

Colorado River
On the heels of a major study of supply and demand in the most prominent river basin in the American West, officials from the seven states in the Colorado River Basin met with federal officials in San Diego last week to starting turning those words into water.

The Los Angeles Times reports that three interstate working groups divided by sector will consider water conservation strategies. The municipal-industrial group, the agriculture group, and the environmentalist group will offer recommendations by the end of the year.

Water Quality Testing
The U.S. Geological Survey evaluated more than 2,500 chemical and biological substances found in water bodies and sediment to create priority lists for water quality testing. The USGS determined that 1,081 substances had the highest priority for human health and aquatic life. The list will be used by the federal government to allocate money for testing and research.

Water Quality Testing, Part 2
The Environmental Protection Agency approved 84 new analytical methods that public water systems may use to test for contaminants.

Army Net Zero
Fort Bliss, an Army base shared by New Mexico and Texas, will build a reclaimed water system and several renewable energy projects – geothermal, waste-to-heat, dry-cooled solar power – in order to reduce the base’s consumption of natural resources. The strategy will help the Army carry out its national defense mission in a resource-constrained world, according to the draft environmental review of the proposed Net Zero plan. The Army is also required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to increase its use of renewable energy.

National Stormwater Calculator
Attention city planners and developers: the Environmental Protection Agency will release a tool on June 6 that estimates the amount of water that will flow from a given property based on how the land is developed. The tool compares the water-retention benefits of a suite of green infrastructure designs – porous pavement, cisterns, and rain gardens.

The EPA has a court-ordered June 10 deadline to propose regulations for curbing stormwater runoff from newly developed and redeveloped sites.

Gulf Restoration
A council of state and federal officials created to guide ecosystem restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has released a draft recovery plan. Because of several sources of uncertainty, the draft does not include a funding strategy or a list of priority projects. Comments are being accepted through June 24 via this link.

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.

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