- Fifth National Climate Assessment outlines the need to adapt to climate change.
- EPA requests information on challenges in procuring American-made products for water infrastructure projects.
- EPA wants volunteers for a committee on CAFO water pollution, while Interior seeks authors for the first-ever National Nature Assessment.
- Army Corps does not expect salt water to affect additional Louisiana drinking water systems along the Mississippi River.
- Army Corps and state agencies assess water supply risks in the Kansas River watershed.
- White House announces $300 million for flood-risk reduction projects in areas that experienced a major flood.
And lastly, a farm bill extension gives Congress another year to pass new legislation.
“Notably, some of the most important — and most urgent — clean water work being done is among States and Tribes, in the places you all live. They have been put in a position, because of Sackett, of having to step in and step up to protect wetlands and waterways.” — Brenda Mallory, head of the Council on Environmental Quality, speaking at the One Water Summit about the consequences of the Sackett decision, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from May that limited the number of water bodies protected under the Clean Water Act. Mallory called for a “durable and sustainable” framework for clean water protection, one that garners public and congressional support.
By the Numbers
$300 Million: Grant funding available through Swift Current, a program for areas recovering from a major flood. Administered by FEMA, the grants are for properties with federal flood insurance and are intended to reduce future flood risk. How? Elevating buildings, buyouts, relocations.
Farm Bill Extension
Why do today what you can do next year?
Instead of mustering action on the federal government’s flagship farming legislation, congressional negotiators agreed to a delay.
The current farm bill will be extended through September 30, 2024, giving the House and Senate 10 more months to conclude their work.
“This extension is in no way a substitute for passing a 5-year Farm Bill and we remain committed to working together to get it done next year,” House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders wrote in a statement.
Studies and Reports
National Climate Assessment
The federal government’s foremost appraisal of climate science delivered three key messages for water systems.
The Fifth National Climate Assessment warns of “profound changes” as the planet warms. That is, stronger downpours, earlier snowmelt, more demand for groundwater. These risks become more hazardous
The second message is that these changes, though they are widespread, will hurt certain people more than others: places that are poorer and have fewer white people.
Despite these disruptions, our politics and institutions are not keeping pace. Thus the third message: water managers have been “slow to adapt.” That applies to infrastructure as well as permitting too much water to be extracted. Wise management, however, can reduce risk.
In context: The Year in Water, 2022
Salt Water Up the Mississippi River
In its latest forecast, the Army Corps of Engineers does not expect additional drinking water utilities in southern Louisiana to be affected by saltwater that has moved upstream in the Mississippi River.
Two municipalities — Port Sulphur and Pointe A La Hache — have already seen chloride levels exceed regulatory limits. The Army Corps has barged at least 76 million gallons of fresh water to water treatment facilities at those locations.
Salt water moved upstream from the Gulf of Mexico this summer and fall because dry weather weakened the flow of the Mississippi River. The river is typically strong enough to push fresh water out to the gulf.
Kansas River Basin Study
The Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies completed a draft study of water supply risks and needs for the three-state Kansas River watershed.
Eighteen federal reservoirs are located in the 60,000-square mile basin, which includes northern Kansas and parts of Colorado and Nebraska.
Major stresses include flooding, drought, loss of reservoir storage due to sediment accumulation, water pollution from farm runoff, groundwater depletion, and degraded habitat for fish and aquatic life.
On the Radar
A provision of the federal infrastructure law, the Build America, Buy America Act requires recipients of federal money to source certain materials from U.S. producers. This includes water infrastructure, which is a major user of steel, iron, plastics, chemicals, membranes, and valves.
The EPA is seeking public input on water infrastructure procurement challenges, which will inform its enforcement of the law. Already, the agency has granted waivers because of product unavailability.
Comments are due by December 20. Submit them via www.regulations.gov using docket number EPA–HQ–OW–2023–0396.
National Nature Assessment
The Interior Department is seeking author nominations for the first-ever National Nature Assessment.
An ecological accounting, the assessment aims to measure the status, trends, and benefits of the nation’s lands, waters, and biodiversity.
Nominations are due January 4, 2024.
CAFO Water Pollution Advisory Committee
The EPA is looking for volunteers to serve on a committee to advise the agency on how to keep manure from polluting waterways.
The agency formed the committee in response to a petition from public interest groups. The groups had wanted the agency to use its regulatory authority to put stricter controls on water pollution from animal feedlots known as CAFOs. Instead of rulemaking, the agency opted for a committee.
Nominations are due January 2, 2024. Send them to AAWQ@epa.gov with the subject line AAWQ Membership 2023.
Drinking Water Regulations Review
Every six (or so) years, the EPA is required to review current drinking water regulations to see if any need to be updated.
The EPA press office told Circle of Blue that the latest six-year review will be made public by the end of the year.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton