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Reducing Nutrients in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin with Hypoxia Task Force Katie Flahive CWA Section 319 Nonpoint Source Control Program Managing Water, Harvesting Results October 12, 2011. Outline. The Nutrients Issue: National Scope

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Reducing Nutrients in the

Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin

with Hypoxia Task Force

Katie Flahive

CWA Section 319 Nonpoint Source Control Program

Managing Water, Harvesting Results

October 12, 2011

  • The Nutrients Issue: National Scope
  • The Nutrients Issue: Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin and Gulf of Mexico Scope
  • The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient (Hypoxia) Task Force
  • Recent EPA Efforts to Support Nutrient Reduction
national scope of nutrient problem
National Scope of Nutrient Problem
  • 14,000 nutrient-related impairment listings in 49 states
    • 2.5 million acres of lakes and reservoirs
    • 80,000 miles of rivers and streams
    • And this is an underestimate . . .
  • Over 47% of streams have medium-to-high levels of P and over 53% have medium-to-high levels of N
  • 78% of assessed continental U.S. coastal waters exhibit eutrophication
  • Nutrient impacts reflect doubling of U.S. population over past 50 years
  • Additional 135 million people by 2050
  • Nutrient Pollution expected to accelerate
National Drinking Water Impacts

Public Health Risks:

(MCL of 10 mg/l exceeded as N in 4.4 percent of the wells)

  • Disinfectant by-products; significant and costly
  • Contaminated drinking water supplies
  • Rate of nitrate violations in community water systems has doubled over past seven years
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Increased treatment costs
    • Large Systems
    • Small Systems
    • Private Wells
science and analysis to date
Science and Analysis to Date
  • National Research Council: Improving MARB Water Quality (2010); Mississippi River Water Quality – Challenges and Opportunities (2008)
  • EPA Science Advisory Board: Reactive Nitrogen in the U.S. (2011); Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (2007)
  • USEPA: National Coastal Condition Report III (2008); Wadeable Streams Assessment (2006)
  • USDA: Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems: Implications for Conservation Policy (2011); CEAP Upper Mississippi Report (2010)
  • USGS: SPARROW Regional Models (2011); Nutrients in the Nation's Streams and Groundwater (2010)
  • NOAA: Effects of Nutrient Enrichment in the Nation’s Estuaries (2007)
  • Numerous additional articles, state reports, and university studies
larger context litigation petitions and needs
Larger Context: Litigation, Petitions, and Needs
  • Mississippi River Watershed Petition – July 2008
    • EPA Numeric Standards for MN, WI, IL, IA, MO, AR, KY, TN, MS, LA
    • Sierra Club Petition in Support – 40,000 Signatures
  • Florida Wildlife Federation’s Lawsuit – July 2008
  • PA TMDL Nutrients Litigation – Summer 2009
  • Wisconsin Notice of Intent to Sue – Nov 2009
  • Kansas Notice of Intent to Sue – Spring 2010
  • Missouri Notice of Intent to Sue – Summer 2010
  • EPA I.G. Numeric Nutrient Standards Report – August 2009
  • Louisiana’s 2008 §303(d) List: EPA approved State listings; EPA disapproved the absence of three coastal segments from the §303(d) List that do not meet applicable WQS criteria for DO – Sept 28
what is a tmdl
(what is a TMDL?)
  • Under 303(d) of the CWA, states, territories, and authorized tribes are required to develop lists of impaired waters
  • Impaired waters are too polluted or otherwise degraded to meet the WQS set by states, territories, or authorized tribes
  • CWA requires a priority ranking set by these jurisdictions for waters on the lists and develop TMDLs
  • A Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet WQS
many nutrient related 303 d listings and tmdls nationwide
Of 75,823 impairments nationwide, 15,102 (20%) are “nutrient-related”*

Listing for nutrient and nutrient-related impairments based on:

N or P numeric criteria

Numeric criteria for response indicator (e.g., dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, turbidity)

Narrative criteria (using translation)

Of 41,257 TMDLs nationwide, 7,488 (18%) address nutrient-related impairments

TMDLs controlling nitrogen and/or phosphorus:

Nitrogen or phosphorus water quality concentration as the basis

Modeled nitrogen or phosphorus loads without nitrogen or phosphorus water quality concentration

Many nutrient-related 303(d) Listings and TMDLs nationwide

* Defined as nutrients, organic enrichment/oxygen depletion, noxious plants, algal growth, and ammonia.

Factors Affecting Stream Nutrient Loads: A Synthesis of Regional SPARROW Model Results for the Continental United States

JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources AssociationVolume 47, Issue 5, pages 891-915, 22 AUG 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00577.x

Factors Affecting Stream Nutrient Loads: A Synthesis of Regional SPARROW Model Results for the Continental United States

JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources AssociationVolume 47, Issue 5, pages 891-915, 22 AUG 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00577.x

Tile Drainage Networks in the U.S.

(Jaynes and James 2008)

nutrients in the mississippi atchafalaya river basin
Nutrients in the Mississippi/ Atchafalaya River Basin
  • Aquatic and public health impacts of N & P pollution in MARB states well-documented
    • Agricultural row crop and livestock sources dominant
    • Urban point sources (wastewater and stormwater) significant
    • Drinking water supplies increasingly threatened (2010 USGS report on scope of nitrate GW contamination with likely increases in the future)
    • Harmful/toxic algal blooms affecting public health and recreation
overview of the hypoxia task force
Overview of the Hypoxia Task Force

Task Force mission is to understand the causes and effects of hypoxia in the Gulf; coordinate activities to reduce the size, severity, and duration of the hypoxic zone; and ameliorate its effects

Committed to a voluntary and adaptive management approach

Aims to increase accountability through publication of Annual Operating Plan/Annual Report

Agreement by states to develop state-wide nutrient reduction strategies, along with complementary federal strategies

Hypoxia Task Force is a forum for coordination and collaboration among state and federal agencies

Task Force members:


State: AR, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MN, MS, MO, OH, TN, WI

States are represented by either their pollution control, natural resource, agriculture, or coastal activities agency

hypoxia task force
Hypoxia Task Force

Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan 2008

Product of a four-year reassessment and consideration of emerging science, including EPA SAB report that calls for:

Implement a dual nutrient strategy targeting at least a 45% reduction in TN and TP

Improve and expand monitoring of hypoxia and the processes controlling its formation; the flux of nutrients, carbon, and other constituents from nonpoint sources throughout the MARB and to the NGOM; and measured N & P fluxes from municipal and industrial point sources

Implement policies that target the most cost-effective sources and locations for nutrient reductions

Decrease nutrient discharge, esp. from ag sources, in the context of adaptive management

The Action Plan 2008 describes the 3 Goals:

Strive to reduce size of hypoxic zone to less than 5,000 square kilometers by 2015

Restore and protect water quality in the MARB by implementing federal and state nutrient reduction strategies

Improve communities/economic conditions in the MARB through cooperative, incentive-based approach

epa recommended framework guiding principles
EPA Recommended Framework:Guiding Principles
  • Results: build from existing state work but find a way to publically demonstrate results
  • Encourage a collaborative approach between federal partners, states, and stakeholders
  • Flexible approach for states to achieve near-term reductions in N and P pollution while they complete development of their numeric nutrient criteria
    • Since 1998, EPA has encouraged states to develop numeric nutrient criteria to gauge N and P pollution and develop and implement appropriate solutions
  • Framework applies nationally; can be tailored to MARB states to address Hypoxia Task Force
assessment and prioritization
Assessment and Prioritization
  • Prioritize watersheds on a statewide basis for nutrient loading reductions
  • Set watershed load reduction goals based upon best available information
    • N and P Pollution Data Access Tool (NPDAT)
    • Geospatial viewer, website, and data download tables
    • Publicly available “pre-assembled” data in one place, in commonly-used formats
    • Supports states as they consider extent, magnitude of N & P pollution; related WQ problems and vulnerabilities; potential sources
metrics measures and practices
Metrics, Measures, and Practices
  • Ensure effectiveness of point source permits in targeted/priority sub-watersheds
    • Municipal and Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facilities
    • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that discharge
    • Urban Stormwater
  • Agricultural Areas
    • Federal, non-WQ State Programs, and stakeholders implement conservation practices
    • Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) State point source permits
  • Stormwater Runoff and Septic Systems
    • Use state, county and local government tools for developed communities not covered by the MS4 program, septic systems, LID/GI approaches, and/or limits on P use
accountability and transparency
Accountability and Transparency
  • Accountability and Verification Measures
  • Annual public reporting of implementation activities and biannual reporting of load reductions and environmental impacts associated with each management activity in targeted watersheds
  • Develop work plan and schedule for numeric criteria development
    • Establish plan and phased schedule for N & P criteria development for at least one class of waters within 3-5 years (lakes/reservoirs, rivers/streams, and estuaries)
    • Should contain interim milestones, e.g., data collection, data analysis, criteria proposal, and criteria adoption consistent with the CWA

Numeric Criteria

potential resources
Potential Resources
  • US EPA – run through the State Water Quality Agencies
    • Water Quality Management Planning – Section 604(b)
    • Water Pollution Control Program Grants – Section 106
    • Nonpoint Source Implementation Grants – Section 319
    • State Revolving Fund Program
    • EPA offered assistance to states to convene stakeholder meetings in June memo on behalf of all Federal HTF Agencies
  • RFP closed on Sept 30 to fund state nutrient reduction strategy development and implementation, and WQ monitoring in conjunction with MRBI partners
epa supports adwm
EPA Supports ADWM
  • EPA is very supportive of effective systems of conservation practices as treatment for NPS nutrient pollution
  • Real potential for proven nutrient reductions on farm
    • Willingness to incorporate into TMDLs?
    • Producers show willingness for accountable reductions
    • Need to collect WQ data to show results
  • Collaboration opportunities are high – how does planning for ADWM and related practices work at the watershed scale?
  • Needed outreach:
    • State agencies leading nutrient reduction strategy development
    • Absent Landowners?