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Surface and Groundwater

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Water covers two-thirds of the planet's surface, and some of its subsurface, too. It is essential to all forms of life and plays a vital role in the processes and functioning of the Earth's ecosystems.

Water is the common element that links ecosystems. It links forest ecosystems of the interior mountains with the bays and estuaries along the coasts. It transports food, nutrients, and other biologically important materials and organisms. It dilutes, moves, and removes wastes; it cools organisms and the land, maintaining the climatic conditions that support and sustain life. Finally, water supplies energy to ecosystems because, through cooling and its motion, water saves energy that organisms and ecosystems would otherwise need to expend.

People all over the planet are dependent on water to grow food, generate power, cool the machines of industry, carry wastes, and much more. People use water in their personal lives for bathing and cleaning, recreating, drinking, cooking, gardening, and just for the pleasure of watching it. Water also provides habitat for fresh and salt water living resources.

More than 97 percent of the Earth's water is saltwater in our oceans and salt lakes; water in icecaps/glaciers adds about 2.0 percent more. Therefore, fresh water is very limited -- water in lakes, streams, and rivers makes up less than 0.01 percent of the Earth's water. Groundwater -- fresh water under the planet's surface -- makes up another 0.6 percent. In the United States, more than 250 million people depend on the fresh water in our rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater supplies for their drinking water.

EPA plays a major role in the regulation, protection, and improvement of water resources and supplies of the United States. Please find further information on surface and groundwater on the following topics:

Related publications from the Ag Center
Surface and Groundwater
Water

Related laws and policies
Clean Water Act
Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) 

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Exit EPA
Coastal Zone Management Act Exit EPA

More information from EPA
New Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and Stormwater - detailed information on quantification of stormwater allocations in TMDLs that are useful for implementation in NDPES permits
Water Quality Assessment and Total Maximum Daily Loads Information - information reported by the states to EPA about the conditions in their surface waters.
National Water Program: Strategic Plan and Guidance
Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans To Restore and Protect Our Waters - intended to help communities, watershed organizations, and state, local, tribal and federal environmental agencies develop and implement watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources.
Water Quality Standards (WQS) Database - provides access to state, territory, and authorized tribal water quality standards information in text, tables, and maps.
Integrating Water and Waste Programs To Restore Watersheds: A Guide for Federal and State Project Managers - the purpose of this manual is to enhance coordination across EPA, State, and local waste and water programs to streamline requirements, satisfy multiple objectives, tap into a variety of funding sources, and implement restoration activities more efficiently, with a goal of showing measurable results.
Forest Service, EPA Increase Coordination To Improve Water Quality - strategies to address water quality impairments by maintaining and restoring national forest system watersheds.
Guidance on Watershed Permitting - technical guidance that will help integrate National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits into watershed management plans.
National Homeland Security Research Center - The National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) develops and delivers reliable, responsive expertise and products based on scientific research and evaluations of technology. Our expertise and products are widely used to prevent, prepare for, and recover from public health and environmental emergencies arising from terrorist threats and incidents.
WaterSense - A voluntary public-private partnership program aimed to protect the future of our nation's water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services.
Water Quality Standards Handbook: Second Edition - Provides comprehensive guidance for implementing EPA's water quality standards regulation.
Alabama A&M University designated as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management

More information from USDA
Southern Regional Water Program: Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System Exit EPA

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Best Management Practices

States assist and encourage agricultural producers through a variety of programs to use best management practices (BMPs) designed to reduce or prevent pollution from point and non-point sources migrating into waters. States manage non-point-source programs on a watershed-by-watershed basis whenever possible.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Surface and Groundwater
Water

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 319
Clean Water Act Section 402 Exit EPA

More information from EPA
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
Agricultural Management Practices for Water Quality Protection
Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters
Forestry Best Management Practices in Watersheds
GreenScapes - provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for large-scale landscaping.
GreenScaping for Homeowners: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard - GreenScaping encompasses a set of landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) - a federal-wide program that encourages and assists Executive agencies in the purchasing of environmentally preferable products and services.
Polluted Runoff Publications and Information Resources
Section 319 Nonpoint Source Success Stories
Draft Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters - for use by communities, watershed organizations, and state, local, tribal and federal environmental agencies to develop and implement watershed plans to meet water quality standards and protect water resources.

Success Stories
Utah Farmer Receives President's Award for Voluntary Service to the Environment - the farmer has been an active volunteer and leader in watershed protection in Utah.

More information from USDA
Conservation Buffers To Reduce Pesticide Losses (PDF) (25 pp, 1.2MB)
MultiCalculator - A set of three Excel spreadsheets that calculate irrigation needs, ethanol yields, and crop yields from USDA's ARS.

More information from the states Exit EPA
Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team
Massachusetts Stormwater Management Manual (PDF) (187 pp, 789K)
Maryland Stormwater Management Program

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Clean Lakes Program

The Clean Lakes Program was established in 1972 as section 314 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, to provide financial and technical assistance to States in restoring publicly owned lakes. The program has funded a total of approximately $145 million of grant activities since 1976 to address lake problems, but there have been no appropriations for the program since 1995 (existing Clean Lakes projects are being completed with previously awarded funds).  EPA has not requested funds for the Clean Lakes Program in recent years, but rather has encouraged States in its May 1996 Clean Water Act section 319 non-point-source guidance to use section 319 funds to fund eligible activities that might have been funded in previous years under Section 314.

More information from EPA
Clean Lakes


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Clean Water Action Plan

In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton announced a major Clean Water Initiative to speed the restoration of the Nation's precious waterways. This initiative aims to achieve clean water by strengthening public health protections, targeting community-based watershed protection efforts at high priority areas, and providing communities with resources to control polluted runoff.

On October 18, 1997, the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Vice President Gore directed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with other Federal agencies and the public to prepare an aggressive Action Plan to meet the promise of clean, safe water for all Americans. This Action Plan forms the core of President Clinton's Clean Water Initiative, for which he proposed $568 million in resources in the FY 1999 budget. The Action Plan builds on the solid foundation of existing clean water programs and proposes actions to strengthen efforts to restore and protect water resources. In implementing this Action Plan, the Federal government will:

More information from EPA
Clean Water Action Plan

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Coastal Zone Management Programs

The Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Section 6217) addresses non-point pollution problems in coastal waters. Section 6217 requires the 29 States and territories with approved Coastal Zone Management Programs to develop Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs. In its program, a State or territory describes how it will implement non-point-source pollution controls, known as management measures, that conform with those described in Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters. This program is administered jointly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Agricultural establishments and other agricultural businesses located within program boundaries covered by the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and Gulf of Mexico programs may have additional requirements to minimize non-point-source pollution.

Related laws and policies
Clean Water Act
Coastal Zone Management Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 319
Coastal Zone Management Act

More information from EPA
Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program
Dredged Material Management

Ocean Dumping
Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches

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Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Chemicals are being discovered in water that previously had not been detected or are being detected at levels that may be significantly different than expected. These are often generally referred to as "contaminants of emerging concern" (CECs) because the risk to human health and the environment associated with their presence, frequency of occurrence, or source may not be known. EPA is working to improve its understanding of a number of CECs, particularly pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and perfluorinated compounds among others.

Literature Review of Contaminants in Livestock and Poultry Manure and Implications for Water Quality (PDF) (137 pp, 1.5MB)
This report is part of EPA's ongoing efforts to better understand the environmental occurrence and potential effects related to contaminants of emerging concern. The report summarizes technical information on pathogens and contaminants of emerging concern such as antimicrobials and hormones that may affect water quality.

More information from EPA
Contaminants of Emerging Concern

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Detection and Quantitation of Water Pollutants

Detection indicates the presence of a pollutant in a sample. Quantitation indicates how much pollutant is in the sample. Detection and quantitation procedures apply to all chemical analytical methods under the Clean Water Act. The procedures are a way to pre-test laboratory performance to confirm that they can accurately measure a specific chemical pollutant in a water sample.

EPA is withdrawing the March 2003 proposal to revise detection and quantitation procedures used in Clean Water Act programs. The decision to withdraw the proposal is based on the divergent views on the proposed revisions and a desire to improve the procedures through a possible stakeholder dialogue. We are also releasing a revised assessment document on detection and quantitation procedures.

More information from EPA
Withdrawal published in the Federal Register (November 8, 2004)
Procedures for Detection and Quantitation
EPA Press Release (November 3, 2004)

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Estuaries

The National Estuary Program was established in 1987 by amendments to the Clean Water Act to identify, restore, and protect nationally significant estuaries of the United States. Unlike traditional regulatory approaches to environmental protection, the NEP targets a broad range of issues and engages local communities in the process. The program focuses not just on improving water quality in an estuary, but on maintaining the integrity of the whole system -- its chemical, physical, and biological properties, as well as its economic, recreational, and aesthetic values.

The National Estuary Program is designed to encourage local communities to take responsibility for managing their own estuaries. Each NEP is made up of representatives from Federal, State, and local government agencies responsible for managing the estuary's resources, as well as members of the community -- citizens, business leaders, educators, and researchers. These stakeholders work together to identify problems in the estuary, develop specific actions to address those problems, and create and implement a formal management plan to restore and protect the estuary.

Estuaries and Agriculture
Farms or farm organizations within a study area of one of the designated "estuaries of national significance" are encouraged to join a local management conference with other stakeholders to identify major environmental problems and steps needed to remediate those problems. Through a consensus-based process, all stakeholders work together to develop a plan of action according to needs of their own communities.

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 320 Exit EPA

More information from EPA
National Estuary Program
Indicator Development for Estuaries Manual (PDF) (138pp, 1.4MB)
Community-Based Watershed Handbook: Lessons from the National Estuary Program

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Fertilizer/Pesticide Contamination

When pesticide or fertilizer contamination of surface or groundwater occurs, it is the result of either point-source or non-point-source pollution. Point source pollution comes from a specific, identifiable place (point), such as the movement of pesticides into water from a spill at a mixing and loading site. Nonpoint source pollution comes from a wide area, such as the movement of fertilizers into streams after broadcast applications to crop areas. Most pesticide and fertilizer movement into water is across the treated surface (runoff) or downward from the surface (leaching). Runoff water may travel into drainage ditches, streams, ponds, or other surface water where the pesticides and fertilizers can be carried great distances offsite. Pesticides and fertilizers that leach downward through the soil sometimes reach the groundwater.

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 319
Clean Water Act Section 402 Exit EPA
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Exit EPA

More information from EPA
EPA Issues Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order to Agrifos Fertilizer, Inc. and ExxonMobil
Pesticide Water Exposure Models
Basic Information about the Arsenic Rule
EPA Region 10 Releases Columbia River Basin State of the River Report for Toxics

More information from USDA
Conservation Buffers To Reduce Pesticide Losses (PDF) (25 pp, 1.2MB)
Assessments to Reduce Nitrogen and Phosphorus Nonpoint Source Pollution of Iowa's Surface Waters

More information from other organizations
Arsenic in Poultry Litter: Organic Regulations Exit EPA - Fact sheet on arsenic in poultry litter and how it can affect crops, soil, and water.

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National Coastal Water Program

The program includes the Chesapeake Bay Program, Great Lakes Program, and Gulf of Mexico Program. The mission of the Chesapeake Bay Program is to lead and empower others to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem for future generations.  GLNPO brings together Federal, State, tribal, local, and industry partners in an integrated, ecosystem approach to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. The goal of the Gulf of Mexico Program is to protect, restore, and enhance the coastal and marine waters of the Gulf of Mexico and its coastal natural habitats, to sustain living resources, to protect human health and the food supply, and to ensure the recreational use of Gulf shores, beaches and waters -- in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region.

National Coastal Water Program and Agriculture
Agricultural establishments and other agribusinesses located within program boundaries covered by the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and Gulf of Mexico programs may have additional water-related requirements.

Related environmental requirements
Chesapeake Bay -- Clean Water Act Section 117 Exit EPA
Great Lakes -- Clean Water Act Section 118 Exit EPA

More information from EPA
Chesapeake Bay Program
Great Lakes Program
Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Exit EPA
Gulf of Mexico Program
EPA-USDA Memorandum of Understanding on the Chesapeake Bay partnership (PDF) (4 pp, 87K) - EPA and USDA announced additional measures for coordination and cooperation among the two agencies in prioritizing and implementing nutrient reduction activities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

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Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even underground sources of drinking water.

These pollutants include:

-- Excess fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides from agricultural lands and residential areas;
-- Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production;
-- Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream banks;
-- Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned mines;
-- Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems;
-- Pollutants resulting from atmospheric deposition and hydromodification.

Through a variety of programs (including, as appropriate, non-regulatory or regulatory programs), States assist and encourage producers to use best management practices to reduce or prevent instances of pollution from non-point sources migrating into waters. States manage the non-point-source program on a watershed-by-watershed basis whenever possible.

States report that non-point-source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. The effects of nonpoint source pollutants on specific waters vary and may not always be fully assessed. However, we know that these pollutants have harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Surface and Groundwater
Water

Related laws and policies
Clean Water Act -- Nonpoint Source Pollution

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 319
Applying for and Administering CWA Section 319 Grants: A Guide for State Nonpoint Source Agencies

More information from EPA
Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program
Recommended Practices Manual: A Guideline for Maintenance and Service of Unpaved Roads
State-EPA NPS Partnership
National Management Measures To Control Nonpoint Source Pollution From Forestry
Fact Sheet on Protecting Water Quality from Agricultural Runoff
Nonpoint Source (NPS) Outreach Toolbox
Tribal Nonpoint Source Information
Handbook for Developing and Managing Tribal Nonpoint Source Pollution Programs (PDF) (182 pp, 8.6MB)

More information from USDA
Assessments to Reduce Nitrogen and Phosphorus Nonpoint Source Pollution of Iowa's Surface Waters

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Nutrient Criteria

On June 25, 1998, EPA published the National Strategy for the Development of Regional Nutrient Criteria in the Federal Register.  The Nutrient Strategy specifically states that EPA will establish nutrient criteria that reflect the different types of water bodies and different ecoregions of the country and will assist states and tribes in adopting numeric water quality standards based on these criteria.

The technical guidance presents EPA's methods for setting nutrient water quality criteria for estuarine and coastal marine waters.  While the guidance does not present nutrient criteria for specific estuaries or coastal waters, it constitutes EPA's specific recommendations regarding defensible approaches for developing regional nutrient criteria.  EPA will use this guidance to develop regionally representative nutrient criteria for estuarine and coastal waters for various ecoregions/coastal provinces across the country.  These criteria may then form the basis for states and tribes to set water quality standards for estuarine and coastal waters.  These criteria will also be designed to enable states and tribes to monitor for attainment of water quality standards.

More information from EPA
Water Quality Criteria for Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution
Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual for Estuarine and Coastal Waters
Fact Sheet: Nutrient Criteria Technical Guidance Manual for Estuarine and Coastal Waters

More information from USDA
Assessments to Reduce Nitrogen and Phosphorus Nonpoint Source Pollution of Iowa's Surface Waters

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Point Source Pollution

The Clean Water Act requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for all discharges from any point source into waters of the United States. By point sources, EPA means discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. This does not necessarily mean that a household must obtain a permit to connect to a city sewer, but facilities where discharges go directly into surface waters must obtain a permit. The reason for obtaining a permit is to protect public health and the Nation's waters. The discharges that pose the most threat to public health and the Nation's waters are: human wastes, ground-up food from sink disposals, laundry and bath waters, toxic chemicals, and metals. Also, fecal coliform, oil and grease, pesticides, and metals are types of pollutants that when discharged into the Nation's waters threaten both the health of humans and life forms in the water. If such pollutants were left untreated, the Nation would be unable to enjoy its largest natural resource, water. Permitting, while it is regulatory, ensures that the Nation's waters will be ever-improving and safe today as well as tomorrow.

Animal Feeding Operations
Animal feeding operations (AFOs) are agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland. There are approximately 450,000 AFOs in the United States.

Related topics
Animal Feeding Operations

Related publications from the Ag Center
Agricultural Animals

Related environmental requirements
CAFO Final Rule
CAFO Final Rule - supporting documents
Clean Water Act Section 402
40 CFR Part 122.23 Exit EPA
USDA/EPA Unified National Strategy on Animal Feeding Operations (PDF) (full document) (34 pp, 404K)
USDA/EPA Unified National Strategy on Animal Feeding Operations (PDF) (executive summary) (5 pp, 64K)
Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Methods

More information from EPA
Animal Feeding Operations
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program
NPDES Individual and General Permits Online
Compliance Assurance Implementation Plan for CAFOs (PDF, 1.12MB)
NPDES Permitting for Environmental Results Strategy - a multi-year effort by EPA and the states to improve the overall integrity and performance of the NPDES program.

Aquaculture Projects
Discharges into an aquaculture project require a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Aquaculture means a "defined managed water area which uses discharges of pollutants into that designated area for the maintenance or production of harvestable freshwater estuarine, or marine plants or animals."

Related laws and policies
Clean Water Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 402 Exit EPA
40 CFR Part 125, Subpart B Exit EPA

More information from EPA
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program
NPDES Individual and General Permits Online

Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production Facilities
Concentrated aquatic feeding operations are direct dischargers and require an NPDES permit if they annually meet the following general conditions: (1) produce more than 9,090 harvest weight kilograms (about 20,000 pounds) of cold water fish (e.g., trout, salmon); or (2) produce more than 45,454 harvest weight kilograms (about 100,000 pounds) of warm water fish (e.g., catfish, sunfish, minnows).

Related laws and policies
Clean Water Act

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Section 402 Exit EPA
40 CFR Part 122.24 Exit EPA

More information from EPA
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Program
NPDES Individual and General Permits Online

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Pesticides and NPDES Permits

On October 31, 2011, EPA issued a final NPDES Pesticide General Permit (PGP) for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the United States. This action was in response to a 2009 decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (National Cotton Council, et al. v. EPA) in which the court vacated EPA's 2006 Final Rule on Aquatic Pesticides and found that point source discharges of biological pesticides, and chemical pesticides that leave a residue, into waters of the U.S. were pollutants under the Clean Water Act (CWA). As a result of the court's decision, NPDES permits are generally required for these types of discharges as of October 31, 2011. While the permit requirements must be met as of October 31, Operators will be covered automatically under the PGP without submitting a Notice of Intent (NOI) for any discharges before January 12, 2012. To continue coverage after January 12, 2012, those Operators who are required to submit NOIs will need to do so at least 10 days (or 30 days for discharges to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Listed Resources of Concern) prior to January 12. For the first 120 days that the permit is in effect, EPA will focus on providing compliance assistance and education of the permit requirements, rather than on enforcement actions.

The Agency's final PGP covers Operators that apply pesticides that result in discharges from the following use patterns: (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) weed and algae control; (3) animal pest control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. The permit requires permittees to minimize pesticide discharges through the use of pest management measures and monitor for and report any adverse incidents. Some permittees are also required to submit NOIs prior to beginning to discharge and implement integrated pest management (IPM)-like practices. Record-keeping and reporting requirements will provide valuable information to EPA and the public regarding where, when, and how much pesticides are being discharged to waters of the U.S. Pesticide application use patterns not covered by EPA's Pesticide General Permit may need to obtain coverage under an individual permit or alternative general permit if they result in point source discharges to waters of the U.S.

This general permit will provide coverage for discharges in the areas where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority, which include six states (Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Oklahoma), Washington, D.C., most U.S. territories and Indian country lands, and many federal facilities (for details, click here (PDF) (5 pp, 239K)). In the remaining 44 states (and the Virgin Islands), the states are authorized to develop and issue the NPDES pesticide permits. Dischargers in areas not covered under EPA should contact their state environmental regulatory agency for more information on applicable permit requirements. A directory of state agencies for NPDES pesticide permits is available at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/contacts.cfm?program_id=410&type=STATE.

More information from EPA
October 11, 2011: EPA issues a final NPDES Pesticide General Permit (PGP)

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Sediments

Many of the sediments in our rivers, lakes, and oceans have been contaminated by pollutants. Many of the contaminants were released years ago while other contaminants enter our water every day. Some contaminants flow directly from industrial and municipal waste dischargers, while others come from polluted runoff in urban and agricultural areas. Still other contaminants are carried through the air, landing in lakes and streams far from the factories and other facilities that produced them. EPA is working to reduce the risks posed by contaminated sediments. You also can help reduce contaminated sediments by learning how sediments get contaminated, where the pollutants come from, how these pollutants affect living things, and strategies used to treat and prevent contaminated sediments.

More information from EPA
Contaminated Sediments in Water

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Stormwater Program

Stormwater discharges are generated by runoff from land and impervious areas such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops during rainfall and snow events that often contain pollutants in quantities that could adversely affect water quality. Most stormwater discharges are considered point sources and require coverage by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The primary method to control stormwater discharges is through the use of best management practices.

Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities
Stormwater runoff from construction activities can have a significant impact on water quality. As stormwater flows over a construction site, it picks up pollutants like sediment, debris, and chemicals. Polluted stormwater runoff can harm or kill fish and other wildlife. Sedimentation can destroy aquatic habitat and high volumes of runoff can cause stream bank erosion. The NPDES Stormwater program requires operators of construction sites one acre or larger (including smaller sites that are part of a larger common plan of development) to obtain authorization to discharge stormwater under an NPDES construction stormwater permit. The development and implementation of stormwater pollution prevention plans is the focus of NPDES stormwater permits for regulated construction activities.

Related information
Point Source Pollution/NPDES

More information from EPA
Stormwater Program
Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities
Authorization Status for EPA's Stormwater Construction and Industrial Programs
EPA's Construction General Permit Factsheet

More information from the states Exit EPA
Stormwater Resource Locator - resource is designed to help companies in the construction industry know about and comply with the stormwater rules

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Survey of the Nation's Lakes

EPA is embarking on a three-year study to determine the state of America's lakes. The "Survey of the Nation's Lakes" is the first-ever attempt to assess real-world conditions by studying 909 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs whose profiles are representative of all lakes in the United States. The survey, a joint effort among EPA, the states, and some tribes, will determine the ecology of the lakes and the factors that influence their condition; stimulate and implement ideas within all levels of government -- federal, state, regional, and local; build state and tribal capacity for monitoring and analyzing lake water quality data; collect a set of lake data for better management of lakes; and develop baseline information to evaluate progress.

More information from EPA
December 6, 2006 news article
National Lakes Assessment
Survey of the Nation's Lakes fact sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 915K)
Water Pollution Control Program Grants (Section 106) - States will receive funding under section 106 to conduct the Lake Survey

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Total Maximum Daily Loads

Some waters in the Nation still do not meet the Clean Water Act national goal of "fishable, swimmable" despite the fact that nationally required levels of pollution control technology have been implemented by many pollution sources. The Clean Water Act section 303(d) addresses these waters that are not "fishable, swimmable" by requiring States to identify the waters and to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for them, with oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, TMDLs can play a key role in watershed management.

States must identify waters and establish Total Daily Maximum Loads to protect them. This includes identification of needed load reductions within a watershed from agricultural producers and other nonpoint sources. These load reductions are to be achieved through nonpoint source programs established under section 319 of the Clean Water Act and section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990.

State Programs and Information
Total Maximum Daily Load Resource Locator Exit EPA

TMDLs and Agriculture
Each State must identify waters at risk and establish Total Daily Maximum Loads (TMDLs) to protect those waters. This includes identification of needed load reductions within a watershed from agricultural producers and other non-point sources. These load reductions are to be achieved through non-point-source programs established under Clean Water Act Section 319 and CZARA section 6217.

Related environmental requirements
Clean Water Act Sections 303
Clean Water Act Section 319
Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments Section 6217

More information from EPA
TMDL Knowledgebase Clearinghouse Exit EPA - An on-line database to house selected TMDL-related information and documents in one central location.
Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Loads
National Assessment Database - Interactive summary of state-reported water quality information and assessments of individual waterbodies.
2006 Integrated Report Guidance - This guidance is for states, territories, authorized tribes, and interstate commissions that help prepare and submit section 305(b) reports.
Section 319 Nonpoint Source Success Stories
Options for the Expression of Daily Loads in TMDLs (PDF) (62 pp, 971K) - This document provides technically sound options for developing "daily load expressions" as a routine process in TMDLs calculated using allocation timeframes greater than daily (e.g., annual, monthly, seasonally).
TMDL Technical Support Documents

Better Science Integrating Point and Nonpoint Sources (BASINS)
EPA's water programs and their counterparts in states and pollution control agencies are increasingly emphasizing watershed- and water quality-based assessment and integrated analysis of point and nonpoint sources. Better Assessment Science Integrating point and Nonpoint Sources (BASINS) is a software system developed to meet the needs of such agencies. It integrates a geographic information system (GIS), national watershed and meteorologic data, and state-of-the-art environmental assessment and modeling tools into one convenient package.

Originally released in September 1996, BASINS addresses three objectives: (1) to facilitate examination of environmental information, (2) to provide an integrated watershed and modeling framework, and (3) to support analysis of point and nonpoint source management alternatives. BASINS supports the development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), which require a watershed-based approach that integrates both point and nonpoint sources. It can support the analysis of a variety of pollutants at multiple scales, using tools that range from simple to sophisticated.

Overcoming the lack of integration, limited coordination, and time-intensive execution typical of more traditional assessment tools, BASINS makes watershed and water quality studies easier by bringing key data and analytical components together "under one roof." Beside BASINS' primary role in creating TMDL analysis, it has been useful in identifying impaired surface waters from point and nonpoint pollution, wet weather combined sewer overflows (CSO), storm water management issues, and drinking water source protection. BASINS also has been used in urban/rural land use evaluations, animal feeding operations, and habitat management practices. Another unexpected use of BASINS is providing schools and educational institutions with a quick, free resource of GIS and surface water data for the United States.

More information from EPA
BASINS Web site
BASINS Version 4.0

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Tribal Water Plan: Protecting Public Health and Water Resources in Indian Country

EPA has issued its final 2005-2008 plan for public health and water resources in Indian country. The Tribal Water Plan will be used by Agency management and staff as they work with tribes to protect the health of tribal communities and associated aquatic systems. This plan is designed to create federal/tribal partnerships that protect human health and the waters of Indian country by supporting the development and implementation of clean water and safe drinking water programs. It consolidates, in one document, a nationwide approach to tribal water protection.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Tribal Issues

More information from EPA
Tribal Water Plan: Protecting Public Health and Water Resources in Indian Country
Resources Compendium for the National Tribal Compliance Assurance Priority
EPA Tribal Contacts
Final CWA Section 106 Tribal Grant Guidance: Promoting Environmental Results
American Indian Environmental Office Tribal Portal

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Water Cycles

Nature recycles the Earth's water supply through a process known as the water cycle or hydrologic cycle. This cycle operates continuously and receives energy from the Sun. The major components of the hydrologic cycle are: (1) evapotranspiration, (2) condensation, (3) precipitation, (4) infiltration, (5) percolation, and (6) runoff. The hydrologic cycle consists of inflows, outflows, and storage. Inflows add water to the different parts of the hydrologic system, while outflows remove water. Storage is the retention of water by parts of the system. Because water movement is cyclical, an inflow for one part of the system is an outflow for another.

Looking at an aquifer as an example, percolation of water into the ground is an inflow to the aquifer. Discharge of groundwater from the aquifer to a stream is an outflow (also an inflow for the stream). Over time, if inflows to the aquifer are greater than its outflows, the amount of water stored in the aquifer will increase. Conversely, if the inflows to the aquifer are less than the outflows, the amount of water stored decreases. Inflows and outflows can occur naturally or result from human activity.

Related publications from the Ag Center
Surface and Groundwater
Water

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Water Quality Trading

Water quality trading is an innovative approach to achieve water quality goals more efficiently. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions from another source at lower cost, thus achieving the same water quality improvement at lower overall cost.

More information from EPA
Water Quality Trading
2003 Water Quality Trading Policy
Water Quality Trading Assessment Handbook
July 19, 2006: Webcast on Benefits of Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting
Dec. 14, 2005: Webcast Seminar on Introduction to Trading for Water Quality Protection
USDA NRCS and EPA Sign Water Quality Credit Trading Partnership Agreement on October 13, 2006 (PDF) (4 pp, 59K)
Water Quality Trading Toolkit for Permit Writers - guide to provide detailed guidance on the fundamental concepts of trading which can accelerate water quality improvement and reduce compliance costs.
Water Quality Trading State and Individual Program Maps

More information from other organizations Exit EPA
Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC): An Agricultural Community Water Quality Trading Guide (PDF) (55 pp, 3.3MB)

 

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Water Training Opportunities

Opportunities from EPA
EPA Watershed Training Opportunities - This booklet describes the watershed training opportunities sponsored by EPA’s Office of Water and the Watershed Academy.

Watershed Academy Webcast Seminars - free Webcast seminars for local watershed organizations, municipal leaders, and others. Past seminar topics include: "Introduction to Trading for Water Quality Protection," "Phase II Stormwater," and "Low Impact Development Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Sustainable Watersheds."

Online Training in Watershed Management - self-paced training modules that represent a basic and broad introduction to the watershed management field. Training modules include: Introductory/Overview; Watershed Ecology; Watershed Change; Analysis and Planning; Management Practices; and Community/Social/Water Law.

Clean Water Act Online Training - EPA's Watershed Academy has completed a web-based training module called "Introduction to the Clean Water Act." Users may go through the entire 65 slide course on the Clean Water Act in sequence or they can jump to the particular Clean Water Act program of interest by going to the Clean Water Act Big Picture shown at the top of each slide.

Water Quality Standards Academy - an introductory course designed for those with fewer than six months experience with water quality standards and criteria programs. However, others may benefit from the course, including veterans of the water quality standards program who want a refresher course.

Opportunities from states
Montana State University: Animal and Range Science Extension Service: Natural Resources Links/Small Acreage Landowner Teaching Materials Exit EPA - These modules are designed to assist people in teaching small acreage landowner seminars. Each module contains information about various exercises and includes PowerPoint presentations that can be downloaded.

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