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City of Grand Junction receives innovative grant to help clean up Lower Colorado River

Release Date: 1/24/2003
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Release Date: 1/24/2003
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      Project one of 11 nationwide under new EPA Water Quality Trading Policy
DENVER : The City of Grand Junction, in partnership with public and private interests in the Grand Valley, will invest $75,000 in an innovative effort to reduce selenium pollution in the Lower Colorado Basin, including the Uncompahgre and Gunnison River watersheds. The project is one of 11 pilots funded under a new Water Quality Trading Policy announced last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut industrial, municipal and agricultural discharges into the nation's waterways.

The EPA grant will be used to establish a pollutant trading framework to reduce selenium levels in tributaries to the Lower Colorado River. Selenium, a naturally-occurring element, is found at high concentrations in the watershed as a result of agriculture, urban development and other human activities. High levels of selenium have been shown to cause reproductive failure and deformities in fish and aquatic birds.

The grant is part of a larger EPA policy designed to encourage states and tribes to establish trading programs that help meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations in innovative and flexible ways, reducing the cost of improving and maintaining the nation's water quality. The policy will help increase the pace and success of cleaning up impaired rivers, streams and lakes. This year, EPA is providing more than $800,000 to support 11 water quality trading projects around the country.

Water quality trading uses economic incentives to improve water quality. It allows one pollution source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollution-reductions created by another source that has lower pollution control costs. The standards remain the same, but efficiency is increased and costs are decreased. Under the policy, industrial and municipal facilities would first meet technology control requirements and then could use pollution-reduction credits to make further progress towards water quality goals. Trading can also be used to preserve high-quality waters in areas of growth, allowing developers to pay for protective measures to offset environmental impacts.

In order for a water quality trade to take place, a "credit" must first be created. EPA’s Water Quality Trading Policy states that sources should reduce pollution loads beyond the level required by the most stringent water quality-based requirements in order to create a pollution-reduction "credit" that can be traded. For example, a landowner or a farmer could create credits by changing cropping practices and planting shrubs and trees next to a stream. A municipal wastewater treatment plant then could use these credits to meet pollution limits in its discharge permit.

Nationally, the policy could save the public hundreds of millions of dollars by advancing more effective, efficient partnerships to clean up and protect watersheds. Trading provides incentives to maintain high water quality where it exists as well as to restore impaired waters. In addition, the policy describes provisions of credible trading programs that are consistent with the Clean Water Act and federal regulations.

Robbie Roberts, EPA’s Administrator in Denver, notes that while the formal policy is new, water quality trading is a proven and effective concept. "We have seen trading work well in watersheds across the nation, including in Dillon Reservoir and Cherry Creek, Colorado, and are very encouraged about this policy’s potential to improve streams, rivers and lakes on a wider scale," said Roberts. "This is an approach that is particularly well-suited to clean water challenges in Western states, where run-off from agriculture and urbanization is a significant source of surface water pollution. In the Lower Colorado, trading will provide local authorities, agricultural operations and businesses a flexible and voluntary tool to address selenium pollution from a wide range of sources and land use practices."

For more information about the Lower Colorado selenium trading project:
Eileen List
City of Grand Junction, Environmental Regulatory Coordinator

For more information on Water Quality Trading log on to EPA’s Trading website:

Link to EPA National Press Release on Water Quality Trading: