Reaction to the WEF/USGS Nutrients Briefing on Capitol Hill
By Jeanette Brown, WEF President Elect
Posted September 27, 2010
I just finished moderating a briefing here in Washington, D.C. that WEF sponsored in cooperation with USGS and the Energy and Environment Study Institute (EESI) on the topic of nutrients impacting streams and groundwater across the country. This was the 24th briefing the Water Environment Federation has held in cooperation with the US Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) over the past eleven years. The event drew a huge crowd (150 people in a room to accommodate only 100!) and had bipartisan co-sponsoring from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and George Voinovich (R-OH), which reflects the amount of energy and attention this topic is receiving at this time.
I kicked off the discussion by providing some background on nutrients and added some anecdotal information about the Long Island Sound Nutrient TMDL and the trading program we entered into. The key presentation in the briefing was provided by Dr. Neil Dubrovsky, Project Chief in NAWQA's Nutrient National Synthesis, who described the current condition of nutrients in the nation's streams and groundwater systems as well as trend information between 1992-2004. Discussion topics included the regional/spatial distribution of nutrients for both stream and groundwater systems, variables that impact nutrients loadings in differing soil types and agricultural drainage practices, and the time lag affect on nutrients that may impact deeper public water drinking wells in the future. A state/watershed scale was presented by Bob Miltner, an aquatic biologist with the Ohio EPA. His presentation provided some concrete examples of water body impairments due to nutrients and stressed those numeric criteria for nutrients should include an understanding of biological/ecosystems impacts to provide better context for the nutrients that exist in a system. Lastly, Ephraim King, the US EPA Director of the Office of Science and Technology, provided a comprehensive overview of ongoing efforts by EPA to address the nutrients topic from a regulatory viewpoint. A lively question and answer session followed the presentations that lasted for close to 30 minutes, and for more information, you can visit http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/nutrients/pubs/circ1350/.