October 2007, Vol. 19, No.10


Report Gives Great Lakes Health Mixed Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environment Canada recently released the 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report at the International Joint Commission meeting in Chicago. Overall, the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem is mixed, with some conditions improving while others are getting worse, states an EPA news release.

Every 2 years, the Great Lakes community reports on the condition of the Great Lakes ecosystem at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. The 2007 report, for the first time, includes the section, “What is Being Done to Improve Conditions.”

According to EPA, there is both good and bad news. On the positive side, there has been a marked reduction in the levels of toxic chemicals in the air, water, flora, fauna, and sediment during the last 30 years, and the Great Lakes continue to be a good source for treated drinking water. In 2005, 74% of monitored Great Lakes beaches in the United States and Canada were open more than 95% of the swimming season. In addition, significant natural reproduction of lake trout is occurring in lakes Huron and Superior.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical and personal care products are being detected more frequently, and nonnative species, such as zebra mussels and spiny water fleas, continue to invade the Great Lakes and impair the food web. Declines in the duration and extent of ice cover on the Great Lakes and declines in lake levels due to evaporation during the winter are expected to occur in future years. Continuing wetlands loss and degradation result in loss of habitat for birds, amphibians, fish, and wildlife. Aquatic habitats on the coasts continue to deteriorate due to development, shoreline hardening, and nonnative species.

For the 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report and other documents about Great Lakes indicators and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem conferences, see www.binational.net or www.epa.gov/glnpo/solec.

New Water Quality Trading Guide Available

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says its new publication on water quality trading will help the regulated community design and implement voluntary water quality trading programs consistent with the agency’s 2003 National Water Quality Trading Policy. The Water Quality Trading Toolkit for Permit Writers provides stakeholders with detailed guidance on the fundamental concepts of trading that can accelerate water quality improvement and reduce compliance costs, according to an EPA news release.

The guide provides permitting authorities with the tools they need to incorporate trading provisions into required permits, EPA states. It is focused on trading nitrogen and phosphorus, but other pollutants may be considered for trading on a case-by-case basis. The toolkit discusses the fundamental concepts of designing and implementing trading programs, including the relevant geographic scope, effluent limitations, and other factors involved in defining a credit. It also includes a set of appendices that feature detailed case studies based on actual trading programs.

The toolkit is available at www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/trading/WQTToolkit.html.

Water Officials Warned: Get Used to Drought, Says New Climate Report

The drought and dry conditions currently gripping half the United States are a taste of things to come, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC; New York) assessing the effects of global warming on water supplies in the western part of the country. The researchers say that as the hotter, drier weather already afflicting the region becomes the norm, officials responsible for keeping the taps flowing will need bold measures to improve conservation and efficiency. But drastic steps can be avoided if managers begin preparing now, according to an NRDC news release.

The report calls on regions to work together much more closely, developing cooperative solutions to meet their water needs and providing other important benefits. For example, groundwater desalters in California’s Chino basin produce water supplies while cleaning up contaminated underground aquifers. Urban stormwater retention programs designed to reduce flooding and pollution can also provide water supplies.

The report, the news release notes, highlights wastewater recycling as another promising solution.

The report is available at www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/hotwater/contents.asp.

Enhanced Water Quality Standards Information Online

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has upgraded the Web site that provides agency guidance for administering state and tribal water quality standards.

Containing EPA’s 1994 Water Quality Standards Handbook, the site has been upgraded to provide more than 100 new links to EPA documents and Web pages with supporting information.

Download the handbook at www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/handbook. For more information, contact Grace Robiou, chief of EPA’s National Water Quality Standards Branch, at  (202) 566-2975  .     

New Resource for TMDL Practitioners

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a new document, Total Maximum Daily Loads [TMDLs] With Stormwater Sources: A Summary of 17 TMDLs. The report, according to an EPA news release, summarizes TMDLs that have been developed for stormwater sources in 16 states.

The case studies represent a range of pollutants, models used, and different allocation and implementation methods that will be helpful to TMDL practitioners, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting agencies, and permittees as they develop and implement new stormwater source TMDLs, according to EPA. The report is available at www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/techsupp.html.

Guidelines Address Growth Rate of Water Desalination

The World Health Organization (WHO) is developing new guidelines to address the growth of water desalination as a major source of drinking water. A new draft document speaks to both drinking water quality and environmental protection issues in order to aid both current and future desalination facilities, according to a news release issued by the Water Quality and Health Council (Arlington, Va.).

The desalination market is predicted to grow by 12% per year through 2010, the news release notes.
The draft guidelines document, Desalination for a Safe Water Supply, is available at www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/gdwqrevision/desalination.pdf.