Protecting Fresh Water Resources Elizabeth Rodriguez Rasmussen College Author Note This assignment is being submitted on December 4th, 2011 for Gareth Buckland for G350/GEO3376 Section 03 Conservation of Resources - Fall 2011 at Rasmussen College by Elizabeth Rodriguez. Protecting Fresh Water Resources Freshwater ecosystems such as rivers and lakes provide drinking water, food, energy, transportation and even joy.

But a staggering amount of fresh water is wasted or spoiled every day. Experts warn that in the next 20 years, half of the world’s population could face water shortages. There are practical solutions to freshwater conservation. These solutions ensure we meet our current needs and conserve this precious resource for future generations [ (The Nature Conservancy, 2011) ]. There are programs or Act created by the government and nonprofit organizations to protect our water supplies.

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created in 1970 [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ], The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U. S. C. 1271 et seq. ) [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ], and The Freshwater Wetland, passed by Legislature in 1975 (The Department of Enviromental Conservation, 2011), and The Nature Conservancy Fresh Water Conservation Program, Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC), and The Department of Ecology are some examples.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. EPA's Strategic Plan identifies the measurable environmental and human health outcomes the public can expect from EPA and describes how they intend to achieve those results.

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment. Their purpose is to ensure that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work; national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information; federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively; environmental protection is an integral consideration in U. S. olicies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy; all communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks; environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. Compliance and Enforcement is an integral part of environmental protection.

Compliance with the nation's environmental laws is the ultimate objective, but enforcement is a vital part of encouraging governments, businesses and other companies who are regulated to meet their environmental obligations. EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) pursues enforcement and provides compliance assistance to areas that yield the most environmental benefit or reduce risk to human health. Enforcement and compliance actions are organized around environmental problems and broad patterns of non-compliance rather than provisions of single statutes [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 (Public Law 90-542; 16 U. S. C. 1271 et seq. to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ]. Rivers may be designated by Congress or, if certain requirements are met, the Secretary of the Interior. Each river is administered by either a federal or state agency.

Designated segments need not include the entire river and may include tributaries. For federally administered rivers, the designated boundaries generally average one-quarter mile on either bank in the lower 48 states and one-half mile on rivers outside national parks in Alaska in order to protect river-related values [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ]. Rivers are classified as wild, scenic, or recreational. Wild river areas are those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.

Scenic river areas are those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads. Recreational river areas are those rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ]. The Act purposefully strives to balance dam and other construction at appropriate sections of rivers with permanent protection for some of the country's most outstanding free-flowing rivers.

It prohibits federal support for actions such as the construction of dams or other in stream activities that would harm the river's free-flowing condition, water quality, or outstanding resource values. Designation does not affect existing water rights or the existing jurisdiction of states and the federal government over waters as determined by established principles of law [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ]. As of July 2011, the National System protects 12,598 miles of 203 rivers in 38 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a little more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers. More than 75,000 large dams across the country have modified at least 600,000 miles or about seventeen percent of American rivers [ (National Wild and Scenic Rivers, 2007) ]. The Freshwater Wetland

The State Legislature passed The Freshwater Wetlands Act (PDF) (129 kB)(Act) in 1975 with the intent to preserve, protect and conserve freshwater wetlands and their benefits, consistent with the general welfare and beneficial economic, social and agricultural development of the state (The Department of Enviromental Conservation, 2011). The Act identifies wetlands on the basis of vegetation because certain types of plants out-compete others when they are in wet soils, and so are good indicators of wet conditions over time. These characteristic plants include wetland trees and shrubs, such as willows and alders; emergent plants such as cattails and sedges; aquatic plants, such as water lily, and bog mat vegetation, such as sphagnum moss (The Department of Enviromental Conservation, 2011). To be protected under the Freshwater Wetlands Act, a wetland must be 12. 4 acres (5 hectares or larger).

Wetlands smaller may be protected, if they are considered of unusual local importance. Around every wetland is an 'adjacent area' of 100 feet that is also regulated to provide protection for the wetland (The Department of Enviromental Conservation, 2011). Certain activities are exempt from regulation. Activities that could have negative impact on wetlands are regulated. A permit is required to conduct any regulated activity in a protected wetland or its adjacent area. The permit standards in the regulations require that impacts to wetlands be avoided and minimized. If the proposed activity will not seriously affect the wetland, a permit with various conditions is usually issued.

If the proposed activity will affect the wetland, the benefits gained by allowing the action to occur must outweigh the wetland benefits lost, in order for a permit to be issued. Compensatory mitigation often is required for significant impacts to wetlands. This may include creating or restoring wetlands to replace the benefits lost by the proposed project (The Department of Enviromental Conservation, 2011). The Nature Conservancy Fresh Water Conservation Program Water falls from the sky makes it easy for us to assume that there will always be enough to meet all of our needs and fancies. Across the world, rivers and lakes are breaking down from abuse and overuse, and lands that feed into our waterways have fewer water cleaning forests and grasslands.

The Nature Conservancy is using science and business-minded ingenuity to train people to make smarter choices about how to use the water resources that nature gives us. They have protected more than a hundred million acres since 1951, helping keep water clean as it flows into rivers and lakes. The program have used a diverse array of creative, practical approaches to help people strike a balance in how to use nature, such as how to get hydroelectricity from rivers without depleting fish supplies that people need for food. Rivers and lakes connect people together across state and country boundaries, from cities to farms, from factories to backyards [ (The Nature Conservancy, 2011) ].

The Nature Conservancy is working across the United States and around the world to protect freshwater ecosystems for people and nature. The Nature Conservancy has been designing and implementing strategies to protect Earth’s fresh waters for decades. They have a thorough understanding of the causes of the freshwater biodiversity decline. To improve the health of freshwater resources, the focus is on practical, science-based solutions to help society meet today’s and tomorrow’s water needs for nature and people (The Nature Conservancy, 2011). Contaminants of Emerging Concern Another program to help conserve a good supply of water is Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC).

Through this program, The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is investigating and communicating the health and exposure potential of contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water. The program supports the Clean Water Fund mission to protect drinking water sources and the MDH mission to protect, maintain, and improve the health of all Minnesotans [ (Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC), 2011) ]. MDH currently develops human health based guidance for contaminants that have already been found in groundwater in Minnesota. Under the CEC program, MDH takes a proactive approach to the protection of drinking water by considering contaminants that have been found in groundwater, surface water, or soil or have not been found (or looked for) in Minnesota at all.

Additionally, this program provides information on how people are exposed to these contaminants. These differences separate the work of this program from MDH’s other guidance work and supplements existing work [ (Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC), 2011) ]. The Department of Ecology Water Program The goals of the water quality program are to prevent and clean up water pollution and to help communities make sustainable choices that reduce and prevent water quality problems. The program also aims to provide water quality partners with technical, financial, and education assistance. The Department of Ecology produces useful water quality information for the public and partners [ (The Department of Ecology) ].

The Department of Ecology Water Program includes the discharges of pollutants to surface and ground waters by writing wastewater discharge permits for sewage treatment plants, storm water, and industrial discharges. A permit is a rigorous set of limits, monitoring requirements, or management practices which is designed to ensure that a facility can meet both treatment and water quality standards. The program conducts inspections and site visits every two years to about twenty five percent of more than 2,300 permit holders. Technical assistance and follow-up on permit violations are also provided through various means [ (The Department of Ecology) ].

Their program provides grants, low-interest loans, and technical assistance to local governments, state agencies, and tribes to enable them to build, upgrade, repair, or replace facilities to improve and protect water quality. The agency also funds nonpoint-source control projects, such as watershed planning, storm water management, education, and agricultural best management practices. It coordinates strategic grant and loan assistance with other state and federal funding agencies. The federal Clean Water Act requires the agency to identify water bodies that fail to meet water quality standards. The results are published in the Water Quality Assessment (WQA).

The agency then works with local interests to prepare cleanup plans (also known as TMDLs) to reduce such pollution, establishes conditions in discharge permits and nonpoint-source management plans, and monitors the effectiveness of the cleanup plan [ (The Department of Ecology) ]. Programs at Work An example of how these programs are helping conserve good quality water is the New York's Niagara River project. The Niagara River flows 38 miles from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, forming the border between western New York State and the Province of Ontario, Canada. The Niagara River watershed, with its access to inexpensive hydroelectric power and close proximity to rail and shipping routes, was a magnet for heavy industry and chemical manufacturing ompanies beginning in the early 1900s. By the 1960s, decades of poor management of industrial and hazardous waste had severely impaired Niagara River's water quality. In 1998 New York included the river on its 303(d) list of impaired waters for priority organics. Since then, significant remediation efforts at many sites have improved water quality, prompting New York to propose removing four contaminants from its 2008 303(d) list for both the upper and lower segments of the river [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. Programs Controversy One controversy is the so called "tri-state water war", between Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

The City of Atlanta, after assessing its projected population growth and future water needs, sought a permit from the Corps of Engineers to create reservoirs on the Chattahoochee, Flint, and Coosa Rivers that would retain an additional 529 million gallons of water a day to be stored in Lake Sidney Lanier, Atlanta's major source of drinking water. Atlanta's long-term plan included an increase in withdrawals of fifty percent from the Chattahoochee and Flint by the year 2010 [ (Program Area: Water Policy and Economics, 2011) ]. This proposal and announcement by the Corps set off a dispute between Georgia and its downstream neighbors, Alabama and Florida.

Alabama viewed the plan as a threat to its own water supply, possibly stunting industrial and population growth in the state and resulting in degraded water quality due to the decrease in water flow. Alabama argued that the downstream flow already brings with it Atlanta's pollution and that a decrease in the water flow would mean more pollutants that would not get diluted. Florida joined the dispute contending that the plan to drain off more water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers would deplete the flow into Florida's Apalachicola Bay and would critically injure the state's $70 million oyster industry. Similar debates are ongoing farther west. All parties are continually challenging Pecos River and Rio Grande compacts between New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.

Resolutions to the problems of water supply through equitable allocation are critical to the sustainability of our communities throughout the country [ (Program Area: Water Policy and Economics, 2011) ]. There is no real grasp of how much or how little water is available. And, by nature, the numbers would keep changing at any rate, contingent on dry or wet years. This is why most states have water rights policies established. The administrative principles of the these water rights vary from state to state, but essentially determine who has the right, and to how much, in times of shortages [ (Program Area: Water Policy and Economics, 2011) ]. Programs Facts

The federal government protects wetlands through regulations (like Section 404 of the Clean Water Act), economic incentives and disincentives like tax deductions for selling or donating wetlands to a qualified organization and the "Swamp buster" provisions of the Food Security Act, cooperative programs, and acquisition like establishing national wildlife refuges [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. Beyond the federal level, a number of states have enacted laws to regulate activities in wetlands, and some counties and towns have adopted local wetlands protection ordinances or have changed the way development is permitted. Most coastal states have significantly reduced losses of coastal wetlands through protective laws. Few states, however, have laws specifically regulating activities in inland wetlands, although some states and local governments have non-regulatory programs that help protect wetlands [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ].

While regulation, economic incentives, and acquisition programs are important, they alone cannot protect the majority of our remaining wetlands. Education of the public and efforts in conjunction with states, local governments, and private citizens are helping to protect wetlands and to increase appreciation of the functions and values of wetlands. The rate of wetlands loss has been slowing, but there still a lot of work to do [ (The United States Environmental Protection Agency) ]. Clean drinking water is needed in order to live. But freshwater ecosystems provide much more. They water our crops, give us fish to eat, light our homes and bring us joy.

But humans are destroying the ability of rivers and lakes to support people, plants and animals. Scientists predict that by 2025 more than two-thirds of the world’s population could face water shortages. In order to change this, is necessary to balance across our many needs better and preserve nature’s ability to provide for future generations [ (The Nature Conservancy, 2011) ]. References Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC). (2011). Retrieved November 5, 2011, from http://www. health. state. mn. us/? divs/? eh/? risk/? guidance/? dwec/? index. html The Department of Ecology. (n. d. ). Retrieved November 5, 2011, from http://www. ecy. wa. gov/? programs/? wq/? wqhome. tml The Department of Environmental Conservation. (2011). Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://www. dec. ny. gov/? lands/? 4937. html National Wild and Scenic Rivers. (2007). Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://www. rivers. gov The Nature Conservancy. (2011). Retrieved October 22, 2011, from http://www. nature. org/? ourinitiatives/? habitats/? index. htm Program Area: Water Policy and Economics. (2011). Retrieved December 4, 2011, from http://srwqis. tamu. edu/? program-information/? focus-areas/? water-policy-and-economics The United States Environmental Protection Agency. (n. d. ). Retrieved November 4, 2011, from http://www. epa. gov/? aboutepa/? history/