As part of the Forest Service’s renewed emphasis on water quality and availability, the agency is developing a comprehensive policy to manage groundwater resources on national forests and grasslands. Greer spring is found on the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Carlson)
In recent years, we’ve seen growing concerns about the availability and quality of water across the country. Drought, climate change, land use changes, and needs for additional water highlight these concerns. Stewardship of water resources is one of this country’s most important natural resource issues. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons national forests and grasslands were created.
As part of our renewed emphasis on water, we are developing a comprehensive policy to monitor, assess, evaluate and measure groundwater resources on national forests and grasslands. We began seeking public comments on May 6 asking your thoughts on a plan to strengthen our ability to protect water resources and support healthy and resilient ecosystems on Forest Service-managed lands. We extended the comment period to Oct. 3. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.
USDA has a long history of investment in water quality and quantity issues. Still, Toledo, Ohio Mayor Michael Collins issued an emergency water advisory leaving about 500,000 people without clean tap water to drink or cook with from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4. The reason for the advisory: toxins produced by algae in Lake Erie got into the city’s water supply. Residents were forced to rely on bottled and trucked-in water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. The Lake Erie algae bloom incident shows we all have a lot more work to do to ensure adequate water supplies for now and into the future.
In response to the algae bloom incident, USDA leadership, represented by Terry Cosby, NRCS state conservationist, joined Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur, this week to immediately announce $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Read more »
Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.
Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry. On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed. In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well. The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.
“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?” Read more »
This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.
About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind. Read more »
NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.
Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.
Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.
The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »
Terry Dabbs gives Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Nancy Stoner, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Water (right), a tour of his farm. (NRCS photo by Reginald L. Jackson)
I recently toured several farms near Stuttgart, Ark. with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner, state officials and conservationists. We met farmers working to clean and conserve water using conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The tour provided me and my colleagues from Washington, D.C. and almost a dozen states an opportunity to see firsthand how voluntary, incentive-conservation practices are helping Arkansas farmers maintain productivity while protecting wildlife habitat and improving water quality and water use efficiency.
On Terry Dabbs’ Discovery Farm, we heard how the combination of conservation practices results in better water quality. As Dabbs said, if he is contributing to poor water quality downstream and in the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, he wants to know about it and fix it. Read more »