Water Conservation

Can we regulate small and rural water supply and sanitation operators in Latin America?

The recent reforms in the water supply and sanitation (WSS) legal framework in Peru has given the National Superintendence of Water Supply and Sanitation Services of Peru (SUNASS) a new role in the regulation and supervision of service providers in small towns and rural communities, expanding its regulatory action beyond the urban area scope. Therefore, SUNASS needs to develop a regulatory framework and tools to effectively supervise around 28,000 small and rural operators, which provide service to 21% of the Peruvian population.
 

Delegates from SUNASS, with the support of the World Bank, visited different WSS sector entities in Colombia.

To achieve this goal, SUNASS, with the support of the World Bank, visited different WSS sector entities in Colombia which are responsible for the regulation, supervision and issuing policies regarding rural service provision. The objective of this South-South knowledge exchange was to gain valuable information from the Colombian counterparts about the challenges, lessons learned, and useful mechanisms for a successful reform process. 

The visit was focused on finding answers to the following questions: How can we regulate operators which we had no experience in dealing with previously? How can we collect data from these operators, and — even more importantly — what information do we really need to collect? What rates should be charged for the rural service provision and how do we calculate them?
 

Visit to a small water treatment plant of Empocaldas
located in rural area of Manizales

After an intense week of site visits and discussions, some answers started to emerge. Meetings with the Superintendent of Public Services, the Commission of WSS Regulation, the Ministry of Housing, Cities and Territories and a field visit to Empocaldas, a regional WSS operator located in Manizales (Colombia’s coffee region) gave the team a deep insight of the Colombia’s reform process –what has worked and what not- and the time needed for the implementation of such reforms. The team gathered relevant knowledge about business principles behind the operations of the Colombian WSS service delivery model, the importance of applying differentiated approaches and schemes for diverse locations and social contexts, the use of corporate governance and behaviour economics mechanisms, and the focus on coordination at all government levels. 

For instance, a better understanding of the methodology to estimate WSS tariffs for rural areas, the terms for rural providers to progressively reach service standards, the tool to formulate investment projects for rural areas and differentiated schemes, as well as the Integrated Information System that establishes differentiated monitoring for each population segment, were some of the key takeaways that the SUNASS team brought back to Peru. 

Many Latin American countries still face the big challenge of regulating the rural WSS sector. Throughout the last 20 years, Colombia, with its heavily decentralized structure of the WSS sector and its unique approach to involve the private sector, has been adjusting, on a trial and error basis, its policies and tools to improve the regulation and supervision of more than 1,300 service providers. Although not perfect to any standards, the experience gained Colombia is an extraordinary source of knowledge for many countries.   

Following the discussions that took place in the south-south exchange with Colombia during the visit  came apparent that it is possible to regulate small and rural WSS operators. However, as a recent World Bank report “Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Services” shows, countries need to be careful to not over emphasize “best practices” as there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions. Therefore, Peru should follow its own pathway, reinforcing endogenous drivers for reform and working on the design of programs that are rooted into local, political and administrative realities and capabilities.

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Put Local on Your Tray Sign Ups for 2018-2019

put local on your tray image with apple for connecticut farm to school programVERNON, CT, (June 13, 2018) – UConn Extension and the Connecticut State Department of Education is currently inviting school food service professionals across the state to sign up for the Put Local on Your Tray Program in the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Schools and districts that sign up will get help increasing fresh, locally grown products in their cafeterias. Sign ups will be open until the new school year starts in September.

According to USDA’s 2014 Farm to School Census, over 70% of schools in CT are offering farm to school programming, which might include hands-on activities in school gardens, cooking classes after school, and/or serving local food in the cafeteria. CSDE and UConn Extension are now partnering to increase school commitments to more purchases from local farms. Districts who sign up for the Tray Program will pledge to feature local ingredients at least twice per season(s) of their choice. Schools choose the Farm to School promotional activities that fit their needs. For example, activities might include: hosting a special taste test in the cafeteria (e.g. kale chips), marketing the products they regularly get from local growers (such as milk), using a holiday or celebration day on the calendar to feature local produce (e.g. new varieties of apples promoted during CT Grown for CT Kids Week), or integrating a recipe into their regular menu that relies on local ingredients for several months (e.g. winter root slaw).

Last year, there were a total of thirty four districts who took the pledge. The program is in its second year and continues to learn, grow, and adapt as Farm to School grows. We hope to see an increase this year, with a goal of fifty school districts. Yolanda Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition for Hartford Public Schools and contributor for the Program’s suite of tools, thinks districts need to define ‘local’ for themselves. She states, “Our definition of local includes what is grown and processed within 250 miles of Hartford, and/or purchasing food from small businesses to support Hartford businesses and further job creation for Hartford residents.” Districts who sign up and take the pledge are encouraged to define the criteria for local products based on what is possible and meaningful to their community.

Food Service Director for Avon, Canton, and Regional School District #10, Maggie Dreher, says, “I believe we should provide our students with the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible. An apple is not just an apple, but a story – a potential place to connect to the community.” The Program welcomes those who are not a part of school food service to tell that story with Put Local on Your Tray communication materials, when educating children about local food. There is a materials request sheet available online, for interested school community members (teachers, parents, volunteers, etc.) to ask for any hard copies of our posters, bookmarks, stickers, etc. at http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu.

Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage them to sign up and be recognized and promoted as a Tray district! Many schools already supply local products, without necessarily promoting it as such (in items like milk, or certain produce from their distributors). Put them in touch with Put Local on Your Tray for credit to be paid where it’s due!

For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 203-824-7175. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

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China’s experience in tackling water scarcity through sustainable agricultural water management

Water scarcity is a pervasive problem across much of China. By the numbers, per capita water resources stand at only 2,100 cubic meters, which is one-fourth of the global average. Population growth, agricultural demands, and the adverse impacts of climate change further compound the challenge.
 
As China moves to secure water for all and provide a foundation for continued sustainable social, economic, and environmental development, there are many important lessons that have global relevance and application. 


Improving sustainable agricultural water management is a key country-wide water challenge; Irrigated agriculture is the main user of water resources (60%), followed by industry and domestic consumption. In the water scarce provinces, this percentage can go up to 90%. The problem is further exacerbated through conflicts between upstream and downstream users of China´s large rivers – upstream, farmers increase their use, while downstream users essentially have less water left for themselves.  Irrigated agriculture is a key contributor to rural employment and livelihoods for less than 30% of the country’s population (2014) and hence a matter of high political priority. According to World Bank data, the agriculture sector account for 8.6 percentage of the China GDP in 2016. The Government of China was therefore looking for real results in water conservation, in addition to increasing efficiency of use.  Experience shows that increasing efficiency alone does not reduce the overall water consumption as farmers may increase their production. 
 
The Water Conservation Project II supported by the World Bank tackled these water scarcity issues head-on through a series of interlinked operations in the Chinese provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, and Ningxia – three of the most water-scarce provinces in the Northern region of the country. To reduce net water consumption, the project sought to reduce water withdrawal for irrigated agriculture in Ningxia and Shanxi Provinces, and groundwater overdraft in Hebei Province.  In addition, the project also provided incentives to farmers to lower the agricultural production costs and increase the agricultural yield and value in all three of those provinces.
 
How did the Water Conservation Project II successfully reduce net water consumption?
 
First, the project’s integrated approach contributed to its success.  In particular, the project blended supply-side measures and demand management interventions, such as combining investments in engineering works, agricultural investments in land husbandry, agronomic measures, and improved irrigation technology and management. Additional approaches included the following:

  • Water-saving infrastructure
  • Technological improvements
  • Volumetric water pricing
  • Participatory agricultural water planning and self-management
  • Consumption-based water allocation and management
Farmers like Wang Weirong received an IC card to get water from the irrigation water management system.
“It is very easy. You just need to swipe the card and water will come to your field,” he says. Watch his story

Second, the Water Conservation Project was built on the experiences and lessons from its successful predecessor – the Water Conservation Project 1 (2000-2006). In order to precisely determine water use, the project introduced and mainstreamed in the design, the innovative concept of value added per unit of evapotranspiration (ET, or the process of transferring moisture from the earth into the atmosphere). The project was able to reduce non-beneficial ET to achieve ‘real water savings’. In addition, the project focused on taking integrated measures such as tailoring cropping patterns for higher water productivity and changing farmers’ behavior to reduce water consumption. The project provided financial and technical support to farm communities, leading to substantial increases in farm yield and output value with lower water consumption.
 
Third, the project invested in empowering local communities, building cooperative water user groups, and institutional strengthening through the establishment of new Water User Associations (WUAs) and the strengthening of existing ones. In project areas, self-managed WUAs were given responsibility to operate and maintain parts of or entire the irrigation system. WUAs were given the mandate to collect volumetric water charges and participate in water use planning and management.
 
Fourth, the project focused on farmer empowerment and incentives for farmers to change water use and water management behavior. The WUAs also organized the farmers around the management of the irrigation systems, water conservation, and water-saving measures, as well as tools and approaches to increase their productivity. The involvement of farmers in preparation, management, and maintenance of agricultural water-saving irrigation projects had a direct impact on the functionality and sustainability of the measures taken, as well as on the acceptance of new ideas and concepts by the farmer communities – such as switching to less water-intensive and higher-value crops.
 
Water Conservation Project II results in raised incomes and reduced water consumption
 
The Water Conservation Project II resulted in increases in farmer incomes while reducing water consumption and conserving the environment. The increase in agricultural water productivity also enhanced the climate resilience of the farming communities. Additional project results in the project areas speak for themselves: 

  • Crop yields increased significantly against 2011 baseline figures in all cases.
  • Water withdrawal in Ningxia was reduced by 22.67 million cubic meters (MCM) per year
  • Groundwater overdraft in Hebei was reduced by 16.52 MCM per year
  • Groundwater withdrawal in Shanxi was reduced by 5.80 MCM per year
  • New or improved irrigation and drainage services reached 594,200 beneficiaries, of whom 287,300 (48 percent) are women
  • Altogether, 290 WUAs in the three provinces have been created or strengthened by the project, comprising over 800 staff and more than 760,000 members (around half are woman).
  • Agricultural water productivity in project areas increased from 1.0 to 1.40 kg/m3 (of ET). 

By improving the sustainable use of finite water resources, this project helped to support greener growth and bolster more inclusive economic development. The project contributed to implementation of China’s national agriculture development and water resources management strategies and policies. It is also satisfying to see that the innovative approaches to water management introduced by the project are now being adopted on a broader scale in China and help shape other World Bank-supported projects in other parts of the world.

Related: 
Feature Story: Empowering Farmers And Implementing Modern Irrigation Helps China Reduce Water Consumption

 

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Inspection Video Promotes Clean Water, Healthy Farms

by Tom Damm

Spoiler alert!  Everyone wins.

A new video is benefiting farmers and regulators alike by taking the mystery out of farm inspections.

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association collaborated with EPA employees to produce a video that demonstrates what poultry and egg farms can expect when EPA or state inspectors come a-knocking.

The 14-minute video, featuring Mark Zolandz (inspector) and Kelly Shenk (ag advisor) from EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, helps further the goal of clean rivers and streams, well-managed farms and a robust agricultural industry.

Entitled “Why EPA and States Inspect Farms,” the video promotes a better understanding of the connection between agriculture and clean water.  It includes insights into the inspection process and provides information on assistance available to poultry and egg producers to address water quality issues.

The educational video, filmed on location at a turkey farm in Rockingham County, Virginia, outlines possible reasons why a farm may be inspected, how the farmers should prepare for the inspection, and how the inspection will likely be structured.

Runoff from farms is a significant source of pollution in rivers and streams. EPA and the states perform inspections to monitor compliance with regulations to protect water quality.  They also provide funding and technical assistance to help farmers adopt best management practices to control pollution.

You can check out more on the making of the video at this link.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division

 

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Inspection Video Promotes Clean Water, Healthy Farms

by Tom Damm

Spoiler alert!  Everyone wins.

A new video is benefiting farmers and regulators alike by taking the mystery out of farm inspections.

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association collaborated with EPA employees to produce a video that demonstrates what poultry and egg farms can expect when EPA or state inspectors come a-knocking.

The 14-minute video, featuring Mark Zolandz (inspector) and Kelly Shenk (ag advisor) from EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, helps further the goal of clean rivers and streams, well-managed farms and a robust agricultural industry.

Entitled “Why EPA and States Inspect Farms,” the video promotes a better understanding of the connection between agriculture and clean water.  It includes insights into the inspection process and provides information on assistance available to poultry and egg producers to address water quality issues.

The educational video, filmed on location at a turkey farm in Rockingham County, Virginia, outlines possible reasons why a farm may be inspected, how the farmers should prepare for the inspection, and how the inspection will likely be structured.

Runoff from farms is a significant source of pollution in rivers and streams. EPA and the states perform inspections to monitor compliance with regulations to protect water quality.  They also provide funding and technical assistance to help farmers adopt best management practices to control pollution.

You can check out more on the making of the video at this link.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division

 

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Strengthening policy innovation for water use in agriculture

Experts from high-income countries and client countries came together last week during a joint World Bank-OECD workshop to discuss the shared goal of improving policy design and implementation for water use in agriculture. Although efficient use of water is becoming a central aim of agricultural practices, much work is yet to be done to meet steep water demands and curtail pollution from agricultural production.

Facilitating Policy Change Towards Sustainable Water Use in Agriculture brought together staff from the World Bank staff and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but also representatives from the European Commission, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), various government agencies and offices of World Bank supported projects. The workshop panels and discussions focused on better understanding policy options to tackle complex challenges facing the water and agriculture space.

Guangzhe Chen, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, outlined the key challenges facing the water and agriculture interface in his opening remarks: decreasing per capita water availability, increasing water pollution due to current methods of agriculture production, and increasing variability of water supplies due to climate change. “These challenges will continue and intensify unless additional meaningful action is taken worldwide, including improving agriculture and water policies. This is a core theme underlying this workshop,” said Chen.

Chen also asserted that agriculture water quality and quantity challenges are increasingly important in both developing and developed countries. He continued by emphasizing that conversations around water use in agriculture need to extend beyond technology and management. 

As such, the workshop aimed to develop recommendations on how to achieve positive policy change – in order to achieve more sustainable use and management of water in the agricultural sector. The workshop covered a rare mix of research results alongside practical experiences. Given the difficulty of designing, developing, and implementing effective policy reform, the sessions and discussions focused on cross-pollinating ideas to come up with shared recommendations.

“This workshop comes from the observation that policy changes in the area are not always easy to implement, to put together, and to introduce – and the question is, why is that?” said Guillaume Gruère, Senior Policy Analyst for the Trade and Agriculture Directorate of the OECD. He continued by explaining that there are a lot of options you can investigate if you look at issues from the outside. There is the question of water allocation – who are the priority users? There is the public good dimension – how can we change policies that don’t seem to work? And there are regulation issues across the board.

“Discussion and dialogue are really bringing something out that I can’t get when I read papers in my little office in Paris. And that is what is interesting, these collective action efforts, to discuss their perspective and change – that is how we can make sense about what to do,” said Gruère.

In line with this, the workshop focused on policy measures that have proven challenging to design, adopt and implement. Each session included presentations followed by a moderated discussion. The sessions focused on the following themes:

  • Session 1: Core drivers to changing agricultural and water policies
  • Session 2: Effective water conservation under scarcity
  • Session 3: Regulation of groundwater irrigation in areas facing depletion
  • Session 4: Pathways to reduce water-harmful subsidies in agriculture
  • Session 5: Water charges in agriculture
  • Session 6: Regulations for nonpoint source pollution 

Susanne Scheierling, Senior Irrigation Water Economist in the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, welcomed the participants. “We are very happy that the presenters at the workshop will discuss various experiences – from high-income countries but also low-income countries…and they will present a variety of views,” Scheierling said before the sessions started.

The following presentations ranged from diving into New Zealand’s experience with mitigating nonpoint source pollution to reviewing how Jordan dealt with over-pumping groundwater. The speakers discussed how to better integrate the sustainable use and management of water in agricultural and water policies. This includes measures to optimize water harvesting, water and soil conservation, ground water management, and water allocation systems – in addition to watershed-scale approaches that recognize the multiple uses of water and integrate good farming practices with effective land-use planning.

At the end of the workshop, Jennifer Sara, Director for the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice, focused on how the presentations and discussions can facilitate World Bank Group operations. “Everything that is being discussed today is directly operationally relevant to the work we are doing across the world,” said Sara, emphasizing the importance of knowledge exchange.  
Overall, the workshop strived to identify pathways to address water resource challenges for the agriculture sector. All participants demonstrated a commitment to approaches that improve the sustainability of water use in agricultural production, while also ensuring food security. To ensure a water-secure world for all, it is imperative to ensure that water is protected, used, and managed sustainably in the agricultural space.

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Testing Ticks is Vital to Safety

ticks being tested for Lyme disease at UConn lab
Photo: Heather Haycock

The warmer weather has people and our animals headed outdoors. Unfortunately, this same weather has also brought ticks out in abundance. Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have cited increased numbers of ticks, and tick-borne diseases. UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontlines of research and tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.

Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.

In the Northeast, we see the Deer tick, the Dog tick (Dermacentor variablis), Brown Dog tick (Rhiphcephalus sanguineus) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum). Each of these can be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.

CVMDL has been busy testing ticks this spring. We received 33 ticks for testing in April. Of these specimens, 25 of them were received in the last two weeks of the month. Two of the ticks were found on dogs. Overaal, the results showed that the Lyme disease agent was detected in 8 specimens, B. burgdorferi and Babesia microti (Babesiosis) were detected in one specimen whereas 4 ticks were positive for both B. burgdorferiand Anaplasma phagocytophilum(Anaplasmosis).

UConn researchers are not just testing for diseases transmitted by ticks. Researchers at PVS are also working to develop vaccines and preventative control measures to combat tick-borne illnesses.

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.

Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl@uconn.edu or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.

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Laura Brown Recognized for Trail Census Work

Laura Brown receiving award for CT Trail Census work
Laura Brown receives her award from Bruce Donald of the CT Greenways Council.

The Governor’s Greenways Council on Friday commended eight individuals, and a volunteer committee of the Last Green Valley, that have made significant contributions to the promotion, development and enhancement of Greenways – linear open space in Connecticut – and designated three new State greenways at a ceremony at the Nathan Lester House, in Ledyard.

Laura E. Brown, MS, CEcD, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut – Department of Extension, Fairfield County Extension Center – received the CT Greenways Council’s Education Award for development of the CT Trail Census (https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/ )
“Our State Designated Greenways provide great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, whether you want to commute to work, exercise or shop using a bicycle, or simply go for a walk on a beautiful day,” said. Susan Whalen, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). “Greenways and trails provide opportunities to local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the fresh air, while helping to boost the economy throughout Connecticut by visiting local restaurants and shops along the way.”
Bruce Donald, Chair of the CT Greenways Council, and Tri-State Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance stated: “Trails reinvigorate our souls. They strengthen our bodies. They build our communities in myriad ways we didn’t comprehend even ten years ago. They are a part of the fabric of Connecticut.”
Greenways in Connecticut cover thousands of acres throughout every county in the state and may include paved or unpaved trail systems, ridgelines, or linked parcels of open space. Many communities around Connecticut have chosen, through greenway designation, to also recognize the importance of river corridors for natural resource protection, recreational opportunities, and scenic values. The CT Greenways Council website contains details on how to get designations, assistance and a map of our State Greenways.  www.ct.gov/deep/greenways

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Laura Brown Recognized for Trail Census Work

Laura Brown receiving award for CT Trail Census work
Laura Brown receives her award from Bruce Donald of the CT Greenways Council.

The Governor’s Greenways Council on Friday commended eight individuals, and a volunteer committee of the Last Green Valley, that have made significant contributions to the promotion, development and enhancement of Greenways – linear open space in Connecticut – and designated three new State greenways at a ceremony at the Nathan Lester House, in Ledyard.

Laura E. Brown, MS, CEcD, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut – Department of Extension, Fairfield County Extension Center – received the CT Greenways Council’s Education Award for development of the CT Trail Census (https://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu/ )
“Our State Designated Greenways provide great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, whether you want to commute to work, exercise or shop using a bicycle, or simply go for a walk on a beautiful day,” said. Susan Whalen, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP). “Greenways and trails provide opportunities to local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the fresh air, while helping to boost the economy throughout Connecticut by visiting local restaurants and shops along the way.”
Bruce Donald, Chair of the CT Greenways Council, and Tri-State Coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance stated: “Trails reinvigorate our souls. They strengthen our bodies. They build our communities in myriad ways we didn’t comprehend even ten years ago. They are a part of the fabric of Connecticut.”
Greenways in Connecticut cover thousands of acres throughout every county in the state and may include paved or unpaved trail systems, ridgelines, or linked parcels of open space. Many communities around Connecticut have chosen, through greenway designation, to also recognize the importance of river corridors for natural resource protection, recreational opportunities, and scenic values. The CT Greenways Council website contains details on how to get designations, assistance and a map of our State Greenways.  www.ct.gov/deep/greenways

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Is Texas Water Really Protected?

architecture-buildings-city-45182.jpg

Texas industries are regularly in violation of environmental laws. They dump human waste and chemicals into its water bodies. Unfortunately, without facing consequences. Environment Texas, in a recent report, shows that over half of the Industrial facilities from Texas are in violation of their wastewater permits.

Along with human waste, the facilities dump grease, oil, and a number of miscellaneous chemicals into state rivers and bays. This evaluation of water affairs doubts the effort by Texas Commision on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to protect Texan waters. The report underscores the fact that TCEQ is lax and its efforts are insufficient.  

In their report, Environment Texas states that 132 of the 269 Industrial facilities from Texas violate their wastewater permits. One of them is the Ineos plant which creates polymers for pharmaceuticals and pipes. Researchers pointed out that the violation count is 938 across 21 months between 2016-17. This makes Texas a state with the highest number of violations in the USA.

 

In about 300 of these violations, refineries, chemical companies, and wastewater treatment plants dumped waste into rivers, bays, and lakes which were previously classified as ‘impaired’ by the EPA.  An example of this is the Neches River. Even after the EPA classified it as ‘impaired’, it is one of the common sites for toxic waste and pollutants to be released. Today, the Neches is one of the dirtiest in the country. This further delays the water’s recovery process and harms aquatic life.

 

Luke Metzger, the executive director of Environment Texas says that TCEQ is lax and thus, facilities are not forced to comply with these permits.

The Ineos USA facility holds a repeated violation (8 times) of dumping wastewater into the Chocolate Bayou between Jan. 2016 and Sept. 2017. Their wastewater release contained a large proportion of the E. Coli bacteria which points toward fecal matter dumping. The facility has failed to comply with the Clean Water Act for 12 months over 3 years. In spite of the obvious violations, TCEQ did not issue fines.

In February 2018, the Observer reported an investigation on the biased level of enforcement by the TCEQ. According to the report, there is a disparity between how TCEQ penalizes large corporate polluters and small businesses. Large corporate polluters (refineries & petrochemical plants) are rarely penalized for air contamination and illegal pollutant release even though they have the resources to pay, make amends, and fight back. Whereas, small gas stations were fined thousands of dollars for relatively simpler violations such as recordkeeping. Environment Texas, in a recent report, highlights this partiality where corporate giants easily get away with water pollution and small businesses are financially choked.

TCEQ’s spokesperson, Andrea Morrow, says that they routinely monitor the data which companies submit for violations. The companies also report permit exceedances which they check. She says that the TCEQ penalizes and has the authority to enforce corrective measures to improve compliance when violations are grave and warrant formal action.

The report clearly hints lax enforcement by the TCEQ. It highlights poor accountability for repeat violators (the corporate offenders). Because legal and procedural affairs take time (months to years), it is uncertain if TCEQ will penalize violators with a fine in some cases. Metzger believes that it is unlikely that these facilities would face consequences due to TCEQ’s lax track record.

In 1972, the Clean Water Act became a federal law after the Cuyahoga River (Ohio) caught fire. This seminal law created a nation-wide vision of a country with zero pollutant discharge in waterways over the next 13 years. Unfortunately, and at a high cost, this vision is far from being realized.

Regions hosting heavy industrial activities had more polluters than the industrially less dense regions. About 600 of the 938 violation cases involved facilities from Harris, Jefferson, and Nueces counties where the state’s largest industrial operations are run.

Without giving any undue justification, Texas does have a high number of facilities which in turn create the opportunity for pollution. Although this increases the likelihood of pollution, it does not warrant repeated violation of permits. Texas, today, has the highest pollution rank.

As per the report, federal enforcement has decreased under Trump’s administration. Fines have lowered and the EPA is pursuing fewer cases. The monetary value of fines was 60% lesser in the first 6 months of Trump’s administration as compared to Obama’s, or Bush’s, or Clinton’s.

To compound these issues, the current administration has proposed a reduction in EPA’s civil enforcement budget. The budget is likely to drop by $30.4 million for the year 2019. The auxiliary federal budget which funds grants that assist states in fighting water pollution will drop by 20% in 2018 and 2019.

Interested in learning more about wastewater treatment options that can help alleviate many of these problems? Contact us today. 

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