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Water in the News

August 29, 2014

Watershed Zoning Code Pleases Water Authorities, Irks Some Landowners

This week the Pulaski County Quorum Court voted unanimously to adopt amendments to a zoning ordinance for the Lake Maumelle Watershed, but challenges still remain for those affected by the ordinance.  A task force of property owners, stakeholders and conservation groups had met over a course of several months to draft recommended changes for the ordinance.  Among the key challenges they faced: balancing the need to ensure Lake Maumelle’s clean water supply for 400,000 Central Arkansans with the desires of property owners in the area.

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‘Game-Changing’ Initiative Could Drastically Cut Water Usage For Farming

Delta Plastics and a consortium of agricultural interests in Arkansas have launched a new water conservation software initiative that leaders say could reduce water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020. “This initiative is the most important conservation effort we have ever launched,” said Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics Chairman.  “‘Preserving our farmland’ has been our company slogan for nearly 20 years.  But conservation and sustainability is so much more than a slogan for us. It is a principle that has driven every major operational decision that we have made.”

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Dead zones: Devil in the deep blue sea
OnEarth via LiveScience

A stretch of the Gulf of Mexico spanning more than 5,000 square miles along the Louisiana coast is nearly devoid of marine life this summer, according to a study from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Caused largely by nutrient runoff from farm fertilizer, this oxygen-deprived “dead zone” is approximately the size of Connecticut. Although slightly smaller than last summer’s edition, the Gulf dead zone is still touted by some as the largest in the United States and costs $82 million annually in diminished tourism and fishing yield.

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New program supports conservation efforts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program drew an overwhelming response from partners across the nation. Of the almost 600 preproposals submitted in July, about 230 have been invited to continue the process by submitting full proposals by Oct. 2.

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Congressional reps oppose new EPA water rule
Sedalia Democrat

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler spoke out at a press conference on Aug. 14 at the Missouri State Fair against the “Waters of the United States” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Many agricultural organizations are opposed to the rule, citing unclear language that could allow federal control of every small tributary in the country including small irrigation ditches that run across farmland. They are calling the measure a “land grab” that dictates how farmers run their farms.

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2014 ANRC NPS Stakeholder and Project Review Meetings

August 26, 2014

September 17 and 18

NPS Invite

Registration now open HERE

2014 Nonpoint Source
Pollution Stakeholder and
Project Review Meeting

Successes, Species and

Please join us for this two day event to hear from
successful water quality improvement efforts, to connect
with other watershed stakeholders, and to learn about
nonpoint source pollution issues facing Arkansas.

SEPTEMBER 17 -18, 2014
From 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.
Registration opens at 8 a.m.


Water in the News

August 19, 2014

Can utilities make friends with conservation?
Water Online

The downside of water conservation is that it hurts water utilities, which are already struggling to stay afloat. “The need for more reliable revenue is more important than ever, as water service providers contend with prolonged droughts and aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, this need for revenue can make conservation the unwanted stepchild of water utilities,” according to an editorial published by National Geographic. Does it have to be that way? Maybe not.

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Keeping nutrients in the field and out of tile lines
Dairy Herd Management

By definition, drainage water management is the practice of managing water discharged from subsurface agricultural systems via a water control structure at the end of a conventional drainage system. It functions as an in-line dam, allowing the outlet to be artificially set at levels ranging from the soil surface to the bottom of the drain. These structures create a variety of options for producers and can artificially raise the water table in a field when water is scarce and are used before liquid manure applications are made, reducing the risk of manure entering surface water through tile lines.

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‘USDA-approved’ conservation innovation
The Huffington Post

Paying farmers to store carbon in untilled prairie. Stimulating demand for wooden “plyscrapers.” Creating markets for nutrient and temperature credits. This is not your grandparents’ Department of Agriculture. At a White House meeting and industry conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is promoting innovative opportunities for private investment in rural America. The White House Rural Council’s Rural Opportunity Investing conference is an attempt to attract investors to investment opportunities in biofuels, wastewater, sustainable timber and local and regional food systems.

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Center pivot does not always mean efficiency
AgriLife Today

Identifying, but more importantly, gaining adoption of the most efficient irrigation systems is an important step in water conservation within agriculture, according to a recent study conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The study, in partnership with the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, determined that producers who were not using low energy precision application, or LEPA, sprinkler systems were leaving as much as $100 per acre behind.

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‘Settling the waters’ may be tool for addressing water conservation, runoff issues in Delta
Delta Farm Press

Could a material called polyacrylamide or PAM become one of the tools that could help Mississippi Delta growers address the issues of a declining Delta alluvial aquifer and nutrient runoff into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico? The Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are working to determine if it can. Those organizations and several farmers and companies are working with PAM to try to determine if the compound could address those issues and help improve crop yields.

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Water in the News

July 30, 2014

Replant flooded land to prevent erosion and keep soil health alive
Farm & Ranch Guide

Don’t wait to develop a restoration plan for land devastated by recent floods. Quick action can prevent erosion and maintain soil health, said Matt Fenske, vice president of Business Development for Millborn Seeds. “I know it’s an overwhelming mess today, but if nothing is done to repair and replant this summer, soil biology will disappear and there will be nothing to stop further erosion,” said Fenske. He goes on to explain that living plants are essential to soil health. “They maintain soil biology, prevent compaction, enhance water infiltration and keep weeds at bay.”

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Ag applauds bill to invalidate EPA waters rule

In a letter to U.S. Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wisconsin, and Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, the sponsors of the Agricultural Conservation Flexibility Act, the National Potato Council and dozens of agriculture groups applauded the legislation as a means to block EPA’s “Waters of the United States” interpretive rule, which expands federal jurisdiction over U.S. waters. The Interpretive Rule specifies that 56 activities, many of which are routine farming and ranching activities, would be exempt from the Clean Water Act permitting requirements only if they are conducted in compliance with the applicable USDA conservation standards.

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Ocean-watching satellite reveals secrets of soil

A satellite launched to study the salinity of the ocean is also proving helpful in understanding the land. NASA’s Aquarius instrument, which is aboard the Argentinian Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas, captured the data used to show soil moisture around the globe. The resulting soil moisture map is useful for researchers monitoring soil conditions for agriculture, as well as scientists trying to understand the global water cycle, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

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New, biodegradable hydrogel could help farmers store water for crops
Tri-City Herald

A new, biodegradable hydrogel being developed by Washington State University researchers could help farmers better use water during the growing season. When placed near the roots of crops, the hydrogel will absorb up to 250 times its own weight in water and then will slowly release the water, allowing thirsty roots to drink what otherwise would have been lost in the soil.

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House, Senate recognize locally focused conservation efforts
Farm Futures

As the National Association of Conservation Districts opens its Soil Health Forum and Conservation Tour in Indianapolis, national legislators in the House and Senate released two resolutions praising the potential of locally led, voluntary, incentive-based conservation. It’s a cause that will be more important than ever as agriculture attempts to feed nine billion people by 2050, said National Association of Conservation Districts President Earl Garber.

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Water in the News

July 10, 2014

Soil erosion and agriculture sustainability
Ag Journal

As Southeastern Colorado enters the third consecutive year of drought, the threat of soil erosion caused by wind is increased. Drought affects soil moisture, plant growth and the amount of crop residue left after harvesting. Although farmers and ranchers have adopted soil conservation practices over the years, wind erosion erosion remains one of the most serious problems impacting agricultural productivity and sustainability in this area.

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Reduce risk of fallow or flooded soil syndrome with cover crops
Minnesota Farm Guide

The challenging spring of 2014 has resulted in widespread planting delays in parts of the state and a significant amount of acres that remain unplanted at this time. If the decision has been made to take the “prevented planting” option for insurance purposes, the question remains about what to do with these acres. In other parts of the state, extensive flooding and/or severe hail has significantly damaged standing crops. In either case, leaving the ground bare greatly increases the risk of not only soil erosion, but also the risk of “Fallow Syndrome” the following year.

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Study analyzes agricultural stormwater system

After implementing an agricultural stormwater cascading system on his farm near Chestertown, Maryland, in 2011, new data shows that Samuel Owings’s self-constructed system is fulfilling its purpose to reduce agricultural runoff from flowing into the Hambleton Creek, Chester River and Chesapeake Bay. “The system is capturing the runoff and a lot of sedimentation,” Owings said.

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McCarthy says agencies didn’t anticipate regulatory role for USDA in Water Act rule
Bloomberg BNA

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t anticipate a regulatory role for the Agriculture Department in developing their interpretive rule to clarify Clean Water Act permitting exemptions associated with “normal” agricultural activities, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said July 8. However, she dismissed as “myths” that the interpretive rule would limit or narrow the scope of normal agricultural, ranching and silvicultural practices that have historically been exempt from dredge-and-fill permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

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Ohio farmer says ecology will solve water problems
The Lima News

A farmer in Mercer County, Ohio, is claiming to know both the cause and have the answer to clean water problems on local waterways. “The solution is easy,” Jeff Rasawehr said. “It comes down to individual accountability for each farmer.” Rasawehr’s 2,100-acre grain farm has been in the family for four generations. Rasawehr credits its rich soils to incorporated cover crops and interseeding of clover into grain crops. He has received a SARE grant to continue his work using cover crops to improve no-till methods and enhance soil nutrient absorption.

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Water in the News

June 26, 2014

Farming rules to cut algae
Mansfield News Journal

North central Ohio’s agricultural producers already must be licensed to apply pesticides on their fields. Soon they will have to be certified to put down fertilizers as well. The extra requirement, signed into law earlier this month by Gov. John Kasich, comes in response to the habitual greening of several of Ohio’s larger bodies of water. Lake Erie, Buckeye Lake and especially Grand Lake St. Marys, in western Ohio, have in recent years been beset with harmful algal blooms.

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How much are the world’s ecosystems worth?
The Atlantic

Back in 1997, ecologist Robert Constanza and a team of researchers set out to quantify a seemingly unquantifiable abundance: the value, in dollars, of the world’s ecosystems. But first they needed a good, concrete list of what exactly it was the ecosystems provide. They came up with 17 discrete categories, which they labeled “ecosystem services,” although some are technically goods.

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Pressure builds against EPA water proposal
California Farm Bureau Federation

Proposed changes to the federal Clean Water Act have roiled farmers across the nation and created an uproar among many other water users — including cities and counties with parks and recreation areas, golf courses and local water agencies. If adopted, the proposed rule changes would expand the definition of “waters of the United States” to potentially allow federal agencies to regulate virtually every area of ground in the nation that gets wet or has flow during rainfall.

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Dead zone: Average for Gulf, above for Chesapeake
USA Today

The Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” — a region of oxygen-depleted water off the Louisiana and Texas coasts that is harmful to sea life — is predicted to be about average when it develops this summer, scientists from two federal agencies reported. The size of a separate dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay — the nation’s largest estuary — should be a bit above average, according to the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Farm bill enables collaboration on conservation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a new farm bill effort that will expand partnerships and boost investments in clean water, soil and wildlife conservation projects. The concept behind the Regional Conservation Partnership Program is simple: To feed a growing global population in the face of climate change, we must ask a lot of our land and water resources.

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Congress looking to halt EPA ‘Water Rule’
Ohio’s Country Journal

The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry recently heard testimony from USDA Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie and several agriculture stakeholders on a proposed interpretive rule that accompanies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Waters of the U.S. proposed rule. The proposed rule would redefine the term “waters of the U.S.” to include intermittent and ephemeral streams and would significantly expand EPA’s jurisdiction. The interpretive proposed rule lists 56 agriculture conservation practices that would be exempt from the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule.

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EPA Webinars about Harmful Algal Blooms

June 17, 2014

June 18, 2014, 1:00 pm ET: Explaining and Reporting on Harmful Algal Blooms to the Public

Register for this webinar

EPA will host a webcast on explaining and reporting harmful algal blooms to the public. Cat Lazaroff from Resource Media and Kate Golden from Wisconsin Watch will discuss their roles in reporting stories about harmful algal blooms, and how organizations and the media can best convey and share these stories to the public in an accurate and clear manner. This webcast series is a part of a broader outreach effort that aims to focus public attention on harmful algal blooms, which are associated with nutrient pollution, and can sicken people and pets, devastate aquatic ecosystems, and be a detriment to the economy.


Cat Lazaroff serves as Managing Program Director for Resource Media. Cat has extensive experience supporting state, regional and national clean energy and climate policy initiatives. Cat previously served as the Policy Press Secretary at Earthjustice and Communications Director at Defenders of Wildlife. Cat also has worked as a science writer and environmental reporter. Cat holds a B.A. from Haverford College and a Masters in Journalism from NYU.

Kate Golden specializes in environmental stories and data visualizations, is co-director of the Center’s website,, and is handy in print, radio, video, photo and online media. She has presented panels on environmental reporting, data analysis and data visualizations for Investigative Reporters and Editors. Golden has degrees from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.