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National Association Of Clean Water Agencies Urges Different Approach To Reducing Nutrient Pollution


News Release

For Immediate Release:  March 6, 2012

Contact:  Pat Sinicropi
Director of Legislative Affairs, NACWA
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Washington, D.C.—In a report released March 6, 2012, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) suggests that to improve water quality and tackle the problem of excessive nutrient pollution in our waters, the Nation needs to look toward the agricultural sector for more affordable approaches to this issue. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) are significant sources of impairment of rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, and coastal waters of the United States. These impairments are leading to unhealthy aquatic ecosystems, a reduction in water-based recreation and property values, compromised drinking water quality, and the loss of commercial fisheries and shellfisheries.

According to the full report, Controlling Nutrient Loadings to U.S. Waterways: An Urban Perspective icon-pdf, the nation has not paid sufficient attention to agricultural sources of nutrients, especially compared to the Nation’s direct regulatory focus on reducing nutrients from municipal point sources.

“Our Nation cannot achieve its water quality goals unless our working lands also contribute to the solution,” said Ken Kirk, Executive Director, NACWA. “As a representative of municipal wastewater community, I know we must do our part; but so too must the agricultural community.”

According to the report, it is far more economical to control agricultural runoff compared to additional reductions from urban point sources. The cost to remove a pound of nitrogen or phosphorus from farm runoff and drainage is typically 4 to 5—and sometimes up to 10 to 20—times less than the cost to remove the same amount from municipal wastewater or stormwater.

In addition, agricultural sources can cause 3 to 4 times more impairment than municipal sources. Yet households and businesses have spent orders of magnitude more of their own money to reduce nutrient loadings from municipal sources than have farmers and ranchers.

A common-sense approach would be for municipal sources to pay for the majority of loadings reductions in watersheds in which they represent the majority of loadings, and agricultural sources should pay for the majority of loadings reductions in watersheds in which they represent the majority of loadings.

According to EPA, approximately 40% of all U.S. households are already paying more of their income for wastewater management services than recommended as affordable. Increasing rates further to pay for upgrades in municipal sources that are providing diminishing returns on investment will create an additional burden on U.S. households.

As a result, it is well worth requiring the agricultural community to undertake its share of nutrient controls. Reducing nutrient loadings to U.S. surface waters will trigger a series of ecological and water quality improvements in rivers, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters.

The report was produced with support from the Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, Virginia, and the Turner Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia.



NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.

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