Iowa Public Television

 

Nonpoint source pollution targeted by EPA

posted on February 25, 2000


THE U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK THAT FARMERS IN CALIFORNIA'S WESTERN SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY WILL GET ONLY ABOUT HALF THE WATER THEY TYPICALLY RECEIVE.

THE WATER IS USUALLY DELIVERED BY THE BUREAU'S CENTRAL VALLEY PROJECT. BUT COURT MANDATES TO MAINTAIN STREAM FLOWS TO PROTECT ENDANGERED FISH HAVE SHRUNK THE AMOUNT OF WATER AVAILABLE FOR IRRIGATION ON ABOUT 3 MILLION ACRES.

WHILE THE QUESTION IN CALIFORNIA AT THE MOMENT IS WATER QUANTITY, IN MUCH OF THE REST OF RURAL AMERICA THE ISSUE IS WATER QUALITY. AND AT THE CORE OF THE CONTROVERSY IS AGRICULTURE.

ACCORDING TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, OR E-P-A, THERE ARE MORE THAN 20,000 U.S. LAKES, STREAMS AND RIVERS THAT FAIL TO MEET CURRENT WATER QUALITY STANDARDS, AS DEFINED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT OF 1972.

UNTIL RECENTLY, ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORITIES HAVE CONCENTRATED ON REGULATING DIRECT SOURCES, SUCH AS FACTORIES AND LANDFILLS. BUT LAST SUMMER, THE E-P-A SHIFTED ITS FOCUS TO NONPOINT SOURCES, INCLUDING RUN-OFF FROM FARM FIELDS.

THE E-P-A ALSO PROPOSED REQUIRING INDIVIDUAL STATES TO SUBMIT PLANS DETAILING HOW THE TROUBLED WATERS WOULD BE CLEANED.

WHILE INDIVIDUAL STATES HAVE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR IDENTIFYING AND CLEANING POLLUTED WATERS, THE E-P-A IS CRITICAL OF THE CURRENT VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE APPROACH.

THE AGENCY CLAIMS THE STATES HAVE ONLY APPROVED 1,000 OF THE 40,000 RUNOFF CONTROL PLANS THAT ARE NEEDED.

PRODDED BY THE AGRICULTURAL LOBBY, THE AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT IS RAISING CONCERNS WITH THE NEW PLAN.

SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE DAN GLICKMAN TOLD A SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE THIS WEEK THE E-P-A NEEDS TO CLARIFY THE RULES AND DETERMINE HOW MUCH THEY WILL COST FARMERS.

SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN RICHARD LUGAR OF INDIANA SAYS HE BELIEVES THE AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT WOULD BE THE MOST APPROPRIATE AGENCY TO ASSESS THE COST THE REGULATIONS WOULD PUT ON FARMERS.

NEVERTHELESS, E-P-A ADMINISTRATOR CAROL BROWNER CLAIMS HER AGENCY'S PROPOSAL IS A SENSIBLE WAY TO ENSURE CLEAN WATER FOR ALL AMERICANS.

WHILE THE FARM LOBBY COMBATS GREATER REGULATION FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, A HOST OF STATE LEGISLATURES ARE ATTEMPTING TO STRENGTHEN STATE WATER QUALITY LAWS. MANY OF THOSE EFFORTS CONFRONT AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES EMPLOYED IN BOTH CROP AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION.

THE LEGISLATURES ARE BEING PRODDED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, WHICH INSISTS ON A CERTAIN LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE BEFORE IT RELEASES FEDERAL DOLLARS TO STATES FOR PUBLIC WORKS. THE ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY ALSO IS PUSHING STATE GOVERNMENTS ON OTHER FRONTS.

FOR EXAMPLE, THIS WEEK THE OKLAHOMA CHAPTER OF THE SIERRA CLUB DENOUNCED THE THIRTY THOUSAND-DOLLAR FINE RECENTLY ASSESSED BY THE OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AGAINST SEABOARD FARMS AS "WOEFULLY INADEQUATE". THE SIERRA CLUB SAYS IT NOW PLANS TO FILE A FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST THE GIANT HOG PRODUCER, ACCUSING SEABOARD OF 12 SEPARATE VIOLATIONS OF THE FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT.

Tags: agriculture Energy/Environment Environmental Protection Agency news pollution