News Briefs

State Water Institute Program May Receive Funding Increase

In February, Robert M. Hirsch, Chief Hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, announced that the President’s budget for fiscal year 1999 provided a $1 million increase for the State Water Institute Program. These additional funds would be earmarked for research on the causes, effects, and management of nonpoint-source pollution in support of the Administration’s Clean Water and Watershed Restoration initiative.

The proposed increase was a significant development for the Institute Program. It was the first proposed increase in funding for the program since it was assigned to the USGS in 1984, and the first time that funding for the Institutes had been sought in direct support of a high-priority federal program.

In late June, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee recommended approximately $5 million in FY99 for the WRRI program. This was $500,000 above the FY98 level but $500,000 below the Administration’s FY99 budget request.

Significantly, the House Subcommittee recommended that grant funds be allocated to Institutes as they were pre-1996, that is, each state Institute would receive funding to support a statewide competitive program of research in collaboration with the Institute’s state advisory panel. The Subcommittee further recommended that $1 million of the appropriation be earmarked for the regional research competitive program.

The New Mexico WRRI will keep abreast of developments as the bill makes its way through the budgetary process.

Advisory Committee Releases TMDL Recommendations

The March 1998 issue of the Divining Rod described that Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) are watershed or basin-wide “budgets” for the amount of pollutants that can be assimilated without causing the stream to exceed the state water quality standards.

In April, the Federal Advisory Committee on TMDLs released its most recent draft report recommending that states incorporate seven elements into TMDL development. The seven recommended elements are:

  • target identification the selection of one or more quantified end points, such as a measurable environmental characteristic indicating compliance with water quality standards, that may include the water’s maximum loading capacity;
  • identification of the current deviation from the level of pollution reduction necessary to meet the target;
  • identification of sources that contribute to the impairment;
  • allocation of pollution loads or an alternative providing an equivalent showing that the standards can be attained;
  • an implementation plan that should be prepared along with the TMDL that includes a plan and schedule for implementing control or restoration activities to eliminate the impairment;
  • a process for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness in achieving water quality standards attainment; and
  • a process for revising the TMDL, specified in the implementation plan.A final report and recommendations are expected by mid-summer. More information is available from Hazel Groman, the Committee’s Designated Federal Officer, at (202) 260-8798.

Water Festival Set for Fall 99

The Waste-Management Education & Research Consortium has received a grant from the U.S. EPA to begin planning for a Tri-City, Tri-State, Bi-National Water Festival. The proposed festival will travel between the cities of Las Cruces, El Paso and Cd. Juarez, and will focus on providing materials and hands-on exhibits dealing with water issues in the El Paso del Norte region.
One of the objectives of the festival is to promote awareness of the relationship between groundwater and surface water and their dependence among citizens in the entire region.For more information, contact Jim Loya at (505) 646-2038.