EPA awards $2.5M to Arizona for surface water quality improvements

The EPA has awarded $2.5 million to the state of Arizona for projects to restore water quality in polluted waterbodies across the region. With an additional $1.6 million leveraged by the state for these activities, more than $4 million is available this year to improve surface water quality.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, March 23, 2015 -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $2.5 million to the state of Arizona for projects to help restore water quality in polluted waterbodies across the region. With an additional $1.6 million leveraged by the state for these activities, more than $4 million is available this year to improve surface water quality.

Recent water quality data shows that a significant percentage of surface waters in Arizona are listed as impaired or polluted. Extrapolating from Arizona's 2012 surface water assessment, which focused on a portion of the state's lakes and streams, 28 percent of stream miles and 74 percent of lake acres do not meet water quality standards. These standards vary depending on how the water is used -- from full-body contact standards for waters designated for swimming to aquatic and wildlife standards for waters supporting fish and wildlife habitat. In Arizona, E. coli bacteria, metals, pesticides, and fertilizers are the top sources of water pollution to surface water, such as rivers and lakes.

Most surface water pollution in Arizona comes from non-point sources. Runoff from irrigation; storms; recreational areas, such as golf courses; and agricultural lands flows over and through the ground, transporting natural and man-made pollutants into streams, lakes, rivers, and wetlands. In contrast, a point source is any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe, ditch or factory. These discharges are restricted by state or federal permits.

The Arizona Non-Point Source Program invests a significant portion of these funds in communities to achieve "on-the-ground" water quality benefits. One example is a project in the Upper Santa Cruz River (Mexico border to Sapori Wash) Watershed to work with the community to reduce the most significant bacteria pollution sources in the watershed. Other focus watersheds for this funding include Oak Creek, Granite Creek, San Pedro River, and San Francisco and Blue Rivers (all focusing on E. coli issues), as well as the Little Colorado River (sediment) and Boulder Creek (zinc, lead and arsenic) Watersheds.

Last year, a portion of funds was used in Sedona for a variety of projects to reduce non-point pollution from Sedona washes, including a community-driven effort to remove trash, litter, feces, and diapers from the Oak Creek corridor. Outreach and education projects focused on responsible stewardship of the creek and continuation of the highly successful Oak Creek Ambassadors program, which educates visitors about the importance of keeping the waterway clean and supports collection of E. coli data.

The EPA also recently approved Arizona's Nonpoint Source Management Plan, which outlines approaches for achieving water quality improvements in the state over the next five years. Highlights include accelerating project restoration timeframes, prioritizing polluted watersheds, and committing to measurable water quality goals such as improving water quality in 50 percent of monitored waters. The plan builds upon a previous five-year plan, making several key improvements to help restore impaired waters and protect unimpaired and healthy waters.

See also:

"EPA allots over $271M to New York, New Jersey for clean water projects"

"EPA awards $8M in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants to combat invasive species"

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