State News

Michigan Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Report Available for Public Comment

On Jan. 5, the state Department of Environmental Quality announced it completed a review of its Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program and has released its draft reengineering report. The DEQ is now seeking external review of the draft report and is encouraging public comments on the report and its recommendations before Feb. 3. The draft reengineering report is available on the DEQ's Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/deqnps; select Draft Reengineering Report under Information and Education.

The review was conducted by a committee of DEQ staff and external stakeholders, and the draft report includes a number of recommendations intended to enhance the department's ability to restore and protect waters impacted by NPS pollution.

Comments can be sent to Bob Day, Department of Environmental Quality, Water Bureau, Constitution Hall-Second Floor South, PO Box 30273, Lansing, MI 48909-7773, or via E-mail to dayrm@michigan.gov.

Texas Issues Drought Advisories to Water Suppliers, Public Water Systems

On Jan. 3, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a letter to water system officials, encouraging them to review and, if needed, implement their drought contingency plans immediately.

"Surface water conditions have worsened and river streamflows continue to show a decline in portions of the state," said Glenn Shankle, TCEQ executive director. "Now is the time to act to ensure continued, adequate water supplies for all of Texas."

The TCEQ (http://www.tceq.state.tx.us) requires water suppliers to develop drought contingency plans. In an effort to manage water usage, reduce peak demand, and extend supplies, systems are encouraged to address line leaks, which could result in supply loss, and conduct regular, preventative maintenance of tanks, distribution lines and meters. The TCEQ is also asking consumers to practice water conservation at home. Some of the ways to reduce water usage include checking kitchen and bathroom plumbing for leaks, washing full loads of dishes or laundry, cutting back on car washes, and watering lawns during early morning hours, no more than twice a week.

Since January 2005, 100 community water systems have asked customers to limit outside water usage. Of these systems, currently 33 are requiring mandatory watering restrictions and 16 are asking for their customers to voluntarily reduce usage. The lack of soil moisture, in some of these areas, could continue to challenge the state's water supply as farmers approach the spring growing season and its irrigation requirements for crops.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), drought conditions will persist or intensify, through March, for parts of central and northern Texas, and into the Panhandle of the state. Drought conditions are forecast as probable for the Plains Region of Texas during the same three month forecast.

The TCEQ has a free assistance program to help your water system address any drought or other financial, managerial or technical issues. For more information on this program and to report water use restrictions or concerns in your area, contact the agency's Drought Coordinator at (512) 239-4691.

Illinois Governor Orders Statewide Water Supply Study

Following last summer's long and costly drought, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich (http://www.illinois.gov/gov) issued on Jan. 9 an Executive Order to develop a comprehensive, statewide water supply planning and management strategy. The Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources will oversee the process in conjunction with the State Water Survey (SWS).

"It is critical for Illinois to get ahead of the curve when it comes to water supply planning," Blagojevich said. "Last summer's drought demonstrated to us that careful management of our water must be a priority so we always have enough supply for people to drink and use, for our industries like agriculture, and for our fish and wildlife habitats."

While Illinois is on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the largest freshwater sources in the world, and has significant sources of both groundwater and surface water, portions of the state face legal and physical restraints to increasing water supplies. Shortages like last year's drought, and the restrictions it triggered, have so far been rare, but the growing population of the state and increasing demand for water will strain current sources.

Previously, the SWS, the Illinois Interagency Coordinating Committee on Groundwater, and the Illinois State Water Plan Task Force have identified the Priority Water Quantity Planning Areas that are most at risk for water shortages and conflicts. By Dec. 31, 2006, at least two of those areas will have Regional Water Quantity Plans in process.

The most likely candidates for those plans are the Mahomet aquifer and the Northeastern Illinois Deep Aquifer. The Mahomet aquifer serves the communities of Decatur and Champaign-Urbana. Due to the growth in the area along with major livestock facilities, agricultural irrigation, and power plants, east central Illinois is likely to experience strain on their water supplies. The growth of the western suburbs beyond the reach of Lake Michigan water makes northeastern Illinois a priority, where shallow aquifers and surface water sources are already strained.

Locally based regional water supply planning committees will also be developed with financial and technical support from the state. The local committees will help collect the data needed to draft these plans, and also outline and approve their regional plans. This data will include figures like the total usable amount of groundwater and surface water in the planning area and projected water supply and demand.

The Jan. 9 announcement comes in conjunction with the release of the "Troubled Water: Meeting Future Water Needs in Illinois" report prepared by the Campaign for Sensible Growth, Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands Project. The report outlines the current challenges facing the water supply in Illinois, as well as their recommendations, which include a regional planning study.

"We're pleased that the governor recognizes the concerns reported in the study and has so quickly mobilized his administration to address the challenges facing our water supplies," said Joyce O'Keefe, deputy director of the Openlands Project.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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