EPA Announces Guidelines For Awarding Monitoring Initiative Funds Under CWA Section 106

EPA has released guidelines to assist grantees with the process and criteria to be used to award the monitoring initiative increment of the grants for the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 106 water pollution control program to states and tribes in fiscal 2006 and beyond.

EPA is authorized by Section 106 of the Clean Water Act to provide assistance to states, interstate agencies, and tribes to establish and implement water pollution control programs that prevent, reduce, and eliminate water pollution. These programs are intended to protect the health and safety of local water bodies and the communities they serve. EPA recently changed the way it allocates funds under the program so that EPA will be better able to target additional funds to help carry out priority areas including water monitoring. These guidelines, announced in a March 29 Federal Register notice apply to the monitoring initiative increment of $18.23 million. The Section 106 base funds will continue to be allotted in accordance with the applicable allotment formula used by the agency.

The guidelines reflect the allocation changes and focus on improving state and tribal capacity to monitor and report on water quality through: implementation of state and tribal comprehensive monitoring strategies, and collaboration on statistically-valid surveys of the nation's waters.

Numerous reports have identified the need for improved water quality monitoring and analysis at a local, state, or national scale to help determine the condition of U.S. waters and watersheds. In 2002, the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment found that water quality data is inadequate for reporting on fresh water, coastal and ocean water quality indicators at a nationwide scale. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy issued similar conclusions in 2004. The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) stated that improved water quality monitoring is necessary to help states make more effective use of limited resources. EPA's Report on the Environment 2003 found that there is not sufficient information to provide a national answer, with confidence and scientific credibility, to the question, "What is the condition of U.S. waters and watersheds?"

EPA has been working with federal, state and other partners to develop and promote the use of a variety of monitoring tools to most efficiently answer water quality management questions at multiple geographic scales. Statistically-based surveys, predictive models, remote sensing and targeted monitoring are examples of these tools. Used in combination, these tools can help focus and prioritize site-specific monitoring activities to identify and address problem areas as well as achieve comprehensive assessments of water quality. Incorporating these tools into state and tribal monitoring strategies and into their monitoring program designs should help them meet multiple state and national monitoring objectives cost-effectively.

In partial response to these critiques and the need for credible reports on water quality status and trends nationwide, Congress appropriated a total of $18.23 million for this monitoring initiative.

The Federal Register notice can be accessed at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-WATER/2006/March/Day-29/w4585.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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