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Restoring and Protecting Water Quality: ELI’s Recent Trainings and Resources

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Adam Schempp

Adam Schempp

Senior Attorney; Director, Western Water Program

The quality of our country’s water often goes unnoticed. We tend to take for granted high-quality water and commonly overlook (or just accept) polluted waters. But events like those in Flint, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, remind us how truly vital this resource is—not just to have water, but to be able to drink it, fish from it, recreate in it, and use it in many other ways.

TMDLsELI has long worked with the agencies tasked with restoring and protecting our streams, rivers, and lakes. Earlier this month, we held the 2016 National Training Workshop for CWA §303(d) Listing and TMDL Staff at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It was the eighth such three-day training workshop for water quality professionals focused on identifying and reporting polluted waters as well as developing and implementing Total Maximum Daily Load documents and other restoration plans. This year’s iteration brought together over 130 government officials, including staff from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, as well as from EPA Headquarters and the EPA regions.

ELI designs these trainings, with the help of state and EPA staff, to equip participants with the knowledge, contacts, and tools needed to continually improve their implementation of the Clean Water Act. This year, the agenda focused on innovation and collaboration, with presentations and group discussions on new data management tools and opportunities for working more efficiently and effectively with other agencies and the public. For example, one session was dedicated to new digital tools, produced by states and EPA, using open source software to better organize, access, and share water quality data.

Two weeks before the training workshop, ELI led a small subset of workshop participants (from EPA and five states) to River Network’s annual River Rally conference, this year in Mobile, Alabama. The group presented on how they are prioritizing their work in addressing water quality problems and discussed with watershed groups how to better engage with them. In 2015, ELI led a similar group to the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) to do the same thing with water and wastewater utility professionals.

ELI recently launched a new (and growing) web portal, the CWA 303(d) Program Resource Center, dedicated to information about identifying polluted waters and methods of fixing them, including how different states and territories are prioritizing their work in addressing water quality problems and how to connect with their staff members.

It will take all of us to restore our polluted waters and protect our clean ones, and ELI is working to build communication channels, improve cooperation, provide information (from the basics to innovative ideas) to all who may need or want it, generate new solutions, and ultimately make this tough task a little more possible.

ELI conducts these projects pursuant to cooperative agreements with EPA.

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