Urban Water Council Introduces New Resolution on Nonpoint Source Pollution
By Madeline Ostrander
July 1, 2002
Waco Mayor Linda Ethridge knows firsthand the effect that thousands of dairy cows can have when they are placed upstream of a city's drinking water source. Waco water treatment costs have doubled in the last several years, largely, she claims, because of pollution from dairy farms in the upper reaches of the North Bosque River Watershed, which feeds into the city water supply. On Friday's Urban Water Council session at the US Conference of Mayors' Annual Meeting in Madison (WI) and again on Saturday during the Environment Standing Committee, Mayor Ethridge presented a resolution that she hopes will encourage cities to act now to protect their water.
"Water treatment and cleanup costs will rise for cities if nonpoint source pollution is not better addressed," Mayor Ethridge said on Friday. The resolution, approved unanimously by the Environment Committee and the Conference of Mayors, calls on mayors to push for "organics management strategies" that would direct activites of the many contributors to water pollution. It also urges local governments to work with state soil and water conservation agencies, state-level environmental programs linked closely to agriculture, and recommends technologies that convert manures and wastes to fuel for electricity production.
From federal government, the resolution seeks financial assistance and aggressive policy actions to protect water supplies from even further contamination. It does not comment directly on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rules for Confined Animal Feedlot Operations or CAFOs, industrial-sized hog, poultry, and cattle farms. However, Mayor Ethridge encouraged the Urban Water Council to support stronger CAFO rules. She suggests that EPA lower the number of "animal units" (representing the number of animals and their relative manure outputs) that qualify as a CAFO and eliminate the provision that allows CAFOs to release pollutants into streams during severe storms and rain showers.
EPA held several hearings regarding the rules over the past year, and has now scheduled their release in December. However, according Arnita Hannon of the EPA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, "EPA would still welcome mayors' input."
The next Urban Water Council seminar, planned for September 6 and 7, will give private sector environmental companies, mayors, and city environmental officials a chance to see the North Bosque River for themselves and trade ideas for handling water supply and drought, the meeting's focus. Mayor Ethridge will host, and promises to show the group "a good old Texas time." To learn more about water policy and management issues, attend the Urban Water Council Regional Seminar on Drought and Water Supply Issues, Waco, Texas, September 6-7, 2002. All mayors, city environmental and public works staff, and members of the Water Development Advisory Board are welcome. For more information, visit www.usmayors.org/uscm/urbanwater/ or call 202-861-6784.