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EPA Awards $2.5M for AZ Water Programs

Seasonal rains flush animal waste down Carrol Canyon Wash into Oak Creek frequently causing higher than acceptable levels of E. coli. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality outreach and education projects last year focused on responsible stewardship of Oak Creek and continuation of the highly successful Oak Creek Ambassadors program, which educates visitors about the importance of keeping Oak Creek clean and supports collection of E. coli data. Photo credit: KNAU

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded $2.5M to the State of Arizona for projects to help restore water quality in the state’s polluted water bodies. With an additional $1.6M leveraged by the state for these activities, more than $4M 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, by the state. 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. Water quality 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.

The Arizona Non-Point Source Program invests a significant portion of these funds in communities to achieve on-the-ground water quality benefits.

Last year a portion of funds were used in Sedona for a variety of projects to reduce nonpoint 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 Oak Creek and continuation of the highly successful Oak Creek Ambassadors program which educates visitors about the importance of keeping Oak Creek 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% of monitored waters. The plan builds upon a previous 5-year plan, making several key improvements to help restore impaired waters, and protect unimpaired and healthy waters.

Visit the ADEQ website for more information on funding announcements and to read the final NPS Plan.