Thursday, January 19, 2012

Manure rule raises water quality concerns

North Country Public Radio • (12/27/11)

A recent victory for New York's farm leaders has raised concerns about water quality. Dairy and livestock farms produce a lot of manure. Many farmers spread it on to their fields in liquid form.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had proposed a nationwide ban against spreading manure onto frozen ground. It's now decided against the ban. The Farm Bureau praises the change of mind, but others are concerned about increases in nutrient run-off from fields during spring thaws.

Matt Nelligan is spokesman for the New York farm bureau. He says more than half the comments to the USDA on this issue came from New York farmers. "The reality of farming in New York State is that you’ve got to be able to spread manure in the winter, and you’ve got a fairly substantial winter period here, and there’s no way to avoid doing so without damaging your crop and making your fields less fruitful. So, it’s a particular issue that is important in New York State and in northeast farming in general," Nelligan said.

But some experts says farmers can transition to a system that doesn’t spread manure on frozen ground, and that would be better for the environment. Elizabeth Newbold grew up on a small dairy in Central New York. Now she works for the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and Cornell Cooperative Extension. She says when manure is applied to frozen ground, it sits on top and freeze. "When the first thaw comes in the spring everything thaws and instead of soaking into the ground, because the ground it still frozen, it tends to run with the snow, wherever the snow will take it," she said.

Newbold says nutrients from farm manure runoff into rivers and streams. She says places such as Lake Champlain have seen the results – high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water, which causes algae growth. The algae uses the oxygen needed by plants and fish and degrades the water quality.

Source: NCPR News

Article on-line at NCPR Website

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Data Added to EPA’s Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution Data Access Tool

EPA has added updated U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) data to the Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution Data Access Tool, a tool intended to help states develop effective nitrogen and phosphorus source reduction strategies.

SPARROW is a GIS-based watershed model that integrates statistical and mechanistic modeling approaches to simulate long-term mean annual stream nutrient loads as a function of a wide range of known sources and factors affecting nutrient fate and transport.

USGS recently completed syntheses of the results from 12 independently-calibrated regional-scale SPARROW models that describe water quality conditions throughout major river basins of the conterminous U.S. based on nitrogen and phosphorus sources from 2002.

Two data layers of EPA’s data access tool – one for nitrogen and one for phosphorus – now provide an approximate yet regionally consistent synthesis of the locations of the largest contributing sources.

The SPARROW geospatial layers can be used to prioritize watersheds for targeting nutrient reduction activities (such as stream monitoring) to the areas that account for a substantial portion of nutrient loads, and to develop state nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reduction strategies.

This information is relevant to the protection of downstream coastal waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico, and to local receiving streams and reservoirs.

The nitrogen and phosphorus pollution data access tool, with updated SPARROW layers, is available at:

Data Access Tool - - Launch the geospatial viewer and download data.

Fact Sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 405K)

Tutorial (PDF) (17 pp, 726K) - - First time users are encouraged to review this brief tutorial to become familiar with the functions of the Data Access Tool.
Source: Anne Weinberg
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Communications Coordinator Assessment and Watershed Protection Division
1301 Constitution Ave. NW
Room 7417K
Washington, DC 20004

Phone: 202-566-1217
Fax:      202-566-1333