Version 1.0 – 2017
The Nutrients Working Group (“NWG”), a collaboration between ACWA, ASDWA, NASDA, and EPA, began work in 2014 to identify a set of measures that demonstrated progress toward nutrient reduction in the nation’s waters. States expressed concern that the only national metric for demonstrating progress on addressing nutrient pollution was the establishment of nitrogen and phosphorus criteria for lakes, estuaries, and flowing waters. States believed there was a potential for more robust national metrics to demonstrate state actions taken to reduce nutrient loads in conjunction with the development of nutrient criteria. The desire to demonstrate progress on nutrient reduction became more pertinent with EPA’s release of Nancy Stoner’s 2011 memorandum titled “Working in Partnership with States to Address Phosphorus and Nitrogen Pollution through Use of a Framework for State Nutrient Reductions” (the “Stoner Memo”). The Stoner Memo described a framework States could utilize to focus near term efforts on nutrient reduction while they continued to develop nutrient criteria. The 2016 Joel Beauvais memorandum, titled “Renewed Call to Action to Reduce Nutrient Pollution and Support for Incremental Actions to Protect Water Quality and Public Health” (the “Beauvais Memo”), highlighted the continued importance of these efforts.
One of the key questions posed to the NWG was how to demonstrate progress on nutrient reduction envisioned by the Stoner Memo and the Beauvais Memo. The NWG concluded that a short, easy-to-complete form of agreed upon measures that States would complete on a routine (annual/biennial) basis would be the appropriate path forward. To that end, the NWG developed an initial survey to begin to ascertain what small, core set of outputs and outcomes States agreed would best demonstrate nutrient reduction progress. The initial survey detailing numerous possible metrics was sent to State members in 2015 with the goal of finding common threads from which to base a second, more specific survey.
Based on analysis of the responses from the first survey, the NWG spent significant time in early 2016 preparing the second survey to focus on the common threads resulting in a more specific and concise survey. The second survey was sent out in May and received an positive response from the States – 57 responses from 41 States and the District of Columbia. The NWG took the results and listed the metrics in priority order based on a simple weighting system – a weight of 1 for low priority, 2 for medium priority, and 3 for high priority responses. The weighting system was then normalized to account for the fact not every respondent answered every question. Using feedback on the top ranked metrics from the 2016 ACWA Annual Meeting and from other groups such as ASDWA, the NWG worked on a core group of items to track in a regularly scheduled tracker. It was determined that the core group would include outputs and outcomes from various program areas including permitting, 303d/TMDL, assessment, and drinking water. In February 2017, the NWG finalized a beta version of the tracker and released it to Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Carolina for testing. Using the results from the beta test and feedback at the March 2017 ACWA Mid-Year Meeting and the August 2017 ACWA Annual Meeting, the NWG crafted Version 1.0.
Released to states in September 2017, the Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracker Version 1.0 – 2017 seeks data and information for multiple nutrients topic areas: State strategies, monitoring, assessment, non-point sources, point sources, and drinking water. EPA contributed national data for eight of the questions. Thirty-one states, including the District of Columbia, submitted responses to the Tracker.
For more information on this effort, please contact Mark Patrick McGuire.