USGS News

Interior, Agriculture Departments Partner to Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

Summary: The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new partnership agreement today that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Michael Woodside ( Phone: 615-837-4706 );



ALTON, Ill., Oct. 21, 2014—The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new partnership agreement today that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water.  Working together, USDA's NRCS and DOI's USGS will quantify the benefits of voluntary agricultural practices at a watershed scale.  This information will strengthen the effectiveness of state and federal nutrient reduction strategies while protecting the privacy of individual farmers.  The agreement was announced at the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force Meeting.

“On a voluntary basis, the agricultural community has put extensive effort into the management of nutrients and reducing runoff into waterways. This collaboration will help evaluate the impact of farmers’ conservation efforts on improving water quality,” said Ann Mills, USDA’s deputy under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

Mills said when hundreds of farms take action in one watershed, it can make a difference—it can help prevent an algae bloom downstream or lessen the need for water treatment plants to treat for nitrates.

The U.S. Geological Survey will now use Natural Resources Conservation Service data on conservation work to factor into its surface water quality models, which track how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to downstream reservoirs and estuaries. This information will help provide a more accurate picture of the conservation systems in the watershed that contribute to water quality improvement and will provide crucial information for voluntary nutrient management strategies and watershed planning.

“This agreement will allow NRCS and USGS to combine resource management capabilities with science, and will give us the information we need to prioritize the most effective conservation strategies so that we can improve the quality of streams throughout the Mississippi River Basin,” said Lori Caramanian, DOI deputy assistant secretary for Water and Science.

Working together, NRCS and USGS will develop conservation intensity data sets that reflect the value of conservation actions, but do not reveal private information about individual farms, ranches or forests. Protecting the trust relationship between NRCS and farmers and their private information protected by law is vital to the continued success of voluntary conservation on private lands.

“We know our farmers are doing great work to protect our natural resources. Our goal with this partnership is to be able to better recognize these achievements and provide conservation and water quality management communities with science-based information for improving water quality,” Mills said. “Farmers invest heavily in conservation systems to improve water quality, and we want to aid their decisions with the best science and information available.”

The conservation intensity products developed through the agreement will provide a uniform representation of conservation activities for use in water quality assessments at local, regional and national scales. Technical assistance providers will therefore have the assurance that they are using consistent and accurate information on conservation activities and a common platform for discussing conservation benefits.

Nutrient runnoff from many different sources, including urban areas and industry, impacts our nation’s waterways. By providing science-based information, NRCS and USGS can help farmers decrease nutrient runoff and improve water quality for their communities and downstream.

Visit the following links to learn more about: real-time nitrate monitoring, annual and seasonal nutrient loads to the Gulf of Mexico, nutrient trends, and the Mississippi River basin nutrient model  mapper.

Learn more about NRCS’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project Cropland National Assessment and the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center.

Media Advisory: Mapping Changes In Beach Landscapes In Our Backyard

Summary: SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— During the week of Oct 20 - 24 scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will be working along the coastline from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing. Either by all-terrain vehicle, personal watercraft, or on foot, they will be surveying local beaches and the nearby ocean bottom to compile a three-dimensional map of how beaches change in northern Monterey Bay.

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— During the week of Oct 20 - 24 scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will be working along the coastline from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing. Either by all-terrain vehicle, personal watercraft, or on foot, they will be surveying local beaches and the nearby ocean bottom to compile a three-dimensional map of how beaches change in northern Monterey Bay.

Conducting these surveys over many years will ultimately provide a detailed picture of how our coastline reacts to changes in waves and sand input. The results can be incorporated into future scenarios of sea-level rise and climate change, contributing directly to Monterey Bay communities working on how and what to protect along their coastlines.

This will be the first of a series of surveys looking at how sand moves along our coast. Studying vulnerable and dynamic zones such as the San Lorenzo River mouth and the Capitola area before winter storms hit will enable scientists to measure how the beaches change, and will aid the understanding of how big storm events, such as those occurring during El Niño years, shape and erode the coast.

 

What:

Media availability for interviews and photo opportunity:
Scientific beach surveys by ATV, personal watercraft, and on foot.

Who:

Research scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

When:

Starting the week of Oct 20, weather permitting. Interviews in the field by appointment only: Call Jon Warrick, 831-566-7206 or Patrick Barnard 415-328-2087.

Where:

Northern Monterey Bay beaches from Its Beach (west of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum) to Moss Landing

Multiple surveys are planned for this winter season, and regular surveys will occur in the fall and spring during subsequent years to capture seasonal fluctuations and extreme events such as flooding from the San Lorenzo River. USGS scientists will also create beach maps from video captured during flyovers, and will attach time-lapse cameras and tide and wave gauges to local piers for a multi-dimensional understanding of coastal processes.

New Groundwater Model Can Help Address Growing Water Demands

Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a computer model that will help water managers understand the groundwater resources in the Willamette Basin and assist them in meeting current and future water demands

Contact Information:

John  Williams ( Phone: 503-251-3220 ); Paul Laustsen ( Phone: 650-329-4046 );



PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a computer model that will help water managers understand the groundwater resources in the Willamette Basin and assist them in meeting current and future water demands. The study, done in cooperation with the Oregon Water Resources Department, builds on more than 10 years of data collection and analysis, and is the most in-depth analysis of the groundwater-flow system of the Willamette Basin to date.

The study emphasized the Central Willamette subbasin, which extends from south of Portland to just south of Salem. Groundwater in the subbasin provides water for agriculture, domestic and municipal uses.

The model simulates groundwater flow in aquifers that underlie the Willamette River Valley. Scientists used information about the characteristics of the rocks and sediments that compose the aquifer materials to construct the model.

“We also estimated how much water goes into the aquifer from precipitation and out of the aquifer by way of groundwater discharge to streams and pumping,” said USGS hydrologist Nora Herrera, lead scientist for the study.

The model can be used to better understand changes to groundwater flow under different scenarios of pumping and climate change. “The usefulness of groundwater models is that they can be used by water managers to understand groundwater supplies in the future for things like public supply, irrigation, and fish and wildlife,” said Erick Burns, another scientist on the study team. “This will be especially important given the population increases and changes in climate that are expected to affect the Willamette Basin in the future.”

The results of the study can be accessed in U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5136. An overview of the study is available online.

Media Advisory: Washington National Cathedral to Host Earthquake Experts

Summary: Three years after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake caused $25 million worth of damage to its pinnacles, buttresses and ceilings, the Washington National Cathedral will host earthquake experts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill Millions to Participate in National Earthquake Drill on October 16

Contact Information:

Meredith MacKenzie ( Phone: 202-776-7700 ); Jessica Robertson ( Phone: 703-648-6624 );



WASHINGTON, D.C.—Three years after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake caused $25 million worth of damage to its pinnacles, buttresses and ceilings, the Washington National Cathedral will host earthquake experts from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.  On Thursday, October 16, media availability and live interviews will occur from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. EDT for local morning shows.

WHAT:

Media are invited to conduct interviews in advance of the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill. At 10:16 a.m. local time on October 16, people across the world are encouraged to participate in the drill and practice how to "Drop, Cover, and Hold On."

WHEN:

Thursday, October 16, 2014
6:00 – 9:00 a.m. EDT

WHERE:  

Washington National Cathedral
3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
(West Front, facing Wisconsin Avenue)

WHO:

  • Dr. David Applegate, USGS Associate Director for Natural Hazards, will discuss earthquake hazards in the Southeast region.
  • Mark Benthien, Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills Global Coordinator, will speak on the 25.6 million participants around the world taking part in earthquake drills in 2014.
  • A FEMA representative will discuss the importance of public preparedness.
  • James W. Shepherd, Director of Preservation and Facilities for the National Cathedral and chief architect in its restoration project, will discuss progress on repairs since the 2011 earthquake and the work currently underway to protect against future damage.

RSVP:  

Media must RSVP to Meredith MacKenzie at: Meredith@westendstrategy.com

VIDEO:

Watch a short video with students from Louisa County, Virginia, discussing the re-opening of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, which was also damaged following the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in 2011. USGS Earthquake Hazards Program Associate Coordinator Mike Blanpied also discusses USGS research underway and the role of science as the foundation for understanding hazards and making preparedness decisions.

USGS Announces Grants for Water Studies

Summary: The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Earl Greene ( Phone: 443-498-5505 );



The U.S. Geological Survey recently awarded nearly $1 million to four university programs across the country, through the National Competitive Grants Program.

Proposals from Purdue University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, and the University of Nebraska won the grants this year.

Purdue University’s project will address the need to improve the nation’s water supply through the evaluation of what factors limit adoption of urban stormwater conservation practices. The project goal is to improve water quality planning and implementation management practices.

The University of Iowa will develop statistical models to describe the relationship between inland flooding and North Atlantic tropical storms. This knowledge is instrumental in identifying and characterizing areas at risk from flooding and for developing a model to determine economic impacts of such events.

University of Maryland’s objective is to characterize the number and concentration of gestagens in tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay and to document the exposure effects of gestagens on the reproductive health of the fathead minnow. Because fish are key indicators of the effects of steroid hormones and other emerging contaminants in water, they can reveal critical insights for understanding the quality of the Nation’s water supply.

University of Nebraska’s research will develop models to predict how soluble uranium is transported and how it can be remediated or reduced. Soluble uranium is a recognized contaminant in public ground water supplies in various regions throughout the United States. It can appear in drinking water in both urban and rural communities, which has led to human health concerns including kidney failure and cancer risk. How this occurs is poorly documented.

The goals of the National Competitive Grants program are to promote collaboration between USGS and university scientists in research on significant national and regional water resources issues; promote the dissemination and results of the research funded under this program; and assist in the training of scientists in water resources.

The federal funding for this program is required to be matched with non-federal dollars each year. Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center established under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984.