(USDA NRCS) With the help of U.S Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, farmers and ranchers are working hard to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, a 225,000-square-mile underground basin vital to agriculture, municipal and industrial development.  The aquifer stretches from western Texas to South Dakota and supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States.

By reducing an individual operation’s water use, conservation helps relieve some of the pressure put on the aquifer.  Many farmers are switching their irrigation systems from gravity to sprinkler center pivots and subsurface drip irrigation systems, which can increase pumping efficiencies by at least 40 percent.

Technology is also playing a large role in water conservation.  Some new pivots use variable rate irrigation, meaning as the pivot travels over areas, it adjusts water rates to match the need.  Conservation practices such as no-till and cover crops can help improve soil health and water quality.  Healthy soils increase water capacity and infiltration making lands more resilient to drought.

To read this article in its entirety, visit http://bit.ly/ogaquicnsrv.

(U.S. EPA) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will award approximately $4 million in grants to 20 communities across the country to assist with planning for cleanup and reuse of Brownfields properties. This funding is part of the Brownfields Area-Wide (BF AWP) Planning program, which aims to promote community revitalization by using cleanups to stimulate local economies and protect people’s health and the environment. EPA’s Brownfields program encourages the redevelopment of abandoned and potentially contaminated waste sites across the country.

“EPA continues to respond to Brownfields challenges in communities of every size by encouraging strong public-private partnerships and promoting innovative and creative ways to assess, clean up and redevelop Brownfields sites,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The area-wide planning approach recognizes that revitalization of the area surrounding the Brownfields sites is critical to the successful reuse of the property as cleanup and redevelopment of an individual site. The locally-driven planning process will help communities create a shared vision for and commitment to revitalization.”

To read the full text of the article, visit Yosemite.epa.gov.

Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy recently released a White Paper entitled, Promise, Purpose, and Challenge: Putting the RESTORE Act into Context for the Communities and Ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico, aimed at improving the public’s understanding about the Act and its implications on the ecosystems and communities of the Gulf.

The RESTORE Act was enacted by Congress in 2012 and redirects a portion of the Clean Water Act administrative and civil penalties flowing from the Deep Water Horizon disaster to the Gulf Coast for ecologic restoration, economic sustainability, and the encouragement of Gulf oriented science.

To download the report in its entirety, visit http://bit.ly/TWLIresactwp.

A primary driver of public confidence in a company is its efforts to communicate and deliver on corporate sustainability goals, according to a survey conducted by Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

The online survey of 1,000 respondents in the U.S. show a clear link between corporate communications around sustainability efforts and corporate performance and reputation, Hill+Knowlton says.  Some 91 percent of respondents said it was important for corporations to behave sustainably in 2013 and beyond, and that such behavior was critical to companies’ long-term success.

Transparency and communication were also highly valued by respondents of the survey. About 81 percent believe companies should report on their sustainability efforts on an ongoing basis rather than through a static report.  Some 84 percent of respondents said a company can regain public trust through honest and transparent reporting of its efforts to be more sustainable, even if that reporting shows the company has fallen short of its goal.

To read the article in its entirety, visit http://www.hkstrategies.com/sustainability.

The Water Resources Action Project (WRAP) recently broke ground on its third project, a cistern system at the Battir Girls High School, located near Bethlehem in Battir, a Palestinian village.  Visited and vetted through WRAP President and THG Managing Partner Brendan McGinnis, the school has 120 female students in three grades.  WRAP funds and constructs rainwater-harvesting systems at schools throughout the Middle East, accompanied by a strong educational program and monitoring procedures.

Immediate benefits to the school and surrounding community include reliable usage of clean restrooms throughout the entire school year. The school will also be able to implement a summer camp and community garden, both made possible with the installation of WRAP’s rain harvesting project.

On April 9, Mr. McGinnis presented at Monmouth University’s, Global Understanding Convention in New Jersey, providing his first-hand account of the Middle Eastern water conflict, resulting impact on human health and the environment, what difference can be made now, WRAP’s role, and lessons learned along the way.  To view his full remarks and accompanying presentation, visit this month’s featured column at http://bit.ly/THGApril2013FC.

To learn about WRAP and become involved, visit www.wrapdc.org.

Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Kirk, (R-IL) recently introduced the Water Infrastructure Now Public-Private Partnership Act (WIN P3 Act).

The bill would create a pilot program to explore public-private partnerships as alternatives to traditional models for water infrastructure projects. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be authorized to accept up to 15 navigation, flood damage reduction, and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects into the pilot program. For each project, the Corps and non-federal sponsors could enter into new agreements to decentralize planning, design, and construction to speed up project delivery.

To download the bill in its entirety, visit http://bit.ly/WINP3Act.

On March 13, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) J. Alfredo Gomez, Director of Natural Resources and Environment, issued testimony before the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies entitled, Water Infrastructure: Approaches and Issues for Financing Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure.

In the statement, GAO reviews three approaches to bridging the gap between projected drinking water and wastewater infrastructure needs and their current funding. The approaches reviewed include a clean water trust fund, national infrastructure bank, and public-private partnerships.

To read the full testimony, visit http://1.usa.gov/WItDVN.

TechKNOWLEDGEy Strategic Group has released its 2013 Water Market Review entitled: Growing Awareness, Growing Risks. The review covers current challenges and opportunities in the global water market, highlighting key trends and developments related to regulation, infrastructure, technology, conservation, reuse, and privatization. It explores the under-valuation of water, financial and investment perspective, and water’s critical connections to food and energy.

To download the full report, visit their website at http://www.tech-strategy.com.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Water Environment Research Foundation, and Water Environment Federation recently released the Water Resources Utility of the Future Blueprint for Action.

The aim of the new Utility of the Future (UOTF) framework is to transform the way traditional wastewater utilities view and manage their operations. The Blueprint opens the door for re-imagining the Clean Water Act to help ensure that important issues falling in the UOTF scope are emphasized as Congress and the incoming Administration develop their environmental priorities.

To view the full Blueprint, visit bit.ly/THGFeb2013Spotlight.

This month, Resources for the Future (RFF) released a new report entitled Pathways to Dialogue: What the Experts Say about the Environmental Risks of Shale Gas Development. The report surveys experts from government agencies, industry, academia, and NGOs to identify the priority environmental risks related to shale gas development.

The research indicates a high degree of consensus among experts about which risks need to be most promptly addressed. These “consensus risks” include venting of methane, freshwater withdrawals, and storage and disposal of flowback and produced water.

For RFF’s overview of the key findings, visit their website at bit.ly/RFFptdsg. To view the full report, visit bit.ly/RFFptdsgr.