New York City Watershed

"New York City has traditionally been famed for its clean water, which Consumer Reports once ranked among the best in the Nation. New York's water, which originates in the Catskills Mountains, was once bottled and sold throughout the Northeast. In recent years, the Catskill's natural ecological purification system has been overwhelmed by sewage and agricultural runoff, and water quality has dropped below EPA standards. This prompted the New York City administration to investigate the cost of replacing the natural system with an artificial filtration plant. The estimated pricetag for this installation was $6 to 8 billion in capital costs, plus annual operating costs of $300 million — a high price to pay for what once could be obtained for free.

This high cost prompted further investigation, which showed that the costs of restoring the integrity of the watershed's natural purification services — about $1 billion — would be a small fraction of the cost of the filtration plant. Thus, New York City faced a choice: invest $6–8 billion in physical capital, or $1 billion in natural capital. The latter is the course that the city adopted. In 1997 it raised an Environmental Bond Issue, and is currently using the funds to purchase and halt development on land in the watershed, to compensate land owners for restrictions on private development, and to subsidize the improvement of septic systems.

The decision to conserve the Catskills ecosystem for water purification will also confer protection on other valuable services, such as flood control and the storage of carbon by plants. This sort of financial mechanism could be extended to other geographic locations and other ecosystem services that would benefit municipalities and habitats throughout the Nation."

Excerpted from:
President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. March 1998. Teaming with Life: Investing in Science to Understand and Use America's Living Capital.










Chesapeake Bay

Long-term water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay have led to considerable efforts to prevent added pollution and to restore riparian and aquatic ecosystems within the watershed. Discouraging results from a 1999 EPA report revealed that 36% of surveyed rivers within the watershed did not meet EPA standards of water quality. Scientists attributed most of the pollution to agricultural non-point sources.

In 1994, policy makers and scientists developed a set of goals to target water quality enhancement. The consensus was that there was a need for an intensive ecological restoration effort and enhanced stewardship of riparian forest buffers. The goals included the promise of providing all streams and shorelines within the watershed the protection of a forested or other riparian buffer, the conservation of existing forests along all streams and shorelines, and the restoration of riparian forests on 2,010 miles of stream shoreline by 2010. These efforts will target areas of the greatest value to water quality and living resources. Maryland will spend approximately $200 million over 15 years on this project and Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and Virginia have implemented similar plans.

Sources:
Chesapeake Bay Program. 1999. Riparian Forest Buffers: Linking Land and Water. CBP/TRS220/99, EPA 903-R-99-002

Chesapeake Bay Program. 1993. The Role and Function of Forest Buffers in the Chesapeake Bay Basin for Nonpoint Source Management.

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Florida Everglades

The Kissimmee River is essential in maintaining water quantity and quality in South Florida. "The Kissimmee River and its adjacent areas divert water south into Lake Okeechobee and surrounding wetlands, and thereby, help regenerate ground aquifers. Beginning in 1961 and ending in 1971, the 166 km long river was channelized 9 m deep into a basically straight 90 km long 100 m wide canal. Early Kissimmee River projects were intended to manage floods and direct flows. However, transformation of the river floodplain ecosystem into a series of deep impounded reservoirs drained approximately 12,000 to 14,000 ha* of floodplain wetlands which degraded fish and wildlife values within the Kissimmee ecosystem.

In 1976, the Florida Legislation passed the Kissimmee River Restoration Act, which sparked three major restoration and planning studies initiated by the Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The $32 million conversion project was under scrutiny ever since vertebrate and flora populations began dwindling. Today, plans to restore the Kissimmee River will cost eight times that of initial conversion and will take over 15 years to complete and these efforts are intended to mend the river back to its original state." [* equal to 29,653 to 34,595 acres]

Excerpted from:
Florida International University Everglades Case Study (web site: www.sfwmd.gov/org/erd/krr/index.html)

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Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

"The City of Arcata is located 250 miles north of San Francisco on the northeastern shore of Humboldt Bay. A regional wastewater treatment plant was proposed by the Humboldt Bay Wastewater Authority in 1975 that was estimated to cost $25 million. Since the area was no longer allowed to release effluent into the bay, the plan of action was to create a pipeline that ran across the Humboldt Bay, dumping the regional communities' sewage directly into the ocean. Arcata didn't agree with this solution. A Task Force on Wastewater Treatment came together to demonstrate that the natural processes of a wetland wastewater treatment facility would offer an appropriate solution to its unsatisfactory polluting procedures. Arcata constructed the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary in 1981 and incorporated wastewater treatment in 1986. The Task Force's plan of action had many benefits. It was cost-effective, simple, and most importantly to the community, it was appropriate."

Excerpted from:
Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, www.humboldt.edu/~ere_dept/marsh/index.htm

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Santa Cruz Clean Streams Pilot Project

"This project seeks to use community outreach to train volunteers to assist in the monitoring of the Arana Gulch Watershed in Santa Cruz, CA. Project specialists train and utilize volunteers to participate in monitoring the health of the Arana Gulch Watershed through water quality sampling, habitat assessment and participation in restoration activities. Other projects include wetland-marsh restoration and monitoring using community volunteers."

Excerpted from:
U.C Davis: endeavor.des.ucdavis.edu/wpi/countyquery.asp?cid=00000i

South Carolina Congaree Bottomland Hardwood Swamp

On June 30, 1983 Congaree Swamp National Monument was designated an International Biosphere Reserve as it is the largest old-growth flood plain in the continental United States. An estimate cited in a 1995 EPA fact sheet, attributed a value of approximately $5 million for water purification services provided by the swamp in 1991. The surrounding communities value the swamp for the tourism, recreation, and clean water it provides to their economy and daily lives.

Sources:
US Park Service: www.nps.gov/cosw/coswhist.htm; EPA 1995. EPA 1995. Wetlands Fact Sheet. EPA 843-F-95-001.

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California Beaver-Created Wetlands

"Ranchers and watershed mangers in the West are utilizing some of nature's own engineers for water quality improvement. Beaver-created impoundments can be extremely useful in agricultural watersheds. They have been known to retain up to 1,000 times more nitrogen than streams, a strategy that has opened the eyes of some water quality managers and scientists."

Excerpted from:
North Carolina State University Water Quality Group. Wetland Values: www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/wqg/

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Chesapeake Bay Local Watershed Action Volunteer Projects

This program is part of the Chesapeake Bay Program's Forest Buffer Initiative. Recognizing that the majority of rivers and streams within the basin are spread amongst thousands of individual landowners and private communities, this effort strongly promotes voluntary incentives towards restoration efforts and the raising of public awareness. Local plans identify participants, target problems and solutions, and solidify commitments from landowners. Successful volunteer projects have already shown that many small efforts can add up to big improvement in stream and watershed health.

Source:
Chesapeake Bay Program. 1999. Riparian Forest Buffers: Linking Land and Water. CBP/TRS220/99, EPA 903-R-99-002.

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