News

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April Water Supply Outlook Available

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin provides a monthly Water Supply Outlook and Status from April to October of each year. Based on careful data analyses, the report provides information on the possibility of a water release from local reservoirs. Read the April Report… 

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Eagles, Ospreys, and Falcons…oh my!

It’s finally spring. Along with cherry blossoms and warmer weather, this time of year brings new wildlife young. We are lucky to live in an area with an abundance of these new little creatures along the Potomac river and its surrounding areas. We are even more lucky to have great organizations that set up cameras to watch the little ones grow.

The National Arboretum Eagle Cam features a pair of Bald Eagles, known as “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” perched in a Tulip Poplar tree in the National Arboretum. They have two eaglets that were born in mid-March. The American Eagle Foundation is currently taking name suggestions for the new little birds. 

The Chesapeake Conservancy has two bird cameras. The Osprey camera features “Tom” and “Audrey” who will be making a family in their cozy nest for the second year in a row. “Boh” and “Barb,” in the Peregine Falcon camera, have already laid four eggs.  

The Earth Conservation Corps has their eyes trained on “Liberty” and “Justice,” a pair of Bald Eagles who have made their home in SE Washington, DC for the past eleven years.

The Bald Eagle cam on the grounds of the US Fish and Wildlife National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia has been active for over a decade. You can watch “Bell” and “Ben” feed their eaglets while looking over the NCTC campus.

Bonus cams! Watch the American Shad on the Shad Cam run by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Although not active yet, these native fish should be making their way up the river soon. Done with wildlife? Check out this live view of the Southwest DC Waterfront where construction of the $2 billion project known as The Wharf is underway.

Below, Jim Cummins of ICPRB explains why eaglet eggs hatch this time of year:

 

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Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership – 2015 Annual Report

The Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP)  is coordinated by staff at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

DWSPP is pleased to share the 2015 Annual Report. Inside you will find:

  • a note from the 2015 Co-chairs from the District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment and Washington Aqueduct;
  • a summary of 2015 activities; and
  • our plans for 2016, including gathering information on chemicals stored in the basin, further improving regional spill response, and exploring a role for the Partnership related to toxic and non-toxic algae.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in their efforts to protect Potomac basin source waters in 2015. We hope to see you again this year!

To learn more about the Partnership and upcoming activities, visit www.PotomacDWSPP.org.

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Help Us Learn More About the Potomac

Do you have a favorite stream that you paddle, fish, or walk along? Have you found areas where stringy green algae seems to always grow? How about new stands of plants, or areas where the water always seems green with algae? Would you share your observations with us?

In ICPRB’s  5th year studying the prevalence and ecological impact of algae and plants in freshwater systems, our biologists hope to expand the project’s range and scope to include more rivers and streams affected by dense plant blooms. Logistically, this task is daunting without the help of volunteers. For this project, we are asking volunteers in different organizations throughout the Potomac basin to report bloom areas that they regularly visit. Ideally ICPRB biologists hope to identify more hot spots within the basin to later target more exhaustive localized research efforts.

The reporting network will be made up of volunteers and researchers found throughout Potomac waters. Using a newly developed smartphone APP we hope to get snapshots of these sites throughout the basin. This work can be done by watershed or other groups, or interested individuals. For more information, contact Mike Selckmann at GMSelckmann@icprb.org.

A close-up of a man's face.

The Passing of a Commissioner

The ICPRB is saddened to announce the death of former Pennsylvania Commissioner Andy Zemba. Mr. Zemba, 50, passed away at his home on January 3. He was the director of the Interstate Waters Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). His responsibilities as an ICPRB Pennsylvania Commissioner had recently been assumed by DEP Special Secretary of Water Resources Planning Kelly Heffner.

Mr. Zemba was appointed a Pennsylvania commissioner in 2011, served on the executive committee, served as vice-chairman in 2014 and chairman in 2015. During his tenure, Mr. Zemba worked closely with ICPRB in efforts to help with Pennsylvania’ Water Resources Planning Act, which involves stakeholders in planning for sustainable water resources. Mr. Zemba worked with ICPRB, which helped to assess needs and develop plans in the state’s Potomac drainage.

As vice-chairman, and later chairman, Mr. Zemba helped ICPRB administrate a range of efforts. He brought with him a positive attitude toward the ICPRB, and was always constructive in guiding the commission in protecting and preserving the waters of his state and the basin. We thank him for his many efforts and contributions. He is missed by the commission and Pennsylvania.

For information on the services or to send condolences to the Zemba family, please visit:
http://www.parthemore.com/obituaries/obituary-listings?obId=706768#/obituaryInfo

A picture of a bridge across a river. It is slightly foggy. It is a stone bridge with three arches.

The Relationship Between Forest Cover and Source Water Protection

Water utilities across the United States and the world face difficult decisions in evaluating source water protection opportunities. While source water protection is seen as an important component of a multi-barrier approach to providing high-quality drinking water, it can be difficult to assess the financial benefits of specific programs.

A new project, conducted by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, seeks to explore the relationship between forest cover and source water protection. This project will apply sophisticated watershed modeling tools to determine the potential impacts of forest loss on water quality, and how this in turn may affect drinking water treatment costs. The results will provide an initial step for evaluating the costs and benefits of protecting forested land within the non-tidal Potomac River basin. Read more…

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Literature Survey on BMP Reduction Efficiencies for Pathogens and Indicator Bacteria

ICPRB was interested in exploring methods for developing implementation plans which address TMDLs for multiple constituents.  In particular, ICPRB was interested in documenting how methods to control nutrient and sediment can be related to bacteria controls and how management actions required to meet the nutrient and sediment reductions under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL may have benefits for reducing bacteria to meet the goals of local bacteria TMDLs. This interest is an outgrowth of earlier work ICPRB performed for the DC Source Water Assessment, where the Phase 4 Watershed Model was adapted to simulate fecal coliform bacteria so that likely sources of pathogens at DC water intakes could be identified.

After initial research, it was found that a survey and report had already been completed for urban Best Management Practices (BMPs) . The associated database, known as the International Stormwater BMP Database, is available online. A literature survey of bacteria efficiencies for BMPs in the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) had also been performed as part of an effort to quantify additional benefits from the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. This findings report documents the key elements in the urban BMP database and the more general survey quantifying the additional benefits from BMP implementation.

The findings of these two reports are documented below.

International Stormwater Best Management Practices Database

The International Stormwater Best Management Practices Database was developed by Wright Water Engineer and Geosyntec Consultants on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the American Public Works Association.  As of 2010, the BMP Database contained 2,500 analysis results for indicator bacteria from 141 studies. Most of the results were for fecal coliform bacteria.  Bacteria reduction efficiencies were documented for the following BMPs:

Grass Strips Green Roofs
Grass Swales Infiltration Trenches
Bioretention Porous Pavement
Dry Detention Basins Wet Retention Ponds
Sand Filters (or filters with other media) Artificial Wetlands

A parallel effort to develop a database for agricultural BMPs is underway but it does not appear that the effects of agricultural BMPs on indicator bacteria will be addressed by the database.

Additional beneficial outcomes of implementing the Chesapeake Bay TMDL: Quantification and description of ecosystem services not monetized

As part of a study for the EPA to estimate additional benefits derived from Chesapeake Bay TMDL implementation, Wainger et al. quantified the amount of bacteria reduction associated with implementation of the Phase II WIPs.   As part of that effort, Wainiger et al. performed a literature review of reported BMP efficiencies for reducing pathogens or associated indicator bacteria.  The review was conducted using Google Scholar, EBSCO, and Google. Efficiencies were taken from three sources: peer-reviewed journal articles, TMDL documentation from state agencies, and BMP guidance reports from state agencies and research universities. Appendix A of their report summarizes the bacteria reduction efficiencies found for the BMPs used in the state WIPs.  The report relied heavily on the International Stormwater BMP Database for efficiencies for urban BMPs.  Efficiencies for agricultural BMPs were derived to a large extent on guidance documents or TMDLs from Texas[1], Minnesota[2], and Virginia[3].  Bacteria reduction efficiencies for the following non-urban BMPs were determined through the literature review:

Barnyard Runoff Control Pasture Management
Land Retirement Loafing Lot Management
Pasture Alternative Watering Precision Grazing
Stream Access Control (Fencing) Livestock and Poultry Waste Management Systems
Forest Buffers Grass Buffers

Please contact us for more information.


[1]Peterson, J., E. Jordan, K. Wagner, and L. Redmon. 2012b. Lone Star Healthy Streams: Dairy Cattle Manual. Page 80. Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and AgriLife Communications, The Texas A&M System. Retrieved online.

Peterson, J., L. Redmon, and McFarland, Michael. 2011a. Reducing Bacteria with Best Management Practices for Livestock: Prescribed Grazing. Page 2. Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Retrieved online.

Peterson, J., L. Redmon, and McFarland, Michael. 2011b. Reducing Bacteria with Best Management Practices for Livestock: Access Control. Page 2. Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Retrieved online.

[2]MPCA. 2009. Groundhouse River Fecal Coliform and Biota (Sediment) Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Plan. Page 61. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Retrieved online.

[3]VDEQ. 2003. Total Maximum Daily Load Development for Linville Creek: Bacteria and General Standard (Benthic) Impairments. Page 160. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Retrieved online.

Wainger, L. , J. Richkus, and M. Barber. 2015. Additional beneficial outcomes of implementing the Chesapeake Bay TMDL: Quantification and description of ecosystem services not monetized. Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises, LLC: Oak Ridge, TN. Retrieved online.

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The Future of Water Supply

ICPRB, on behalf of the major metropolitan area water suppliers, recently commissioned a study on the feasibility of using the Travilah Quarry in Rockville, Md., as a potential raw water supply storage facility. The quarry could serve as a supplement to existing water supply for the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies water to the District of Columbia via DC Water, and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The Travilah Quarry study, and others like it, are being performed throughout the watershed.

This week, the Commission hosted the first of several round-table discussions with state agencies, water suppliers and additional stakeholders to discuss water markets and other promising tools for managing water scarcity. “One of the Commission’s most important roles is to bring people together to discuss the important issues facing the basin, and that is what we are trying to do in our new water markets discussion series,” says Dr. Cherie Schultz, Director of Operations for ICPRB’s CO-OP Section. ICPRB is also planning a study that explores the viability of additional water supply alternatives.

With some forethought and careful planning, we are confident that the future holds sufficient clean, healthy water for all who live in the Potomac River watershed.