Water and Environmental Change are the Focus of the 2017 Joint Conference of Two Water Researcher Networks, to be held Jun. 13-15, 2017, at Colorado State University

Water in a Changing Environment is the theme for the 2017 joint conference of the Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) and the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR).  The conference will be held Jun. 13-15, 2017, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.   The two sponsoring organizations provide a network of collaboration among water-resources scientists at universities in the United States, including those at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center and at the other 53 water centers or institutes in the states and U.S. territories.

For more information about the conference, visit http://ucowr.org/conferences/2017-ucowr-conference; or contact UCOWR at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, (618) 536-7571 or ucowr@siu.edu.

Here are the Web site home pages of the two sponsoring organizations:
UCOWR – http://ucowr.org/;
NIWR – https://niwr.net/public/Migration/niwr.net.

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending February 20, 2017

Below are images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the southeastern United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending February 20, 2017 (information available as of February 21).  The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images. For the current month’s other weekly reports on stream flow and precipitation, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Precipitation.

For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.

For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

feb-pond-photo-1feb-pond-photo-2A tale of two winters: top photo taken of a seasonally wet pond in Blacksburg, Virginia’s Heritage Park on February 13, 2016; bottom photo of the same location, February 20, 2017.

gage-new-river-at-radford-feb2017February 2017 Gaging Station of the Month:  New River at Radford, Feb. 18, 2017.


The following two color-coded maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation compared to normal for this period of the year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending February 20, 2017.  The maps were accessed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill; online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).


Another source of precipitation data is the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  The site provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries, and other map layers available include river flood forecasts and current flood/severe weather warnings.  Shown below is the continental U.S. 7-day precipitation map as of 7 a.m. EST on 2/21/17.  Please note that UTC, the time shown on the maps at the site, is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and four hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.



Stream Flow

Seven-day-average Virginia stream flows at different gaging stations as of February 7 are indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia, accessed online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=map.  The map’s color-coded dots compare the previous week’s average stream flows to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS are as shown in the chart following the map.
streams-feb20stream codes


Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Nutrient Credits

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 water-related bills in the 2017 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/.  Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s).  Information on the bill’s provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.  The bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

HB 2311Nutrient Offset Fund; additional stipulations for the purchase and sale of credits.  This bill, sponsored by Del. M. Kirkland Cox (R-66th District), of Colonial Heights, passed the House on January 23 and as of February 16 had been reported from the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee.  As passed by the House, the bill does the following (quotations are from the House-passed bill’s text):

Renames nutrient “offsets” as nutrient “credits…that achieve equivalent point or nonpoint source reductions in the same tributary beyond those reductions already required by or funded under federal or state law or the Watershed Implementation Plan prepared for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load pursuant to § 2.2-218.”

Continues to allow the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director to enter into contracts to acquire such credits using the Nutrient Offset Subfund; removes the priority given to nutrient offsets produced from facilities that generate electricity from animal waste; and adds a new requirement that credits in the Nutrient Offset Subfund be listed in a registry maintained by the DEQ.

Adds a new provision that the DEQ “shall establish a procedure to govern the distribution of moneys from the Subfund that shall include criteria that address (i) the annualized cost per pound of the reduction, (ii) the reliability of the underlying technology or practice, (iii) the relative durability and permanence of the credits generated, and (iv) other such factors that the Department deems appropriate to ensure that the practices will achieve the necessary reduction in nutrients for the term of credit.”

Continues to require the DEQ director to make nutrient credits available for sale to owners or operators of new or expanded facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:15, and to permitted facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:18.  Adds a requirement that DEQ director “consider recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade consistent with the requirements of the State Water Control Law (§ 62.1-44.2 et seq.) in the sale of nutrient credits to new or expanding private facilities.”

In Section E, adds “nonpoint” to the allowable source of nutrient credits: “For the purposes of this section, a ‘nutrient credit’ means a nutrient reduction certified by the Department of Environmental Quality as a load allocation, point or nonpoint source nitrogen credit, or point or nonpoint source phosphorus credit under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program.”

Related News Media Item
New plant on James River to require 1st pollution trade of its kind in VA, Bay Journal, 1/22/17.

February 24, 2016, Tornado in Appomattox County, Va., Recalled One Year Later in Lynchburg News & Advance Article

One year later—Bravery amid fear: riding out the tornado at Appomattox County High School,” by Ben Cates, Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/18/17, gives accounts from several staff and students at Appomattox County High School, in Appomattox, Va., who experienced the February 24, 2016, tornado that touched down about five miles from the school.

The tornado killed one county resident, made 40 families’ homes uninhabitable, and caused $11 million in damage.

The article is available online at http://www.newsadvance.com/news/local/bravery-amid-fear-riding-out-the-tornado-at-appomattox-county/article_775b0982-f659-11e6-8ae4-1b8051f5893e.html (as of 2/20/17), or contact the newspaper at 101 Wyndale Drive, Lynchburg, VA 24501; (434) 385-5400 or (800) 275-8830.

On Virginia Water Radio for 2-20-17: Plunging In for Special Olympics

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of February 20, 2017, is “Polar Plunges for Special Olympics.”   The 3 min./15 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/02/episode-356-2-20-17-polar-plunges-for.html, updates a 2012 episode on the annual winter-water dives happening across Virginia and the country to raise money for Special Olympics.

The Virginia Special Olympics Polar Plunges® in 2017 are as follows:
February 4, Virginia Beach;
February 18, Radford;
February 25, Dumfries (Prince William County);
February 25, Richmond; and
March 11, Charlottesville.
Information about these events is available online at polarplunge.com.


New River at Dudley’s Landing, Bisset Park in Radford, Va., prior to the Special Olympics Polar Plunge on February 18, 2017.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

Bay Barometer for 2015-2016 Released by Chesapeake Bay Program on Feb. 1, 2017

This post was written by Eryn Turney, the spring 2017 intern at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

On February 1, 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest “Bay Barometer,” covering data in 2015-2016.  The report is available online at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/documents/2015-2016_Bay_Barometer.pdf.

The Bay Barometer is an annual assessment of progress toward restoration goals set forth in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement (the 2014 agreement is available line at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/document/ChesapeakeBayWatershedAgreemenetFINAL.pdf).  The report groups measurements into 5 categories: Vital Habitats, Fish and Shellfish, Conserved Lands, Clean Water, and Engaged Communities.

In a forward to the Bay Barometer, the Bay Program’s director, Nick DiPasquale, said “improving” would be the best description of the state of the watershed.  According to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s blog (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/blog), more than half a dozen of the commitments built into the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement have reached the halfway mark to success.   For more information on progress towards meeting the Watershed Agreement’s requirements, please visit http://www.chesapeakeprogress.com/.

Following are the highlights of this year’s Bay Barometer, as discussed in the document.

Vital Habitats:

* Underwater grass communities have grown to 92315 acres, passing the 2017 target two years ahead of schedule. The overall goal by 2025 is 185000 acres.

* The Black Duck population increased to 51,332 individuals by 2015. The overall goal by 2025 is to restore, enhance, and preserve enough habitat to support a population of 100,000.

* Wetland habitats have been created/reestablished. 7,623 acres have been established since 2010, providing less than 9% of what’s needed to meet the 83,000-acre goal set for 2025.

* Riparian buffers have been created/reestablished.  64 miles have been established since 2010, providing 7% of what’s needed to meet the goal of 900 miles each year.

Fish and Shellfish:

* The blue crab population in the Bay increased to 194 million between 2015 and 2016, meeting 90% of the 2025 target levels of 215 million.

* Oyster habitat restoration is moving forward, with varied acreage completed, in six tributaries. The overall goal by 2025 is restore habitat to 10 tributaries. These reefs will be monitored on 3 and 6 year intervals to determine if they meet success metrics as compared to the other Barometer parameters which already have established numeric goals.

* 817 miles of stream were opened for fish migration between 2012 and 2015. This marks an achievement of 82% of the overall goal of opening 1000 additional miles (3510 total) to stream migration by 2025.

Conserved Land:

* Approximately 1,004,577 acres of land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been permanently protected from development between 2010 and 2015. This marks an achievement of 50 percent of the 2025 land conservation goal (an additional 2 million acres to the existing 7.8 million acres), and brings the total amount of protected land in the watershed to 8.8 million acres.

Clean Water:

* Nitrogen loads decreased 8% between 2009 and 2015, from 257,587,000 pounds/year to 241,498,999 pounds/year. Nitrogen still has (as of 2017) a concentration above the 2017 interim target of 219,537,470 pounds per year. The overall goal is to reach have pollution reducing practices in place to achieve the Bay’s Total Maximum Daily Load standards (TMDLs), which are the maximum amount of pollutants a water body can contain to meet water quality standards. TMDLs were published by the US EPA in 2010. With this, by 2025 the goal is for nitrogen to be reduced to 192,395,790 pounds/year.

* Phosphorus loads decreased 20% between 2009 and 2015, from 19,231,070 pounds/year to 15,357,050 pounds/year. As of 2015, phosphorus concentrations have met the 2017 interim target of 86,306,100 pound/year. The overall goal is to reach 14,456,580 pounds/year by 2025, also in alignment with the Bay’s TMDL standards

* Sediment loads decreased 7% between 2009 and 2015, from 8,675,354,000 pounds/year to 8,035,492,000 pounds/year. Sediment loads as of 2015 were not going to meet the 2017 target of 7,874,417,000 pounds/year, but as of 2017 levels were at 7,50,353,000 pounds/year, which achieves the target. The overall goal is to reach 7,340,531,000 pounds/year by 2025, also in alignment with the Bay’s TMDL standards.

* Between 2013 and 2015, 37% of the Bay and its tributaries met water quality standards following the Bay’s TMDL recommendations, which marks a 10% improvement from the previous assessment. The goal here is to have 100% of Bay waters meet water quality standards.

Engaged Communities:

* 108 public access sites were opened to public from 2010-2015. This marks a 36% achievement of the overall goal of 300 new access sites by 2025.

Data collected and featured in the Bay Barometer reflects the work of many individuals and organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (UMCES).  Both of these organizations also issue periodic Bay-restoration progress reports.  CBF publishes a biennial State of the Bay report, while UMCES provides the Bay an annual “grade” in its Chesapeake Bay Report Card.  For more information about these assessment systems, please visit the CBF and USCES’s respective websites:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation http://www.cbf.org/;
University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science http://www.umces.edu/.

Other Sources about the 2015-2016 Bay Barometer

Bay grass restoration threatened by warming, scientists say, Bay Journal, 2/14/17.

Bay cleanup efforts already feeling the heat from climate changeBay Journal, 2/8/17.

“Bay Barometer” shows Virginia on track to meet 2017 bay cleanup goals, but more work ahead, [Newport News, Va.] Daily Press, 2/2/17.

Bay “Barometer” shows restoration progress, but forest buffers, wetlands lagBay Journal, 2/1/17.

Bay Barometer Notes Measured Progress in Health of Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News Release, 2/1/17.

For a Water Central News Grouper item on the Bay Barometer for 2013-14, please see this link.

For an audio take on the Bay Barometer, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 305 (2-29-16).

Pigg River Dam Removal in Rocky Mount, Va., in Fall 2016

An unused power dam over 100 years old on the Pigg River in Rocky Mount, Va., was one of 72 outdated dams removed in the United States in 2016, according to the non-profit group American Rivers.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pigg River dam was built in 1915 for the Light and Power Company of Rocky Mount and later American Electric Power, and it has been inoperable since the late 1950s.

The dam’s demolition in fall 2016 opens up fish access to 72 miles of the Roanoke River tributary from its headwaters in Franklin County to the Leesville Lake on the Franklin/Bedford/Campbell county border.  The removal also will provide 2.2 miles of habitat for the Roanoke Logperch, which is on the federal Endangered Species List.

Partners in the removal of the Pigg River dam included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (the dam’s owners), Franklin County, the Town of Rocky Mount, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and American Electric Power.  Duke Energy provided $1 million for Pigg River dam removal as part of the company’s response to the February 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River (also a Roanoke River tributary) from a Duke facility near Eden, North Carolina.

Pigg River dam removal project part of national trend, Roanoke Times, 2/16/17.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, online at https://www.fws.gov/northeast/virginiafield/partners/powerdam.html.

A map of dams removed in the United States since 1916 is available from American Rivers, online at https://www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/restoring-damaged-rivers/dam-removal-map/.

More background on U.S. dams and the removal of outdated ones is available in “The Undamming of America,” by Anna Lieb for the Public Broadcasting System’s “NOVA Next,” 8/12/15, online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/dam-removals/.