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 *Source Water Protection

Water utility survey

A survey of US water utility experiences regarding AFOs and CAFOs was conducted in 2005 by EE&T, Inc. The survey (Original Survey ) was sent to 182 water utilities in the US, ranging from one to nine in all of the 50 states (except Alaska). 64 replies were received (35 percent of those sent); of those 30 have CAFOs in their watershed. Combined these 30 water utility survey respondents produce over 10,000 mgd for over 16 million people in 18 different states. Respondents with CAFOs in their watershed came from the following states: Arkansas (1), Iowa (2), Idaho (1), Illinois (3), Minnesota (4), Missouri (1), New York (2), North Carolina (3), North Dakota (1), Nebraska (2), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (3), Utah (1), Vermont (1), and Wyoming (1).

The remainder of this discussion focuses on the responses from the 30 utilities with CAFOs in their watershed. Combined they present a wide range of CAFOs in their watersheds, source water protection measures and goals, treatment responses, and degrees of communication with CAFOs. The types of CAFOs in those 30 watersheds include swine, beef cattle, dairy cattle, chickens, turkeys, aquaculture, horse, buffalo, and elk. The primary CAFOs for these watersheds include 10 dairy cattle, 9 beef cattle, 5 swine, 3 chicken, and a few utilities did not know which were the dominant CAFOs. At least 19 of the 30 utilities have source water protection programs in place.

Click on the links below to see the survey responses from the 30 utilities with CAFOs in their watershed.

Contaminant concerns

In regard to potential AFO contaminants in their source waters, pathogens and other microbial contamination were the current concern most frequently listed by these 30 utilities (90 percent of the respondents), followed by nutrients and pesticides (48 percent), and less frequently pharmaceuticals, other organic contaminants, and metals (approximately one-third of the respondents listed each of these).

Evidence of CAFO impacts on source water quality

Six of the 30 utilities have direct evidence of CAFO impacts on their source water quality, twelve have no direct evidence but suspect an impact, and the rest have no known or suspected impact.

Treatment modifications

Six of the 30 utilities have already instituted treatment modification in response to environmental water quality impacts perceived to be, at least in part, from CAFOs:

  • One facility added UV disinfection treatment for Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and viruses
  • One facility upgraded to ozonation in preparation to reduce DBP precursors and other natural organic matter (a future expansion is planned which will continue to utilize ozonation as well as possibly UV disinfection for Cryptosporidium deactivation)
  • One facility installed ultrafiltration membranes for removing a variety of contaminants
  • One utility uses additional algaecide (e.g., copper sulfate) in their reservoir for algae control, and also installed additional granular and powdered activated carbon due to increases in taste and odor compounds (geosmin and methyl iso borneol )
  • Another facility also uses powdered activated carbon
  • One facility changed their chlorination sequence in response to elevated haloacetic acid (HAA) leve ls that occurred after heavy rainfall and runoff following a five-year drought

Future treatment modifications

Eight of the 30 utilities have planned future treatment modifications in response to impacts perceived to be, at least in part, from CAFOs:

One facility is planning a future expansion which will continue to utilize ozonation as well as possibly UV disinfection for Cryptosporidium deactivation

One facility is evaluating several treatment alternatives to maintain compliance with existing and future regulations. Membrane technology is the focus of the evaluation, for the removal of nitrates and organic compounds including DBP precursors, taste and odor compounds, and pesticides of which CAFO wastes may contribute

One facility is considering additional wells, riverbank filtration, off-stream storage, membranes and groundwater

Two utilities have plans for installing UV disinfection for treatment for Cryptosporidium, Giardia and viruses

One facility is going to move an intake to a deeper location below thermocline and implement switching of locations to avoid spring rain and snow melt

One facility will be installing new ultrafiltration membrane filters to replace existing sand filters

One facility is considering enhanced coagulation, microfiltration or UV disinfection

CAFOs identified in the SWAP?

Interestingly, ten of the 30 respondents who said they had CAFOs in their watershed also noted that CAFOs were not identified in the Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) report for their source water.

Stakeholder cooperation

Cooperation with the local farmers is essential for the success of any agricultural source water protection program. Many of the participating water utilities present excellent examples of different approaches to take for communication and partnership with the local agricultural interests. Utility contacts with CAFOs include the following various examples:

Participation in watershed coalitions that include state agencies, local watershed partners and farm operators

Working with county conservation districts, Agricultural Extension agents, state regulatory agencies, state agricultural agencies, and USDA offices that have existing dialogues with CAFOs

Direct work with a CAFO on a stream restoration project funded in part with a 319 grant, as part of a TMDL action item

Participation in the Quad State Poultry Dialogue ( Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma)

Meetings with the Soil and Water Conservation District (or the Natural Resources Conservation Service) and area land owners to discuss water quality issues, generally centered around nutrient loadings related to row crop activities

In one watershed all dairies have agricultural management plans developed with assistance from local and state agricultural specialists. That same utility provides cost-share funds to agricultural operators who install qualifying agricultural Best Management Practices

Another utility contracts with the local Soil and Water Conservation District to operate a Watershed Agricultural Program which develops Whole Farm Plans (including Nutrient Management Plans) for the participating farmers (mostly dairy), and the utility also pays 100 percent of the costs of all agricultural BMPs installed. Local farmers were directly involved with the water utility at each of the primary phases of development, implementation and review of this program. Annual meetings are held for the program to further engage local farmers

One utility says their Watershed Agricultural Program, funded by the state environmental regulatory agency and implemented by a Watershed Agricultural Council, has become a national model for addressing agricultural nonpoint source pollution. More than 95 percent of the watershed farms have joined the program, which develops Whole Farm Plans (WFPs) and recommends BMPs to reduce agricultural pollution and enhance the economic viability of participating farms

One city established a stakeholder-based Comprehensive Watershed Management Team in 1997 to develop a regionally coordinated approach to address water quality degradation in their watershed. Participants were drawn from two states, and included poultry growers, poultry integrators, poultry litter haulers and applicators, concerned citizens, federal and multi-state agencies and universities. Three working groups were established to focus on technical issues and build a sound scientific and economic basis for addressing water quality degradation

SWP measures used

The 30 water utilities use a variety of source water protection measures for potential CAFO and AFO impacts, including:

  • monitoring for priority contaminants and their surrogates (this is the primary source water protection measure utilized)
  • Filter strip programs - riparian buffers
  • USDA EQIP cost-share program to fence out cattle from ponds and creeks
  • Pilot project using fencing to keep animals out of streams
  • Public education campaigns and informational web sites
  • One utility provides cost-share funds to agricultural operators who install qualifying agricultural BMPs. This program is coordinated with local and state agricultural agencies
  • One utility pays for development of Whole Farm Plans, including NMPs, as well as 100 percent of the costs of installed BMPs at farms participating in their Watershed Agricultural Program. They also purchase conservation easements, conduct an educational program, and instituted a program to replace septic systems with composting toilets at private residences near the water supply lake
  • Discussion with conservation districts, agricultural extension agents, and county and local planners and government officials. In some cases, farmers have been successfully dissuaded from establishing new CAFOs in particularly sensitive areas or without well-designed controls
  • Working closely with the Farm Bureau to encourage CAFOs to voluntarily make improvement to their management of wastes and animal feeding practices
  • One city funded and implemented programs including numerous scientific studies, an interactive Geographical Information System (available to the public), a USEPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), a poultry litter export hotline, a common data reference library, and the development of the state’s first Watershed Restoration Action Strategy (WRAS). Numerous intensive studies were completed to address water quality problems by quantifying nutrient loadings, assessing impacts on water quality, and setting nutrient target values for source water area management
  • One utility developed pollution prevention plans for 244 commercial farms (mostly livestock) in their source water area. Over 95 percent of the commercial farms in the source water area are participating, including all AFOs. Most are small farms, and about five of these farms have more than 300 animal units and only one has more than 1,000-animal units. The plans identify and recommend BMPs to address animal waste, nutrients, pathogens, soil erosion and pesticides. Since 1992, over 3,000 of the BMPs recommended have been implemented at a total cost (excluding planning and design) of over $22 million. Nutrient Management Plans were also provided to all livestock farms (including manure spreading and fertilization recommendations based upon soil samples), and 1,624 acres of riparian forest buffers have been or are in the process of being installed on farms
  • Arkansas has recently enacted new poultry litter application regulations requiring waste management planning for poultry operations and application of litter in accordance with Arkansas phosphorus index

Future SWP goals

The 30 water utilities cited a variety of goals for future source water protection efforts related to potential CAFO impacts, including:

  • Development and implementation of source water protection plans and programs
  • Developing an increased understanding of the status of CAFO operations and the impacts of CAFOs wastes on source water quality
  • Increased monitoring, including monitoring over a long enough period of time to gain stronger understanding of CAFO wastes on the source water
  • Increased communication and partnership with all parties involved
  • Education and planning activities to help operators of AFOs and other farms understand the impacts of their operations on downstream potable water systems, and how they may lessen the potential impact from their facilities
  • Develop strategies to keep wastes from entering waterways, and to prevent accidental discharge to surface waters
  • Implement measures for reducing source water contamination, including encouraging the installation of BMPs
  • Cost-share implementation of animal waste and related BMPs
  • Perform periodic follow-up of BMPs to ensure proper operation and maintenance, and to identify new environmental problems
  • Provide Nutrient Management Plan updates on all participating livestock farms every three years
  • Restore river and stream banks and keep AFOs away from natural channels
  • Implement riparian buffers along all streams in the source water reservoir watershed
  • Increased use of fencing to keep animals out of pond and creek areas
  • Instituting proactive approaches for remediation of problems that have the potential for occurrence
  • Establish protective zones that prevent certain land uses around the water supply reservoir
  • Upgrade classification of the source water to that of a drinking water source