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What EPA is Doing to Reduce Nutrient Pollution

EPA is working diligently with its partners to combat nitrogen and phosphorus pollution (also called "nutrient" pollution) in U.S. water bodies through a series of activities found under the following seven categories.

On this page:

Promoting Collaborative Approaches

Overseeing Regulatory Programs

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Conducting Outreach

Developing Partnerships

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Providing Technical and Programmatic Support to States

  • Providing states and tribes with technical guidance and resources to help them develop water quality criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus as part of their water quality standards regulations for surface waters, including direct technical assistance through N-STEPS.
  • Providing information on cyanotoxin health effects and analytical methods and developing tools and recommendations for public water systems on treating, monitoring and communicating the risks of harmful algal blooms and cyanotoxins in their drinking water systems.
  • Publishing drinking water health advisories for the cyanobacterial toxins microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.
  • Conducting workshops in collaboration with states, tribal and local partners across the country focused on developing local and regional strategies for preventing and managing the risks of harmful algal blooms in recreational and drinking water.
  • Providing access to the latest watershed and water quality models supporting the development of nutrient and nutrient-related TMDLs.
  • Training state permit writers to implement nutrient requirements in NPDES permits.
  • Provided technical assistance to over 35 communities implementing green infrastructure.
  • Providing technical assistance for the nonpoint source sector under Clean Water Act section 319 in areas of nutrient management such as agricultural management practices, management of onsite disposal systems and urban/suburban green infrastructure practices.
  • Providing training and monitoring support to states/tribes in developing and refining water quality standards, reporting on water quality conditions, listing impaired waters, developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), issuing and enforcing discharge permits, managing nonpoint sources, protecting high quality waters, setting priorities for water quality management, and tracking changes in water quality over time.
  • Providing technical support to Executive order 13508, EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and published  Guidance for Federal Land Management in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that is transferable to states, local governments, conservation districts, watershed organizations, developers, farmers, and citizens in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Financing Nutrient Reduction Activities

Conducting Research and Development

  • Supporting a national research program that studies the pathways and effects of excess nutrients, including harmful algal blooms, on ecosystems and focuses in finding innovative and optimal solutions to reduce nutrient pollution.
  • Conducting a national study on excess nutrient removal – i.e., how to control nitrogen, develop and implement water treatment technologies -- at municipal wastewater plants (also called water resource recovery facilities).
  • Conducting National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS) – a collaborative program between EPA, states, and tribes designed to assess the quality of the nation's coastal waters, lakes and reservoirs, rivers and streams, and wetlands using a statistical survey design. The NARS provide critical, groundbreaking, and nationally-consistent data on the nation's waters.
  • Helping to manage the Nutrient Sensor Challenge Exit which allowed teams from all over the world to participate in developing affordable dissolved nitrate and/or phosphate sensors. Phase 2 is expected to be completed in 2016 with the selected teams conducting verification testing.

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