WATER

Long-Term Vision for Assessment, Restoration, and Protection Program (also known as the New Vision Program)

Each and every day, everyone benefits from environmental, health, social and economic gains that clean and safe water provide. There is no debating the impact water infrastructure has on daily life. One of the most critical challenges facing the nation is how to sustain water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure that the public can continue to enjoy these benefits in the future. 

LDEQ is collaborating with drinking water and wastewater utility managers, trade associations, local watershed protection organizations, and state and local officials to help ensure that Louisiana’s precious water infrastructure is sustainable with the implementation of programs such as the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 303(d) Program.

The original LDEQ program, referred to as the TMDL program, was established by the Clean Water Act Section 303(d) in the 1970s. At that time, it documented that states must assess all waterbodies and prioritize impaired waterbodies for TMDL development. The Long-Term Vision for Assessment, Restoration, and Protection Program, also referred to as the New Vision program, has since been implemented under the CWA 303(d) program. The primary goals of the New Vision Program include prioritization, assessment, protection, alternatives, engagement, and integration to achieve water quality goals. LDEQ hopes the new program will guide the realization of our clean water goals in a manner that recognizes lessons learned from the past two decades of CWA 303(d) program implementation while addressing new challenges with innovative solutions.

The CWA 303(d) program allows for implementation efforts that restore and protect the nation’s aquatic resources. Through this program the nation’s waters are assessed, restoration and protection objectives are prioritized, and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and alternative approaches are implemented to achieve water quality goals. The achievement of these goals is made possible only through the collaboration between LDEQ, federal agencies, the regulated community stakeholders and the public.

Louisiana’s Current Waterbody Priorities:

Priority Subsegment #

Priority Subsegment Name

Parameter Being Addressed

070505

Tunica Bayou

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

040504

Yellow Water River

Low Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients (Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus), Fecal Coliform Bacteria

040503

Natalbany River

Low Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients (Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus)

070501

Bayou Sara

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

040401

Blind River

Low Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients (Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus), Fecal Coliform Bacteria

040403

Blind River

Low Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients (Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus), Fecal Coliform Bacteria

040404

New River

Low Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients (Total Nitrogen & Total Phosphorus), Fecal Coliform Bacteria

 

What is Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)? 

There is a “pollution budget” set for every body of water -- from rivers and lakes to the bayou that runs behind your home. A pollution budget is the amount of contamination that a waterbody can assimilate (or blend in) while still maintaining the water quality criteria for the parameters of concern specific to that water body. Each waterbody will have a point source loading component (i.e., discharge from a permitted sewerage treatment facility), a nonpoint source loading component (i.e., individual home septic tanks), and a margin of safety (applied percentage factor for error). All of these factors combined will equal a specific waterbody’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

A TMDL can be developed for any parameter (i.e., dissolved oxygen, fecal bacteria, etc.) and can be expressed in a variety of ways. Additionally, TMDLs establish water quality-based permit limits for point source loads and the reduction percentages, if any, that are required for both point and nonpoint source loads. The CWA 303(d) program requires TMDLs for each waterbody, and the Code of Federal Regulations governs them.

Officially, TMDL = WLA + LA + MOS.    We also may include FG.  The terms are defined below.  A TMDL is regulatory.

WLA      = Wasteload Allocation (sum of all point source loads)

LA         =  Load Allocations (sum of all nonpoint source loads)

MOS     = Margin of Safety (to account for any uncertainties

FG        = Future Growth (allow for future point or nonpoint source loads)

All waterbodies have designated uses. Some of these uses equate to swimming, fishing, boating, a drinking water source, wildlife propagation or agricultural purposes to name a few. Some more directly impact the community than others, but ultimately, all play a role in the overall water infrastructure of a community. These designated uses are what determine the water quality criteria for the parameters of concern under the New Vision program. For example, non-compliant permitted facilities may be required to make repairs and/or upgrades, and unpermitted facilities may be required to obtain a permit if the assessment of the water body under the program uncovers their contribution to the impairment of a local waterbody.

How will the public benefit from LDEQ implementing the New Vision program in local communities?

The ultimate goal of the New Vision program is to restore and protect the state’s water bodies, ensuring future growth and prosperity in the community and preventing the restrictions of water quality impairments on local waterbodies. The new program allows for partnerships or collaborative efforts to aid in cleaning a waterbody. It also includes more public education and allows community stakeholders the opportunity to offer input at the beginning of an assessment and into the restoration and protection activities.

For example, an educational topic for the public may be the proper operation and maintenance of an individual septic tank. The public may not be aware that the appropriate operation and maintenance of a septic tank is vital to helping clean up the state’s waterbodies. Therefore, an alternative plan under the New Vision program would likely include contracting with someone to inspect individual septic disposal systems and discuss the proper operation and maintenance with the homeowner. 

  Additionally, the LDEQ would likely be sampling the waterbodies over time to gauge any improvements or fluctuations in the contamination of the waterbody. Furthermore, LDEQ would review records from permitted facilities, and if these are having any problems, the inspection division may visit the facilities to attempt to get them into compliance. Some activities could include projects from other agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries or Department of Health as well.

What can a citizen do help facilitate the New Vision program in their community?

The most important first step for a citizen is to take ownership of local water bodies. Contacting the local parish government and communicating a desire to see the New Vision program in the community would also ensure the collaborative nature of the plan is in place. A concerned citizen could also form or get involved in local waterbody-based organizations that support/conduct environmental education activities for the public and inform the local government of water quality concerns. 

LDEQ welcomes public insight into the local water bodies in the program, including any ongoing issues that may lead to water quality impairment, changes in land use or changes in hydrology. The agency also looks to the public to notify LDEQ and the parish of facilities in violation of their permits, other noticeable problems, flow restrictions in a waterbody and point or nonpoint loading sources impacting a waterbody. Finally, citizens should participate in engagement activities hosted by the parish and LDEQ to ensure everyone is doing their part. 

LDEQ wants everyone engaged in the process so that we can all be active stewards in maintaining healthy water bodies for today and tomorrow.  If anyone would like to share ideas or suggestions, or if you have questions or concerns, please contact us at newvision.303d@la.gov.