District). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encouraged area-wide wastewater management as part of its large construction grants program in the 1970s. Cities were required to demonstrate that any proposed area-wide wastewater management system was cost effective. Because of economies of scale, the analysis tended to favor the creation of larger area-wide wastewater control facilities as opposed to many smaller treatment plants. The federal government also nurtured the use of area-wide planning agencies, typically called Councils of Government (COGs), to encourage area-wide solutions to water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation, and other infrastructure problems. Much of their financing comes from the federal government. As with individual utilities, these agencies can fund watershed conservation or restoration activities if they view it as part of their responsibility.

The Anacostia River Watershed is a good example of federal agency involvement in an urbanized watershed (Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, 1996). This 170 sq. mi. (440 sq. km.) sub-basin of the Potomac River basin flows through parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and the key water quality issues are degradation by urbanization and agricultural activities. Restoration activities are being facilitated by the Washington Council of Governments in cooperation with several federal agencies. The Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force (1996) critiqued the funding aspects of these activities, and reached the following conclusions:

  • Grant availability: The Task Force recommended creation of a federal clearinghouse to inform state and local governments of federal grants for environmental restoration.
  • Grant scope: The allowable scope of grants tends to be too narrow.
  • Matching fund requirements: Local people recommended the elimination of matching fund requirements, especially for financially strapped communities.
  • Project operation and maintenance: The Task Force raised the issue that local communities may not have the resources to properly maintain projects, even if the federal government pays for installation.

County-Based and Agriculturally Oriented Districts

Some water organizations are formed around county boundaries. For example, Prince William County, Virginia, has established a three-county stormwater utility along the lines described for urban stormwater utilities (Pasquel et al., 1996). Some funds support watershed management, but in general counties are not significant funders of watershed activities.

Because of our nation's significant agricultural history and the importance of water to farming, a large number of agriculturally oriented districts have watershed responsibilities and provide some funding opportunities or in-kind services. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed water man-

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement