Monday, February 18, 2008

Journal #10: Dr. Deez

I was struggling to find interesting things to read about, no thanks to crappy blogs, and decided to check out the Steinbrenner Institute at CMU's webpage. Eventually I found the faculty presentations, and was immediately drawn to finally reading some of Dr. Dzombak's work. This particular one was a report on his study of the Mississippi River and its relationship with the Clean Water Act.

Initially, it is made clear just how substantial the effects Mississippi River reach. The MR basin covers 50% of the continental U.S, mostly the eastern half of the country. The water discharge and quality are primarily controlled by man made levees and dams. The Upper MR is much bigger than the Lower MR, which results in different structures controlling the water flow.

The introduction of these man made structures has created a significant change in the distribution of sediment along the MR. Sediment has been forced into tributaries and areas where there was once little or none, and has dissipated from the main portion of the MR where it had once been greatest. The average nitrate content has steadily increased, due to agriculture (nonpoint) sources in the basin, that has resulted in a greater area of low dissolved oxygen.

The Clean Water Act requires regulations on water quality and is enforced by the EPA, but because the MR is so large, it is difficult for the EPA to coordinate this effort on a whole. The presentation criticizes the EPA as it has not acted to coordinate the different state regulatory efforts under one single entity.

It is clear that what one state may stress on regulating one contaminant, when overlooking another that becomes problematic at lower parts of the river, especially the Gulf of Mexico. The UMR and LMR both have different levels for interstate cooperation, but the LMR states have a much narrower focus and are not as well organized and able to regulate the entire region as a whole. The study stresses that LMR creates a better entity, and that the EPA helps this by coordinating both organizations then. This combined with better regulatory efforts by the EPA and work with the USDA in conservation methods are the key recommendations.

Being exposed to the efforts in regulating the entire MR as a whole makes me wonder how things are regulated on a smaller scale. The report cites the efforts in the Chesapeake Bay as something to model. It would be beneficial to see how the Ohio River is regulated and if it has similar coordination efforts.

1 comment:

Deanna said...

systems thinking - how do we address issues at local, regional, national, and international scales? is think globally, act locally an adequate or appropriate approach any more?