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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Nevada (Section 319I - 1994)

A key element in Nevada's nonpoint source program is the generation of public support from both elected officials and private citizens. Using section 319 funds, Nevada was able to begin the long-term process of healing damaged areas--like the Quinn River--using a basin-by-basin approach.

Restoring the Quinn River--An Important Riparian Resource

The East Fork Quinn River in the Humboldt National Forest is a popular area for wildlife, livestock, fishery, and public use. But as a result of its attractiveness, the area has suffered. Poor livestock grazing practices and recreational uses, drought, and fires have caused stream, bank, and vegetation damage. This has resulted in erosion and sediment deposits and high water temperatures that are harmful to the river's vegetation and aquatic life.

To reverse this downward trend on an 8-mile stretch of the river located in northern Humboldt County, the EPA and the Forest Service worked with a variety of entities including private ranchers, the Boy Scouts, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Service, and several state agencies to tackle some of the impairment problems by using best management practices.

Another important project goal was to demonstrate that livestock can graze in riparian areas under the "right" conditions and through cooperation of the permittees. The project was aimed at showing that this type of cooperation and consensus can be achieved. The project, which began in 1990 and was completed in September 1991, cost nearly $62,800. Section 319 funds contributed $35,154, with matching funds making up the difference. Additional 319 funding will support continued monitoring and streambank rehabilitation work.

Specific project objectives were to

  • Stabilize actively eroding streambanks;
  • Reduce stream temperature;
  • Continue controlled livestock grazing;
  • Develop an educational tool to provide information and demonstrate successes achieved through BMPs; and
  • Show how the degree of success ties to the cooperation of volunteers, state and federal agencies, and local public land use interests.

Two best management practices were used for streambank stabilization. The first created a riparian pasture using an 8-mile fence to control the amount, timing, and location of grazing and allow the riparian area to recover. The second was streambank armoring, used to slow the velocity of water and protect streambanks, through planting approximately 4,000 feet of vertical streambanks with juniper and sagebrush.

To reduce thermal pollution, approximately 2,800 feet of a streambank was planted with 1,700 willows over two seasons. In the summer of 1991, 95 percent were producing leaves and had about 1 foot of new growth. Sagebrush revetment, a best management practice that holds down the soil to avoid further erosion, provides a site to deposit sediment and grow vegetation. This allows the channel to narrow, providing less surface area of water and more shading as vegetation grows, moderating stream temperatures. Establishing livestock management in - riparian pastures will also allow vegetation to be re-established, reducing thermal pollution.

Two best management practices were developed to control livestock grazing. The first was to create riparian pastures, which are easily monitored and managed for best time and type of use. The second was to produce a 12-minute video entitled "A Shared Vision for the Quinn River," which demonstrates the success that can be achieved in livestock grazing through cooperation and the process used to achieve it.

The monitoring portion of the project included a microinvertebrate analysis. The 1991 data at one monitoring station showed that the bioconcentration index (BCI) climbed from poor in June to fair in October. The General Aquatic Wildlife System (GAWS) summary, comparing 1992 data with 1987 data, showed that the present habitat conditions were fair but approaching good. Habitat parameters such as bank cover, bank soil stability, and bank vegetation stability have also improved since the 1987 survey. Stream monitoring temperature devices have been installed but have not yet been read for 1993. Photo points and aerial photography are also being used to gather data. Monitoring the project's long-term effectiveness will continue for years.

ET Project Moves Public to Action

Another project that depended on public support--and education--was the university developed Evapotranspiration (ET) Lawn Watering System. To introduce the concept in southern Nevada, the ET Public Education Project was developed to educate homeowners, renters, and youths about the importance of conserving water and reducing nonpoint source pollution runoff produced by watering lawns.

The project was sponsored by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas Valley Water District, Clark County, and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. It lasted from April 1991 through September 1992 at a total cost of $89,581, of which $25,000 was funded with a 205(j) grant under the authority of section 319.

The project developed three (10, 20, and 30-second) versions of a television public service announcement (PSA), using a humorous animated water drop. It urges the public to call for a free lawn care manual. A radio version was also produced. The manual, entitled "All Seeing, All Knowing Desert Lawn Care Manual," also features the water drop cartoon character. Offered in English and Spanish, the manual provides complete lawn care information, sprinkler and watering guides, and evaluation cards to track knowledge gained and changes in lawn watering habits.

The project also developed a 9-minute video based on a preteen love story. Aimed at homeowners and youths, the video emphasizes the importance of using water wisely and explains how to perform the ET cup test. Two versions of the video--geared to northern and southern parts of the state--are being shown in all middle schools. Evaluation cards also accompany the video to track effectiveness.

Effectiveness was measured with random sampling surveys prior to the project's start and after its completion. Five Las Vegas television stations aired the PSAs an average of 20 times each month, with a total of 600 airings. An estimated 65,000 people, or 74 percent of the Las Vegas audience, saw each airing. Since television coverage extends into neighboring Arizona, Utah, and California, and rural areas of southern Nevada, the University of Nevada estimated that over 1 million people saw this information.

Initially, 35,000 lawn care manuals were distributed, and requests continue. Area newspapers, radio stations, and civic organizations gave the project additional publicity. The project also received several state and - national awards for excellence.

The success of this project was evidenced in the proven increase in public awareness and education and subsequent use of a new best management practice. In 1992, Las Vegas showed a 3 percent decrease in water use over 1991--even with temperatures averaging 10 percent higher and 40,000 new residents settling into the Las Vegas valley. A - survey reported that 28 percent of residents who water lawns use the project's ET method and 11 percent of residents have improved their watering methods.

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