Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Louisiana Watershed Management

Louisiana is blessed with extensive surface water resources including miles of freshwater swamps, streams, bayous, rivers and lakes. In addition, extensive fresh, brackish, and saltwater wetlands exist throughout the coastal zone. Forty per cent of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states are in Louisiana. Almost 20 percent or 8,277 square miles of the states’ 43,566 square miles of land area is covered by water.

marsh.gifSurface water resources in Louisiana are used for a wide variety of purposes including human consumption, agricultural irrigation, transportation, industrial processes, recreation, seafood production, wildlife and so much more. A great portion of the Louisiana economy and cultural heritage is directly linked to the surface water resources that exist today.

Many of the water bodies across the state have become impaired. Negative impacts caused by the activities of man have resulted in many Louisiana water bodies not meeting standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Clean Water Act of 1972 requires that water bodies in all states meet minimum surface water quality standards. Pollutants from both point sources (ex. factories, sewage facilities) and non-point sources (ex. yards, pastures, field runoff) play a role in poor water quality. Louisiana has over 340 stream segments listed on the EPA 303(d) list of impaired steams.

Major efforts are now underway in Louisiana to improve the quality of surface waters. State and federal agencies, universities, industry, business and citizens groups have formed a wide variety of partnerships to move forward in solving water quality problems in the state. Water quality solutions are often complicated and require cooperation of all stakeholders.

Surface water quality management is approached by regulatory agencies on a watershed basis. A watershed is simply an area of land drained by particular set of streams and rivers. Louisiana has 12 major watersheds composed of smaller sub-map.gifwatersheds. Watersheds often cross political boundaries. Several watersheds in Louisiana are shared with the neighboring states of Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.

Much of the cleanup effort is being focused first on those watersheds in the state with the most serious water quality challenges. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) non-point source program is responsible for determining water quality problems in each watershed. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is now being established for all watersheds in the state to help solve water pollution problems. Both the USEPA and LDEQ work to establish TMDL’s in Louisiana. The amount of pollutants allowed to enter an impaired water body (a water body on the 303-d list) will be limited under the TMDL program. Municipalities, homeowners, farmers, business and industry will all be required to minimize pollutant runoff in watersheds that contain impaired water bodies.

Helpful programs designed to promote good surface water quality are managed by the NRCS in Louisiana. Many farmers and landowners participate in the Environment Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). These and other USDA conservation program provide cost-share and technical assistance to help improve environmental quality.

Resources and Programs

The LSU AgCenter, a campus of Louisiana State University and A & M College, conducts research, education and extension programs to assist federal and state agencies, municipalities, business, industry, agricultural and forest producers and processors and private citizens in environmentally sound waste management. Research and education programs on waste management and water quality protection are also conducted in the Engineering and Environmental Science Departments at other LSU campuses.

Extension Outreach

The LSU AgCenter’s Cooperative Extension Service develops and delivers educational programs to all audiences in every parish. These programs provide research-based information to residents. Some Extension educational programs addressing surface water management are:

The LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Farm Bureau have initiated a Master Farmer program in the state. A partnership of state and federal agencies including LDEQ, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed to support the effort. The Master Farmer program is designed to educate farmers on environmental issues and encourage them to incorporate proactive culture methods to improve surface water quality. The program provides education to growers on the reasons for protecting water quality through classroom and field demonstrations. Participants who complete the educational programs and complete the active components are eligible to be certified as Master Farmers. Some of the active components are: to complete a Farm Conservation Plan, practice nutrient management, practice IPM, be or use a Certified Pesticide Applicator, and implement recommended BMPs on the farmstead.

LSU AgCenter has developed Best Management Practice (BMP) manuals for all major agriculture commodities in Louisiana. Farmers and landowners are encouraged to implement BMP’s voluntarily as a means of improving water quality.

Educational programs such as Farm-A-Syst designed for farmers and Home-A-Syst for home environmental issues also help citizens understand and solve Louisiana water quality challenges. Through a series of check sheets, items that could cause damage to waters can be identified and corrected by using supplied information sheets.

The Louisiana Master Gardener program conducted by Louisiana Cooperative gardner.jpgExtension Service provides information on determining appropriate amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to use on lawns and gardens so that productivity is enhanced while runoff of pesticides and fertilizers is diminished.

Scientific Research

Research on surface water protection is conducted by the LSU AgCenter’s Experiment Station. Surface water protection research is also conducted by the Department of Animal Science, the Department of Agronomy, and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Some examples of major watershed management research efforts in Louisiana include:

C. Drapcho, and A. Hubbs. Fecal Coliform Concentrations in Runoff from Fields with Applied Dairy Manure. Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute. 2000-02.

J. Beatty (Co-PI), C. Drapcho (Co-PI), E. Achberger. Impact of Grazing-Based Dairy on Surface Water Quality in Southeast Louisiana. USDA Tillage, Silviculture and Waste Management Special Grant. 1998 - 2001.

B. LeBlanc, B. Venuto, C. Drapcho, J. Ward, and M. Poirrier. Implementation and Testing of Two Dairy Waste Treatment Systems and Propagation of SAV for Transplantation into Lake Pontchartrain. EPA-NOAA. 2002 – 2004.

College and University Education

Education on surface water protection practices is provided in the departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Agronomy, Civil Engineering, and Environmental Science.

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