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U.S. EPA Awards Innovative Grant to Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District for Pollution Reduction Project for Sacramento River

Release Date: 1/14/2003
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, U.S. EPA, (415) 947-4297

     The organization is one of 11 nationwide to receive funds under new Water Quality Trading Policy

      SAN FRANCISCO   The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a new Water Quality Trading Policy to cut industrial, municipal and agricultural discharges into the nation's waterways.

     As part of the new policy, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District will receive $50,000 in services from the U.S. Geological Survey to support a pilot feasibility assessment of trading to reduce mercury discharges to the Sacramento River. The EPA will provide the money to the USGS.

     The Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that requires the plant to develop a proposal for reducing mercury discharges to the watershed from sources that are either not regulated or cannot be readily controlled.  This pilot project supports the Sacramento Regional Country Sanitation District's efforts to assess the feasibility of achieving net reductions in mercury loadings through such offset actions.

     The new trading policy seeks to support and encourage states and tribes in developing and putting into place water quality trading programs that implement the requirements of the Clean Water and federal regulations in more flexible ways and reduce the cost of improving and maintaining the quality of the nation's waters. The policy will help increase the pace and success of cleaning up impaired rivers, streams and lakes throughout the country.

     "The Water Quality Trading Policy recognizes that within a watershed, the most effective and economical way to reduce pollution is to provide incentives to encourage action by those who can achieve reductions easily and cost-effectively," said U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Our new Water Quality Trading Policy will result in cleaner water, at less cost, and in less time. It provides the flexibility needed to meet local challenges while demanding accountability to ensure that water quality does improve."

     Water quality trading uses economic incentives to improve water quality. It allows one source to meet its regulatory obligations by using pollutant reductions created by another source that has lower pollution control costs. The standards remain the same, but efficiency is increased and costs are decreased. Under the policy announced today, industrial and municipal facilities would first meet technology control requirements and then could use pollution reduction credits to make further progress towards water quality goals.

     In order for a water quality trade to take place, a pollution reduction "credit" must first be created.  The EPA's water quality trading policy states that sources should reduce pollution loads beyond the level required by the most stringent  water quality based requirements in order to create a pollution reduction credit that can be traded. For example, a landowner or a farmer could create credits by changing cropping practices and planting shrubs and trees next to a stream. A municipal wastewater treatment plant then could use these credits to meet water quality limits in its permit.

     The policy could save the public hundreds of millions of dollars by advancing more effective, efficient partnerships to clean up and protect watersheds. The policy encourages incentives to maintain high water quality where it exists as well as restoring impaired waters. In addition, the policy describes provisions of credible trading programs that are consistent with the Clean Water Act and federal regulations.

For more information log on to EPA's trading Web site at: