DEC releases report analyzing Vermont’s water quality projects of the past 7 years

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) has just released the Vermont Clean Water Initiative 2022 Performance Report that highlights water quality progress achieved through public investment. The Report details how $337 million of state investment in water quality projects over the last seven years has been put to work to reduce and prevent pollution washing into Vermont’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

State funding has supported implementation of 234,000 acres of agricultural conservation practices on fields and pastures, improvement of 340 municipal road miles through drainage and erosion control best practices, and treatment of runoff from 500 acres of pavement and other hard surfaces by stormwater practices. In addition, 2,600 acres of floodplain and wetland area have been conserved through easements, 500 miles of stream have been reconnected to restore flow and allow for fish passage, and 420 acres of land on lake shores and floodplains has been restored.

“This report documents the results of the state’s on-going commitment to restoring and protecting water quality and highlights the importance of sustained investment,” said Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. “The state’s clean water investments also yield other benefits, including protecting public health and safety, increasing climate and flood resilience, benefiting the local economy, improving habitat, and enhancing recreational opportunities.”

The report also summarizes progress implementing Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog phosphorus pollution reduction requirements, necessary to restore water quality. In these lakes, excess phosphorus contributes to potentially toxic cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) blooms and excessive plant growth that can impact the lakes’ recreational use and harm aquatic life.

Since the passage of Vermont’s Clean Water Act (Act 64 of 2015), water quality projects implemented through state and federal funding programs and regulatory programs have prevented an estimated 88,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution from entering Lake Champlain and 4,200 pounds of phosphorus pollution from entering Lake Memphremagog. This represents 19 percent and 13 percent of the phosphorus reduction required to restore water quality in Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog, respectively.

Over the last several years, Vermont has established a strong foundation on which to continue building towards achieving Vermont’s water quality goals. Looking ahead, the state is expanding existing clean water programs, investing in capacity, and empowering local, regional, and statewide partners to broaden the reach of clean water funding and accelerate water quality project implementation.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will hold a virtual event on Thursday, February 9, 2023, from 12:00 to 12:45 pm to present the 2022 Performance Report and its companion online Clean Water Interactive Dashboard as part of the 2023 Clean Water Conversation Series. For more information and to register, visit the Clean Water Conversation Series webpage. To be notified of upcoming Clean Water Conversations and other Clean Water Initiative news, sign up for the Vermont Clean Water Stakeholders listserv.

Check out the Vermont Clean Water Initiative 2022 Performance Report to learn more and explore investment, results, and phosphorus data in the online Clean Water Interactive Dashboard.

Image courtesy of Vermont Department of Environmental Conseration