Aquidneck Island's water resources are tremendously valuable, exceptionally interconnected and extremely vulnerable.
Aquidneck Island’s drinking water reservoirs, surface streams, aquifers and coastal waters are all hydrologically connected, and all are affected by nutrient or bacterial pollution from storm water and agricultural runoff. Nearly every surface water body on the Island is impaired for nutrients and/or bacteria, including five reservoirs that supply drinking water to most of the Island’s 66,000 residents; groundwater wells also exhibit high levels of nitrates. Coastal waters are locally impaired and subject to periodic beach closures due to elevated fecal coliform, causing significant economic harm to this tourism-dependent community.
All three of our municipal partners contribute storm water to surface and coastal waters, and all are affected by beach closures and impairments. All three communities have made major strides in managing water quality, yet all recognize that an integrated, collaborative approach is needed to more effectively and efficiently restore clean water, meet state and federal requirements, and achieve Clean Water Act goals.
The recent drinking-water crisis in Flint, MI, has spotlighted the criticality of protecting local drinking water systems, and the need to communicate management and financing needs to policymakers and water users. The City of Newport operates Aquidneck Island’s public water supply with surface reservoirs and watershed areas in all three Island communities. In 2014 the City completed a $67 million upgrade to its water treatment plant. However, with largely developed watersheds, improved storm water management is needed to reduce pollution risks to the drinking water supply, including harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the reservoirs caused by elevated levels of phosphorus. By reducing nutrient and bacterial pollution to drinking-water reservoirs and high-priority coastal areas, Island Waters will provide major benefits to public health and environmental justice, in addition to its benefits to local economies and ecosystems.
The project partners are requesting $996,820 under this proposal toward a two-year, $1,164,620 project. This funding will be used to 1) establish a sustainable inter-municipal partnership; 2) demonstrate the use of the partnership to reduce nutrients, improve water quality, and restore ecosystem services; 3) assess the effectiveness of this approach through tracking, evaluation, cost-benefit analysis and reporting of results; 4) fully engage stakeholders and the public; and 5) provide transferable information to resource managers throughout Southeast New England and beyond.
With the support of EPA Region I, Island Waters will position Aquidneck Island’s communities to more effectively and efficiently restore water quality, while providing a model for inter-jurisdictional water resources management for use throughout the region and elsewhere in the U.S. – wherever vital water resources are shared across political boundaries.