Many Louisiana residents have taken water for granted most of their lives. There is so much water in rivers, streams, lakes and bayous that it has always been a part of the landscape. For years when we worried about water, we thought of flooding and drainage. However, the growth in the human population and the demands that our activities have placed on our water resources have reduced the quality of the water in many of our water bodies to the point that they do not meet one or more of their intended needs.
Every stream, lake or estuary has a list of designated uses; from drinking water to swimming or fishing, production of fish and wildlife, or irrigation for which there are standards developed by EPA and DEQ. Over 340 of our stream segments or lakes do not meet one or more of their designated uses. Their may be one or several essential factors that are not met due to one or several abuses to the stream. Protecting, maintaining or restoring these water bodies to meet their designated uses is the goal of water quality protection. In the United States this effort is under the regulatory direction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in Louisiana the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the responsible agency for enforcing state and federal rules protecting the environment.
The basis for all water protection regulations is the Federal Clean Water Act, first passed by the Congress in 1972. It requires the EPA and the states to set standards for water quality for steams, lakes and estuaries, to monitor the quality of these waters, and to develop and enforce regulations to protect these waters and restore the ones that do not meet the standards. At first the efforts to clean up the waters were directed at discharges from industrial plants, sewage treatment plants and other discrete sources, called point sources. While these efforts did improve water quality in most streams, the restoration goals were not met and EPA moved to the next level of restraint called for in the CWA, TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads). These include all contributing sources to the waters including Non-Point Sources.
Non-Point Sources are the waters, from rain, that runs off streets, yards, roofs, parking lots, highways, crop fields, pastures, and forests into streams and lakes. Any area from which rain runs off contributes a loading to the receiving stream. We all must now conduct our activities so that we minimize these loads.
The LSU AgCenter conducts many activities and programs to study how to protect our waters and to make that information available to the public. These pages are designed to display some of these and to help the reader find answers for their questions.