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Regional Resource Stewardship Council
Water Quality Subcommittee

Recommendations to TVA on Water Quality Monitoring

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on August 29, 2001

Background
TVA performs water quality monitoring to derive assessments related to the ecological health of streams, rivers, and tailwaters, and to human use of streams and reservoirs. To that end, 31 reservoirs are monitored for physical, chemical, and biological indicators of reservoir condition on an every other year cycle.

Over 900 stream sites are monitored on a five-year cycle using biota as indicators of stream condition, and 18 sites on major tributaries are monitored on a two-year cycle using water quality indicators and biota. In addition, monitoring of dissolved oxygen and temperature, tailwater biota, zebra mussel populations, and sampling for radiological analysis is conducted in support of river operations and fossil and nuclear facilities.

Finally, bacteriological monitoring at recreational areas, fish tissue studies, sport fishing information, data provision for public and industrial water supplies, and mosquito monitoring are conducted to protect the public health. Information is shared with state agencies, stakeholders, partners, and customers.

Recommendation
The Water Quality Subcommittee recognizes the invaluable nature of the work done by TVA. That work done early on by the agency formed the basis of the world’s understanding of reservoirs. The work should be continued and should be integrated into other water quality and natural resource monitoring efforts. Specifically, TVA’s monitoring efforts should be coordinated as much as possible with state watershed assessment cycles, the data should be managed in the national water quality database, and the results of TVA’s assessments should be compared with state- adopted water quality standards and coordinated with state and other federal agencies. The level of TVA’s efforts are considered to be currently adequate, and should in the future be coordinated with the capabilities and levels of efforts of the states and other federal agencies.

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Recommended TVA Policy on Watershed Improvement Process

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on August 29, 2001

Background
The water quality in any stream, river, or reservoir is a direct and cumulative result of the various biological, chemical, and physical inputs derived from the watersheds feeding into those water bodies. Making improvements to the water quality of the Tennessee River, its reservoirs and tributaries is best accomplished by actions directed toward changing conditions and practices in the source watersheds to reduce the flow of pollutants into the streams and reservoirs. At the same time it is recognized that water quality improvement is a long-term process and significant progress does not happen in the short term.
TVA began its Clean Water Initiative in 1992, building partnerships with community residents, businesses, and government agencies to promote watershed protection. The program is carried out by TVA’s twelve watershed teams, each of which has responsibility for specific hydrologic units throughout the Tennessee River Watershed. The teams work with and support community coalitions to institute agricultural and urban-management practices that reduce water pollution; treat eroded land and stabilize streambanks; plant vegetation and install structures intended to improve aquatic habitat; and collect waste and litter from streambanks and shores.

Issue
Concerns have been expressed about the future effectiveness of the watershed team program given its projected flat or declining level of funding.

Recommendation
The Water Quality Subcommittee recognizes the valuable resource TVA has developed with its watershed teams in bringing their expertise to bear on solving water quality issues in the Tennessee Valley. The watershed team program should be continued and strengthened by integrating its activities with TVA’s sustainable economic development initiative and using its experience to highlight economic trends that may adversely affect water quality. The program should also be integrated with the states’ water quality planning processes, using that integration to build on others’ expertise, experience and efforts.

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Recommended TVA Policy on Reservoir Releases Improvement (RRI)

Approved by the Regional Resource Stewardship Council on August 29, 2001

Background
In 1991, TVA took action to address the two most widespread and environmentally limiting conditions in the Tennessee River system: low levels of dissolved oxygen and intermittent riverbed dry-out in areas below dams. TVA initiated a five-year, $44 million program to improve dissolved oxygen levels below 16 TVA dams and adopted new year-round minimum flow requirements for tributary and mainstream dams.

Because conditions are different at each dam, TVA developed a wide range of state-of-the-art technologies to meet TVA aeration and flow targets:
• Oxygen injection, surface water pumps, aerating weirs, compressed air, and turbine venting systems are used to add oxygen.
• Re-regulation weirs, turbine pulsing, and small hydropower units (which operate when the main units are shut off) are used to sustain minimum flows.

These changes have improved conditions for aquatic life in over 300 miles of river. Studies show a significant improvement in the number and diversity of aquatic life in many tailwater areas, as well as a dramatic increase in tailwater fishing and local economic benefits.

Recommendation
Maintain the gains achieved by the Reservoir Releases Improvement (RRI) program by continuing to support the operation, maintenance and enhancement of the water quality improvements to meet tailwater commitments and designated uses.

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