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In the news: Environment

EPA FUELS STUDENT RESEARCH: Several New England college students have received research fellowships from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study environmental science, pollution prevention and other issues. Eighteen undergraduate and graduate students in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont received a total of as much as $783,600 in research fellowships from the federal agency.

They are among 127 students nationwide to receive up to $5.3 million from EPA to pay their tuition this year. Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office, said the awards give students the chance to pursue research and education that might otherwise be inaccessible. The students are researching issues such as debris and pollutants in the ocean, the ecosystems of Brazil’s forests and restoring Atlantic salmon to Lake Champlain that borders New York and Vermont.

— AP

MANAGING STATE WATER RESOURCES: The Patrick-Murray Administration last week unveiled a plan to better protect the state’s water resources by encouraging “prudent use of water to balance the need for water consumption and increased economic development with the ecological health of the water body.”

A Sustainable Water Management Initiative is the work of the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and related agencies. Its goal is to maintain healthy rivers and streams and improve degraded water resources.

“This initiative will substantially improve our management of water, provide greater balance between human needs and aquatic habitat, and both support and drive beneficial economic development policy,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a release.

Massachusetts receives 44 inches of precipitation in an average year. While that is enough to meet water needs most of the time, rainfall is not evenly distributed, the state notes, so during months of less-than-average rainfall — or drought — this amount of water does not meet human and ecological needs. In extreme cases, streams and rivers can run dry. Further, disputes over how the state allocates water have led to costly litigation, long delays and lack of certainty in water withdrawal permit decisions, the agency said in a release.

“It is vitally important to manage the water resources of the Commonwealth so that there is enough for the many and oft-times competing long-term needs of our communities, as well as our aquatic ecosystems,” Rick Sullivan, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said in a statement. “This system protects the resource for both human enjoyment and ecological health.”

The framework uses a U.S. Geological Survey peer-reviewed scientific model to better understand the relationship between water withdrawals and the health of streams and rivers. It will then flag water basins that have been impacted by large water withdrawals and other human alterations.

The system looks at “safe yield” for water resources in the context of balancing competing needs and sets up a policy for approving withdrawals of water from rivers and streams.

— Compiled by Larry Parnass

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