Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Working Together to Improve Water Quality Along the Lake Erie Shore

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.

USDA has a long history of investment in water quality and quantity issues.  Still, Toledo, Ohio Mayor Michael Collins issued an emergency water advisory leaving about 500,000 people without clean tap water to drink or cook with from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4.  The reason for the advisory: toxins produced by algae in Lake Erie got into the city’s water supply.  Residents were forced to rely on bottled and trucked-in water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.  The Lake Erie algae bloom incident shows we all have a lot more work to do to ensure adequate water supplies for now and into the future.

In response to the algae bloom incident, USDA leadership, represented by Terry Cosby, NRCS state conservationist,  joined Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur, this week to immediately announce $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

“It’s the largest watershed in the Great Lakes and we’ve got to get this right,” Kaptur said.

Planting about 35,000 acres of cover crops in a 4.5 million acre watershed won’t solve all the water problems in the basin, but “it’s a start,” said Cosby.   Cosby and his team are encouraging farmers who have been hesitant to try planting cover crops to take this opportunity to minimize their financial risk and do just that.  That conservation needs maintaining, renewing, and adapting in response to the changing climate and ecosystem.  Conservation is never a one shot fix, it’s a way of life. Much like having a safe, reliable source of water is a way of life, one that Toledo area residents appreciate now as never before.

The Maumee River (shown here) flows into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie at the city of Toledo, Ohio.  Lake Erie is a source of drinking water for residents of several states, but it faces continuing water quality challenges. USDA, working with Federal, State and local partners is working to improve water quality in the lake. USDA photo.

The Maumee River (shown here) flows into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie at the city of Toledo, Ohio. Lake Erie is a source of drinking water for residents of several states, but it faces continuing water quality challenges. USDA, working with Federal, State and local partners is working to improve water quality in the lake. USDA photo.

The new funding is available for agricultural producers to apply to cover crops, which experts agree offer the best protection to prevent soil and nutrient erosion in the next season. Over the past five years, USDA has worked with landowners, community leaders and members of Congress to invest about $46 million targeted to restore and protect the Great Lakes.  Just this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated the Great Lakes Basin as a critical conservation area, or CCA, in the new 2014 Farm Bill Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will invest an additional $1.2 billion through conservation partnership projects to improve water quality and quantity.

Secretary Vilsack said farmers are doing their part, and it’s important to continue supporting them. “We are swiftly responding with voluntary conservation efforts that will make the most positive impact to help the water quality in Lake Erie. We’ll continue to offer technical and financial assistance through our direct relationships with the farmers and by partnering with private and public groups through this additional funding along with all of our focused conservation efforts in the Great Lakes basin.”

Recently, USDA leadership met with more than 100 farmers, agricultural groups and fertilizer dealers in Ohio to collaborate on the best way to manage conservation issues that may contribute to on-going water quality issues in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Applicants can find more information or apply for funds at www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.

This bucket of water, taken directly from Lake Erie last week, shows that more needs to be done to improve water quality. USDA photo.

This bucket of water, taken directly from Lake Erie last week, shows that more needs to be done to improve water quality. USDA photo.

3 Responses to “Working Together to Improve Water Quality Along the Lake Erie Shore”

  1. Phil says:

    Why just Ohio?
    We all drink this water from one end of The Great Lakes to the other.
    You slowed the water over the falls years ago, now you are paying the price.
    Lake Erie can no longer flush out the filth that has accumulated in this toilet bowl.

    But what about every  state and Canada up stream and the 4 states here on Lake Erie? Michigan,  Ohio,  Pennsylvania,  New York and Canada?
    All their filth flows to our toilet of a lake.

    USDA Invests New Conservation Funds to Improve Lake Erie Water Quality 

    WASHINGTON, August 19, 2014–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $2 million in conservation funds will be sent to Ohio to help implement conservation techniques that will help improve water quality.

  2. Robert Fulton III says:

    My company can remove and use the algae as a co-fire fuel for coal fired power plants. The more we harvest, the more nutrients are removed. Agriculture is not limited, and the algae is removed before it begins to die off.

    Most efforts add chemicals to the drinking water to inhibit algae growth, or simply move waste from water to land fill.

  3. Joseph Luellen, Jr. says:

    I will work in MI & OH.

Leave a Reply