Cross-posted from the EPA Connect blog:
In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.
Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff. Read more »
Ryan Collins (center) stopped to meet with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell June 1 at his farm near Harpers Ferry. Photo: Jason Johnson.
When Iowa livestock producer Ryan Collins bought his 170-acre farm near Harpers Ferry, he knew from experience with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that the agency could help him plan a rotational grazing system.
A rotational grazing system—also known as prescribed grazing—divides pastures into four or more small paddocks with fencing. The animals move from paddock to paddock on a schedule based on the availability of forage and the livestock’s nutritional needs.
Collins says he has a lot more grass available than before. “I attribute it to the rotational grazing,” he said. “I like to have plenty of grass. The cows and calves both do, as well.” Read more »
An example of the damage feral swine can have on water quality.
How does the old saying go? That’s right, “Happier than a pig in mud!” Feral swine are no exception to this old farmer’s anecdote. Because they lack sweat glands, wallowing in mud and water is an instinctual behavior necessary for them to maintain a healthy body temperature. Unfortunately this behavior has cascading impacts, not only to water quality in individual streams, ponds, and wetlands, but to entire watersheds and ecosystems.
Excessive feral swine traffic around wallows and water sources causes erosion along stream banks and shorelines. Sounders, or family groups, of feral swine spend large amounts of their day around the wallow, especially in hot weather, which means they leave significant amounts of urine and feces in and around the water. The impacts to water quality go far beyond the immediate wallow site when silt, excrement, and potentially harmful pathogens, are washed down stream. Read more »
The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vergennes, VT was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant through a Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) on Sep. 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
This Friday marks the forty-sixth observance of Earth Day, and our USDA Rural Development family is celebrating with a week of project dedications and groundbreakings across the nation – projects that have a direct and positive impact on the ecology and environment of our rural communities.
This week, Secretary Vilsack announced sixty projects that will improve water quality and safety in 33 states across the country, and what he said in his announcement deserves special emphasis; building and maintaining water infrastructure creates jobs, boosts the economy, and provides rural families with safe, reliable water and wastewater facilities that improve the environment. Read more »
Through USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Puerto Rico’s Moises Velez-Santiago has protected his farm’s watershed, improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.
Moises Velez-Santiago understands the important role farming can play in protecting water quality for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents. He’s been farming on the island nearly three decades.
Through the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Velez-Santiago has strived to obtain a balance of environmental conservation and crop production. Read more »
Erosion along the Illinois River and its tributaries results in high turbidity levels. (Photo by Lauren D. Ray)
Thanks to conservation partnerships, two segments of the Illinois River are off Arkansas’s impaired waters list.
Surface erosion and agricultural activities along the river caused high levels of turbidity – or water haziness. Improvement in these conditions from the 2006 listing, led to ten segments of the river removed from the state’s list of impaired waters in 2014.
With assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Illinois River Sub-Basin and Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed Initiative (IRWI), poultry farmer Bruce Norindr is doing his part to improve water quality in the Lower Muddy Fork Watershed. Read more »