NRCS helps improve water quality in watersheds across the country

By Ciji Taylor, NRCS Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2013 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced today additional funding for the second year of the National Water Quality Initiative.

NRCS will make available nearly $35 million in financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in 164 priority watersheds this year to implement suites of conservation practices intended to improve water quality.

“These are voluntary efforts focused in small watersheds where the implementation of conservation systems can yield results for locally important waters,” said NRCS Acting Chief Jason Weller. “When farmers and ranchers work to improve water quality, they also help provide the nation with clean waterways, safe drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.”

During the first year of the initiative in 2012, NRCS provided $34 million in financial assistance to farmers and ranchers in 154 small watersheds, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 acres in size. This initiative builds on efforts that NRCS already has underway in areas such as the Mississippi River Basin, the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

The agency worked closely with partners, including state water quality agencies, to refine the eligible priority watersheds this year.  These partners assisted in selecting one to 12 priority watersheds in every state where on-farm conservation investments will deliver the greatest water quality improvement benefits.  These watershed projects will each address one or more of the following water quality concerns: excess nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment or pathogens.

Eligible producers will receive assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for installing conservation systems that may include practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.

Through this water quality initiative, NRCS is also piloting its new Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff. The tool will help landowners determine how alternative conservation systems they are considering will impact water quality improvement.   Additionally, state water quality agencies and other partners will do in-stream and watershed-level monitoring to track water quality improvements in many of the project watersheds.

“The quality of our nation’s water affects so much. Across the country farmers, ranchers and foresters are actively and voluntarily using conservation systems to improve water quality,” said Weller.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. Check with your local NRCS office to see if you are located in a selected watershed.

For more information on NWQI read here:


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.