An allocation of $25 million by the USDA is being used to improve water quality in rivers and streams throughout the U.S. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help agriculture producers in 187 watersheds integrate conservation practices to improve downstream waters through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) program.
“Clean water is in everyone’s interest, and the National Water Quality Initiative has been successful because it brings together multiple partners in strategic areas to work towards a common goal,” said Vilsack. “Restoring health to waterways benefits not just farmers and ranchers, but it also gives their communities safe drinking water and provides healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.”
The goal of NWQI is to implement conservation practices in sufficient quantity within a concentrated area so that agriculture no longer contributes to the impairment of water bodies within these priority watersheds. NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and buffers, that improve water quality in high-priority watersheds while maintaining agricultural productivity.
The approach has seen success in Arkansas in portions of the St. Francis and Illinois Rivers. In Mississippi the Orphan Creek has been removed from the list of impaired streams and Louisiana has seen great improvement in the Big Creek and East Fork Big Creek watersheds. Altogether 13 watersheds have “graduated” from the program and 17 are being added.