USDA Invests $25 Million in High-Priority Watersheds to Improve Water Quality
Seventeen New Watersheds Added to National Water Quality Initiative
WASHINGTON– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced an investment of $25 million targeted to help agriculture producers improve water quality in high-priority streams and rivers across the country. Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help agricultural producers in 187 priority watersheds apply conservation measures that contribute to cleaner water downstream.
"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. Water quality-related conservation practices enhance agricultural profitability through reduced input and enhanced soil health, which results in higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity and nutrient cycling.
USDA's targeted approach to improve water quality is working across the country. In Arkansas, conservation efforts improved the water quality to the point that portions of the St. Francis River and the Illinois River are no longer considered impaired streams by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In coastal Mississippi, focused efforts led to Orphan Creek's removal from the list of impaired streams, and in Louisiana, two watersheds, Big Creek and East Fork Big Creek, are on track for delisting.
This year, NRCS added 17 new watersheds to NWQI, and because of marked progress in some watersheds, "graduated" 13 watersheds from the initiative.