Dec 20, 2016
USDA invests $33 million to improve water quality in high-priority watersheds


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of more than $33 million in 197 high-priority watersheds across the country to help landowners improve water quality through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

The NWQI helps farmers and ranchers implement voluntary conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and buffers, which protect and improve water quality where it is needed most. Conservation practices enhance agricultural productivity and profitability while also improving water quality. NRCS works closely with conservation partners and state water quality agencies to draw additional awareness and funding to these critical watersheds.

“USDA is committed to working hand-in-hand with Idaho farmers, ranchers, landowners and grassroots partners to address water quality issues and provide the tools necessary to ensure clean, safe water for all our communities,” said Curtis Elke, NRCS state conservationist in Idaho. “This latest investment is yet another example of how voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs are benefitting both producers and our natural resources.”

This year, NRCS added 42 new watersheds to the NWQI and selected 21 watersheds for new assessment projects, including three watersheds in Idaho. These assessment watershed projects span 17 states and include a variety of land uses and water quality issues. NRCS will provide resources for these assessment projects to leverage existing plans, data, and information, and fill gaps needed to complete watershed assessments and develop outreach plans. Experience and data gained from several studies, including the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), have shown that improvements in water quality are more likely to be detected when conservation systems are placed in the most vulnerable areas of a watershed.

“NRCS Idaho is committed to continuing our work in the Lower Sand Hollow, Dixie Slough and Lower Boise outlet watersheds,” Elke said.

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