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Synthesis Report: CEAP-NIFA Competitive Grant Watershed Studies

NIFA Synthesis Study cover image

New! Steps to Citizen-based Watershed Planning: A Presentation For Watershed Planners, November 2012 (PPT; 15.2 MB)

As part of the CEAP Watershed Assessment Studies, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and NRCS jointly funded 13 projects to evaluate the effects of cropland and pastureland conservation practices on spatial and temporal trends in water quality at the watershed scale. In some projects, participants also investigated social and economic factors that influence implementation and maintenance of practices. The NIFA-CEAP projects were conducted from 2004 to 2011. They were mainly retrospective, in that they focused on conservation practices and water quality monitoring efforts that had been implemented before the NIFA-CEAP projects began.

A synthesis project designed to discover common themes among the 13 studies was led by North Carolina State University (NCSU) in conjunction with five other institutions and organizations. Dr. Deanna Osmond, NCSU, is principal investigator for the synthesis study.

Map showing the watersheds used in the NIFA synthesis study

Key Findings

The lessons learned from this synthesis strengthen the knowledge base for evaluating the impacts of conservation practices on water quality, improving management of agricultural landscapes for improved water resource outcomes, and informing conservation policy. Here are the consistent themes and lessons learned throughout the NIFA watershed studies:

  1. Assess and plan conservation practice implementation at the watershed scale (in addition to the field or farm scale) for more effective water quality outcomes.
  2. Identify the pollutants of concern and the source of those pollutants before selecting conservation practices. Prioritize conservation practices in the critical areas of the watershed—those that generate the most pollution—to ensure the most effective use of resources.
  3. Select and apply practices that not only are effective in addressing the identified pollutants of concern but that also will be adopted and maintained on the landscape.
  4. Keep track of conservation practice implementation and land management activities to help assess accomplishments and additional treatment needs.
  5. Where conservation practice effectiveness is assessed scientifically, establish water quality monitoring protocols that are designed specifically to evaluate the change in water quality resulting from conservation treatment on the land.

These documents require Adobe Acrobat

Additional Resources

Contact

Dr. Deanna Osmond, NCSU, principal investigator
Lisa Duriancik, NRCS

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