A key product of healthy ecosystems is sustainable water resources—clean and abundant water supplies for all living creatures.

Most water that people use falls first on the land. It then either percolates through soil down to the groundwater; runs over the land surface to a stream, lake, or wetland; or moves laterally through the soil to a stream or surface water body.

As it flows, the water picks up particulate matter from the soil, pavement, and other substances it encounters. Water that passes through farms and ranches can end up carrying nutrients from fertilizer or animal waste or other potentially harmful particles.

But farmers and ranchers can implement a number of different conservation practices to improve water quality. NRCS helps land managers by providing the technical and financial tools necessary to implement a system of conservation practices that result in good soil quality and clean water.

In addition to this individual level of conservation, NRCS also approaches water conservation at the watershed level. Watersheds provide the context within which we can meaningfully evaluate aquatic habitats and the movement of water, nutrients, sediment, and energy through the landscape. They are universal, well-defined areas that provide a common basis for discussion and of water, related resources and landscape processes.

The NRCS conservation programs and Initiatives found in this section provide the support for private landowners to achieve and maintain a high conservation standard on their land, resulting in healthy ecosystems that provide abundant, clean water.