National Water Quality Initiative

Web image: National Water Quality Initiative prioity watersheds
Full screen view

In Fiscal Year 2012, New York selected three
portions of the Chautauqua Lake watershed for
the National Water Quality Initiative.

1) Ball Creek-Chautauqua Lake Watershed
2) Bemus Creek-Chautauqua Lake Watershed
3) Chadakoin River-Chautauqua Lake Watershed

Dairy cows grazing in a pasture

Applications for all USDA NRCS programs are accepted on a continuous basis with application batching dates set regularly. The application batching date has not yet been established for Fiscal Year 2014 National Water Quality Initiative. Batching dates will be posted here when they are established.


Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in improving water quality and aquatic habitats in priority watersheds with impaired streams. NRCS will help producers implement conservation and management practices through a systems approach to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces. For over 75 years, NRCS has provided agricultural producers with assistance to implement voluntary conservation practices that protect natural resources while maintaining production and profits.

New York State Priority Watersheds

New York has selected three portions of the Chautauqua Lake watershed for the National Water Quality Initiative, including Ball Creek, Bemus Creek, and the Chadakoin River. These watersheds are located in the center of Chautauqua County, on the Allegheny Plateau. They encompass 64,000 acres of rolling hills, which include private forest land, small farms, and lake-based recreational homes.

Nutrient and sediment runoff from developed and rural land uses has resulted in the eutrophication of Chautauqua Lake which supports summer algal blooms and invasive submerged aquatic vegetation. The land use distribution in the watershed is approximately 28 percent agricultural, 66 percent forested, and 6 percent urban, with one-quarter of the agricultural land in row crops and the remainder in hay and pasture.

Conservation Funding and Practices

NRCS conservation professionals will provide technical assistance and planning tools to determine which conservation actions will provide the best results to improve water quality on your land. Nutrient management systems, erosion control, conservation tillage, pest management, and buffers systems are just some of the practices being offered as part of the National Water Quality Initiative. To help install these conservation practices, financial assistance to share in the cost of these conservation practices is available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).


NRCS identified priority watersheds through the help of local partnerships and state water quality agencies. Partners sometimes offer financial assistance in addition to NRCS programs. NRCS will continue to coordinate with local and state agencies, conservation districts, nongovernmental organizations and others to implement this initiative. This strategic approach will leverage funds and provide streamlined assistance to help individual agricultural producers take needed actions to reduce the flow of sediment, nutrients and other runoff into impaired waterways.

Producer Benefits

Water quality conservation practices benefit agricultural producers by lowering input costs and enhancing the productivity of working lands. Conservation investments are good for all Americans because well managed farms limit pollution from runoff, produce food and fiber, sustain rural economies, and provide food security to the Nation. All across the country, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are voluntarily taking action and putting conservation on the ground to improve water quality on millions of acres!

Public Benefits

NRCS is proud to be involved in a nationwide effort with landowners and communities to improve and protect our water resources. The landowners and farmers participating in the initiative will receive conservation payments to work on the land in a sustainable way which provides cleaner water. In addition to the financial assistance, the land will remain productive into the future. Communities benefit by having clean waterways, safer drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.

How to Apply for USDA-NRCS Conservation Programs

Learn what steps you will need to take to prepare for, and submit, your application to become a USDA-NRCS Conservation Program participant.

Learn more information on the criteria required to become an eligible EQIP applicant.

For more information, contact your local USDA Service Center, or visit the USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program web site.

The following document requires Adobe Reader.

National Water Quality Initiative Fact Sheet (PDF; 3.3 MB)