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News Release

Farmers, Ranchers and Landowners Are Doing Their Part to Improve Water Quality


Jolene Lau 530-792-5690 C: (530) 601-1595

But more can be done to achieve greater water quality gains

DAVIS, Calif., August 25, 2020 – Drive across California and you will see evidence of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work on the state’s landscape.

Conservation practices such as irrigation systems, restored wetlands, livestock fencing, and fields planted with protective cover are just a few visible signs of the agency’s work in our state.

NRCS conservationists in California work with farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and local resource conservation districts to plan and install conservation practices. NRCS offers more than 170 individual practices and suites of practices that can be used to improve soil health, water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat. When planning these practices, NRCS staff works to help producers maintain or improve agricultural productivity.

“As the nation celebrates National Water Quality Month, NRCS in California salutes the conservation-minded farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners who do their part daily to improve water quality and other natural resources on their operations,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS State Conservationist in California. "The impacts of their water quality efforts are significant and rewarding. We are fortunate to have clean, safe water for drinking and for agriculture, recreation and other purposes in California and we appreciate your efforts,” he continued.

Agriculture can and does play a critical role in improving water quality and other natural resources in our state. Because about half of the land is privately owned in California, considerable water quality and other natural resource improvements will be achieved by farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners as they make conservation decisions every day.

NRCS and its partners are committed to helping producers find suitable solutions to their natural resource challenges, such as water quality impairment. In many regions of the nation, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance in high-priority watersheds identified by local communities and applicable state agencies.

For instance, the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) targets small watersheds with the highest potential for water quality improvements. NRCS staff works with farmers and landowners to combat invasive species, protect watersheds and shorelines from non-point source pollution and to restore wetlands in these select watersheds. NRCS is seeing results from producers’ efforts through these water-focused initiatives.

Currently, California has the following NWQI priority areas:

  • Calleguas Creek (Ventura County): focus on cropland areas and sediment, nutrients, and pesticides.
  • Salt River (Humboldt County): focus on sediment and nutrients, pasture and forest lands.

NRCS California will soon have three new NWQI priority areas, approved in August 2020:

  • Pescadero and Butano Creeks, San Mateo County (sediment, from all rural landuses).
  • Oso Flaco Creek, San Luis Obispo County (sediment and nutrients, croplands).
  • Ventura River, Ventura County (sediment and nutrients, rangeland, pasture and cropland).

Water quality is also a principal concern for NRCS California throughout the state, including sediment from forest and rangelands, nutrients from pasturelands, and all of the above plus salts and pesticides from croplands. NRCS is also using the latest technological advances to help producers improve water quality nationwide. In California we emphasize irrigation, nutrient, and grazing management with associated equipment and structures.

Our success in improving water quality in California is a partnership effort. For many farmers, investing resources in environmental resources is a tradition that goes back generations. But we need more producers to include conservation as part of their operation. Producers who are interested in learning how to integrate conservation into their operation, can visit USDA’s website for more information about NRCS conservation offerings. In California, you may also reach NRCS by contacting