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News Release

USDA Announces 2021 Priority Watersheds for Water Quality

SALINA, Kansas, October 13, 2020–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has named 379 priority watersheds to help agricultural producers improve water quality across the country.  Producers in these watersheds will receive focused financial and technical resources through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) successful landscape-level water quality efforts, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

“When producers voluntarily collaborate with NRCS we see effective conservation outcomes in our critical watersheds,” said Karen A. Woodrich, State Conservationist. “These landscape level efforts guide our achievements in water quality that benefit the public and our natural resources.”

The technical and financial assistance from NRCS assists producers with implementing practices that avoid, control, and trap nutrients and sediment, which can negatively impact water quality.  Practices include filter strips, cover crops, and manure management, which promote soil health, reduce erosion, and lessen nutrient runoff.

NRCS strengthened its focus on watershed assessment and Partner engagement in priority small watersheds since 2019.  NRCS encourages State Partners to begin collaboration on NWQI priorities for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2022 which begins on October 1, 2021.  See the NRCS website for a list of watersheds for NWQI.

National Water Quality Initiative

NWQI is a Partnership to identify and address impaired surface water bodies through voluntary conservation.  Through NWQI, NRCS has designated watersheds and provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance to help farmers apply conservation practices to protect water resources.  NWQI includes protection for both surface and ground sources of drinking water.  

A total of 175 watersheds – including three in Kansas – will be receiving financial assistance for practice implementation to address impaired surface waters.  

Water quality is improving in NWQI watersheds.  State water-quality Agency Partners report that 27 percent of NWQI monitoring watersheds show an improvement in water quality in at least one of the NWQI-monitored pollutants (based on 2016 data).  Further, 81 percent of these improvements can be attributed to or associated with agricultural conservation practices implemented by farmers and ranchers.

Since its launch, NWQI has:

  • Helped producers implement conservation on over 960,000 acres
  • Reduced sediment loss by almost 1 million tons
  • Reduced phosphorous loss by 2.5 million pounds
  • Reduced nitrogen loss by 11 million pounds

Participating in NWQI

NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods that are set locally.  Producers interested in technical and financial assistance should contact their local NRCS Field Office.

For more information on landscape initiatives, visit nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local NRCS field office. 

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