Skip Navigation

National Water Quality Initiative

NWQI landing page banner graphic; photo of stream water rushing toward camera


As USDA’s premiere water quality initiative, NWQI provides a way to accelerate voluntary, on-farm conservation investments and focused water quality monitoring and assessment resources where they can deliver the greatest benefits for clean water.

Recent News


2018 Priority Watersheds
Thumbnail of US map of watersheds approved for NWQI in FY2018

​NRCS will invest more than $30 million in targeted assistance to help farmers and ranchers improve water quality in high-priority streams and rivers across the country in 2018. NRCS has added 30 new watersheds to the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), with 201 total watersheds included in the effort. Producers interested in NWQI should contact their local USDA service center. Applications are taken on a continuous basis, and they are ranked and considered for funding several times per year. Read more.

What's New

Now in its seventh year, the National Water Quality Initiative is a partnership among NRCS, state water quality agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and address impaired water bodies through voluntary conservation. NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to make a difference. 
Conservation systems include practices that promote soil health, reduce erosion and lessen nutrient runoff, such as filter strips, cover crops, reduced tillage and manure management. These practices not only benefit natural resources but enhance agricultural productivity and profitability by improving soil health and optimizing the use of agricultural inputs. 
State water quality agencies and other partners contribute additional resources for watershed planning, implementation and outreach. They also provide resources for monitoring efforts that help track water quality improvements over time. 

Pilot Project

In addition, NRCS launched a pilot project in Fiscal Year 17 to assist states with watershed-level assessment, on-farm planning, and outreach prior to receiving financial assistance for implementation. Technical assistance dollars were used to support producer workshops, analyze water quality data, conduct GIS analyses, perform stream surveys, aid local coordinators and expand one-on-one planning and outreach with landowners. Twenty-one watersheds across seventeen states participated in the pilot. 
Initiative Result
Since 2012, NRCS has worked with more than 3,500 producers to adopt conservation practices on more than 725,000 acres in priority watersheds through NWQI. ​To date, at least nine water bodies have been improved and subsequently scheduled for de-listing or otherwise removed from EPA's list of impaired streams due to successful water quality improvements. NRCS anticipates that number to climb to 10 de-listings by the end of 2018.
2017 Progress Report

Resources and Publications

2018 Watersheds
2018 Assessment Projects
NWQI Successes
Resource Stewardship

Contact: Dee Carlson, NWQI Coordinator (202) 720-5287