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National Water Quality Initiative

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


Priority Watersheds in 2018

Thumbnail of US map of watersheds approved for NWQI in FY2018

Click to see full-size 2018 watershed map (PDF, 12MB)

For More Information:

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

Resources and Publications:

2018 Watersheds
2018 Assessment Projects
2017 Watersheds and Pilot Projects
2016 Progress Report (PDF, 596KB)
NWQI Successes
Resource Stewardship

What’s New?

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 will add 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 our Dec. 21, 2017 news release for more information. 

Streams and lakes throughout the country are impaired because of excess nitrogen, phosphorus, pathogens and sediment from urban areas, industries, farms and ranches, and other sources. Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality in high-priority watersheds while maintaining agricultural productivity.

How Does NWQI Work?

NRCS works closely with conservation partners to select priority watersheds where on-farm conservation investments will deliver the greatest water quality improvements. NWQI is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the loss of sediment, nutrients and pathogens into waterways where water quality is a critical concern. The goal of NWQI is to implement conservation practices in sufficient quantity in a concentrated area so that agriculture no longer contributes to the impairment of water bodies within these priority watersheds.

To achieve these goals, NRCS will work with landowners to implement conservation practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces and buffers. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds this assistance, and in some cases, is leveraged by funds from local and state partners.

How Does NWQI Benefit Producers?

NWQI provides a means to accelerate voluntary, private lands conservation investments to improve water quality with dedicated financial and technical assistance and to focus water quality monitoring and assessment funds where they are most needed. Water quality-related conservation practices enhance agricultural profitability through reduced input and enhanced soil health, which results in higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity and nutrient cycling.

How Does NWQI Benefit the Public?

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. Communities benefit by having clean waterways, safer drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.


NRCS will continue to coordinate with local and state agencies, conservation districts, nongovernmental organizations and others to implement this initiative. Partners will play a crucial role in encouraging and supporting producer participation.