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Edge of Field Monitoring

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Voluntary edge-of-field water quality monitoring enables agricultural producers and scientists to quantify the impacts of conservation work on water quality.  Through edge-of-field (EoF) monitoring, NRCS works with producers and conservation partners, such as universities, agencies, and non-governmental organizations, to measure the amount of nutrients and sediment in water runoff from a field and compare the improvements under different conservation systems.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to farmers in priority watersheds who are interested in voluntarily installing monitoring stations.  Monitoring stations typically consist of sensors and apparatus to accurately measure flow and climatic conditions and also acquire water samples from flow running off or draining from fields.  NRCS first introduced edge-of-field monitoring as an opportunity through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in 2013.

NRCS makes $2 million available annually to interested producers in agriculturally impaired watersheds to monitor edge-of-field water quality.  Activity standards 201 and 202 are available to producers in any impaired watershed across the country.

What is Edge-of-Field Monitoring?

Edge-of-Field (EoF) Monitoring is a set of NRCS conservation activities to evaluate runoff water quality at the edge of a farm field and evaluate the level of water quality protection gained from various conservation systems.

EoF Activities include:

EoF monitoring is targeted to evaluate performance of conservation practices and systems, such as nutrient management, tile drains, buffers, and irrigation water management.  It will provide NRCS information to validate and calibrate models for nutrient and sediment transport, and help the farmer make the best conservation investments possible.

How it works

If you are interested, start by contacting your local USDA-NRCS field office to prepare or update your conservation plan to include EoF activities.  The National Water Quality and Quantity Team will work with you and your local USDA-NRCS field office to develop a preliminary monitoring plan.  You may also choose to work with a monitoring partner such as a university, to help with equipment installation and with collecting and analyzing the data. 

Once a preliminary plan is developed, the field office will help you submit an application.  As you work with NRCS on your overall conservation plan and application, you and the monitoring partner will draft a monitoring plan and Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP).  If the EQIP application is funded, the QAPP and monitoring plan will be submitted to the NRCS Water Quality and Quantity Team for review.  Once approved, installation and subsequent monitoring begin.

Why Participate?

NRCS is committed to demonstrating that voluntary conservation efforts by farmers are valuable to everyone.  We believe this collaboration with producers will demonstrate the effectiveness of system-wide conservation approaches and their positive effects on water quality.  The project will provide much needed data that shows the quantifiable effects of conservation practices on water quality.  We expect the data will help farmers adapt their management to both increase productivity and protect water quality.

If selected, NRCS will provide financial assistance to the producer to implement the conservation practices.  Before implementation, producers typically will work with the monitoring partner to develop a plan outlining the monitoring question, how equipment will be installed, and how data will be collected and analyzed.  Once NRCS approves this plan, the producer and monitoring partner can implement the practices.

The results of data collected will be maintained confidentially for farmers’ use and for use by the conservation partners responsible for monitoring.


Karma Anderson,

Eric Hesketh,

Jason Roth,