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National Water Quality Initiative

FY-18 Priority Watersheds

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The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) is a focused approach to assist landowners, on a voluntary basis, apply conservation practices in selected priority watersheds.   The applied conservation practices will help reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. Through the NWQI the NRCS will work with agricultural producers and forestland owners in three selected small watersheds in Ohio to implement practices that improve water quality. 

NRCS will help producers and forestland owners install conservation practices that manage nutrients, pathogens, and sediments on the land.

NRCS worked closely with partners to select the priority watersheds. State agencies, key partners, and technical experts chose the following three watersheds where on-farm conservation investments have the best chance to improve water quality. 

  • Brandywine Creek-Broken Sword Creek Watershed (Crawford County) 
  • East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek Watershed (Tuscarawas and Holmes Counties)
  • Fivemile Creek-East Fork Little Miami River Watershed (Clermont and Brown Counties)

Selected applicants will receive assistance for installing conservation systems that may include practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.

This water quality initiative offers an opportunity to pilot a new Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff. Data collected and analyzed using this tool provides science-based information to help landowners determine the effectiveness of alternative conservation systems at achieving water quality improvement. Additionally, State water quality agencies and other partners will monitor water quality in-stream and at the watershed-level to track water quality improvements in many of the project watersheds.

Conservation Practices
NRCS conservation professionals will provide technical assistance and planning tools to determine which conservation actions will provide the best results to improve water quality on your land. Nutrient management systems, erosion control, conservation tillage, pest management, and buffers systems are just some of the practices being offered as part of the National Water Quality Initiative. To help install these conservation practices, financial assistance to share in the cost of these conservation practices is available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Water quality conservation practices benefit agricultural producers by lowering input costs and enhancing the productivity of working lands. 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. All across the country—farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are voluntarily taking action and putting conservation on the ground to improve water quality on millions of acres!

NRCS is proud to be involved in a nationwide effort with landowners and communities to improve and protect our water resources. The agricultural producers participating in the initiative will receive conservation payments to work the land in a sustainable way which provides cleaner water. In addition to the financial assistance, the land will remain productive into the future. Communities benefit by having clean waterways, safer drinking water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.

How to Apply
To get started, make an appointment at your local USDA Service Center. You will need to establish eligibility and farm records for your land. NRCS will help you complete an application while explaining which conservation practices are available in your watershed. Remember to check with your local NRCS office to see if you are located in a selected watershed. 

Program Manager
Barbara Baker
Assistant State Conservationist for Natural Resources