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National Water Quality Initiative

National Water Quality Initiative - Healthy Watersheds

(En Español)

Photo overview of the Añasco River watershed.

Río Grande de Añasco & Río Guanajibo Watersheds


For over 80 years, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has provided agricultural producers with assistance to implement voluntary conservation practices that protect natural resources while maintaining production and profits. Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), NRCS is continuing to offer financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in improving water quality and aquatic habitats in priority watersheds with impaired streams. NRCS will help producers implement conservation and management practices through a systems approach to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces.

Urban flooding in Rio Grande de Añasco watershed.

Caribbean Area Priority Watershed: Río Grande de Añasco

The Rio Grande de Añasco is one of the primary rivers discharging into Mayagüez Bay and drains one of the largest watersheds in Puerto Rico. The Añasco watershed covers an area of 257 square miles and includes portions of Añasco, Mayagüez, Las Marías, Maricao, San Sebastián, Lares, Yauco, and Adjuntas municipalities. The watershed is ranked # 5 on the list of impaired watersheds in the Puerto Rico Unified Watershed Assessment, due primarily to sediment, bacterial and chemical contamination (low dissolved oxygen, high arsenic and turbidity). Many of these pollutants are directly related to agricultural sources such as fertilizers, pesticides and manure from crop and pasture lands.

NRCS has identified sheet and rill erosion, water quality and quantity, plant health, flooding and invasive species as the primary resource concerns in the Añasco watershed that will be addressed through this initiative.

Caribbean Area Priority Watershed: Río Guanajibo

Río Guanajibo is approximately 325 miles long, including a 37-acre estuary, and drains 127 square miles, including the municipalities of Cabo Rojo, Hormigueros, Las Marias, Mayagüez, Maricoa, Sabana Grande and San Germán.  Río Guanajibo has 21 tributaries: the Grande, Coco, Flores, Cruces, Cupeyes, Caín, Hoconuco, Nueve Pasos, Duey, Rosario, Viejo, Seco and Hondo Rivers, and the Culebra, Honda, Rodeo, Piedras, San Pedro, Naranjo, De las Lajas and Maga streams. The Guanajibo has no dams or reservoirs.  The PR Environmental Quality Board (EQB) has established the following designated uses for the river: primary contact recreation, secondary contact recreation, aquatic life and raw drinking water source. 

According to EQB's 2012 water quality assessment, 47% of Guanajibo's total stream miles are impacted by agricultural activities.  Specific pollutants causing impairment are fecal coliform, low dissolved oxygen (DO), turbidity, and pesticides.

Contour row cropping for plantains is one of the many conservation practices to be used in the Rio Grande de Añasco watershed.Conservation Funding and 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).


NRCS identified priority watersheds through the help of local partnerships and state water quality agencies. Partners sometimes offer financial assistance in addition to NRCS programs. NRCS will continue to coordinate with local and state agencies, conservation districts, nongovernmental organizations and others to implement this initiative. This strategic approach will leverage funds and provide streamlined assistance to help individual agricultural producers take needed actions to reduce the flow of sediment, nutrients and other runoff into impaired waterways.

Producer Benefits

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!

Public Benefits

NRCS is proud to be involved in a nationwide effort with landowners and communities to improve and protect our water resources. The landowners and farmers participating in the initiative will receive conservation payments to work on 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 NRCS field office (Juana Díaz, Mayagüez and San Sebastián serve the selected watersheds). 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 field office to see if you are located in a selected watershed. 

Aerial photo of Rio Grande de Anasco and Rio Guanajibo Watersheds


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