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Tennessee National Water Quality Initiative

National Water Quality Graphic Head



Deadline for Applications:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Sign up to address water resource
concerns in the Caney Fork River
and Nolichucky River Watersheds.

Visit your local USDA service center

Read News Release here.

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.

Tennessee Approved Priority Watersheds

Two Hydrologic Unit Code - HUC8 watersheds were approved for the NRCS NWQI Readiness Pilot program in Tennessee, which include the Nolichucky River Watershed in East Tennessee and the Caney Fork River Watershed in Middle Tennessee.

NWQI_Tennessee MAP



The Nolichucky River Watershed is a 115 mile-long river that flows through western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It is a tributary to the French Broad River and is impounded by the Nolichucky Dam to form a 383-acre reservoir called Davy Crockett Lake. The lake is used for flood control and recreation. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has a 1,000-acre wildlife management area surrounding the reservoir. The Nolichucky River empties into the French Broad River near the headwaters of the Douglas Reservoir. The French Broad River merges with the Holston River near Knoxville to form the Tennessee River which is 652 miles long. The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River Valley. The Tennessee portion of the Nolichucky River Watershed is located in East Tennessee northeast of Knoxville and includes parts of Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Jefferson, Unicoi, and Washington counties.

The two ​HUC 12s approved include:

Muddy Fork and Big Limestone CreekMuddy Fork (06101080501) – Located in Washington County; impairments include sedimentation and pathogens; pasture/grazing.

Big Limestone Creek (060101080502) – Located in Washington and Greene Counties; impairments include sedimentation, nutrients, and pathogens; 60% Ag land.





More Information


The five HUC 12s approved include:

Caney1_Caney2_inset​Falling Water River Middle (051301080705) – Located in White County; impairments include nutrients, sedimentation, and pathogens; pasture/grazing and MS4 Area; 49% Ag land.  (Post Oak Creek is located in this area.)

Falling Water River Upper (051301080702) – Located in Putnam County; impairments include sedimentation and habitat; pasture/grazing/ 26% Ag land.

Center Hill Lake (051301080905) – Located in Smith, DeKalb, and Putnam Counties; impairments include habitat; pasture/grazing/ 10% Ag land.

Hickman Creek (051301080906) – Located in Smith, DeKalb, and Wilson Counties; impairments include sedimentation and habitat; dredge (gravel) mining and pasture/grazing; 50% Ag land.

Calfkiller River Middle (051301080404) – Located in White County; impairments include sedimentation and pathogens; pasture/grazing/ 33% Ag land.

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. Please refer to the ranking tools and payment schedule below and consult with your local USDA service center. NWQI is available though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Click the link for more information about EQIP.

Tennessee Ranking Tools

Tennessee Payment Schedule

How to Apply

Eligible producers interested in NWQI must be located in the approved priority watersheds. Producers are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center or visit

For More Information About NWQI Contact:

Kelly German
Resource Conservationist for Programs
NWQI Program Manager