EPA and State Source Water and Agriculture Conference Call Highlights USDA Engagement Opportunities

On March 6th, states and EPA participated in the Source Water and Agriculture quarterly conference call. The agenda included presentations by speakers on USDA engagement efforts and opportunities. Following are a few key items discussed on the call that should be of interest to state drinking water programs.

Kira Jacobs of EPA Region 1 provided an update on collaborative efforts with the USDA NRCS state conservationists in the Salmon Falls Watershed that have inspired similar efforts with USDA NRCS conservationists in the other New England states. For more information about the Salmon Falls project, visit the website at:
http://www.prep.unh.edu/sfwc.htm. For more information about all of the New England state efforts, please contact Kira Jacobs at Jacobs.kira@epa.gov.

Sylvia Malm shared information about the Source Water Protection Lessons that have been developed for the Future Farmers of America (FFA) for education instruction by teachers in the classroom. The lessons are almost final and will be posted on the FFA website in the near future. Stay tuned!

Roberta Parry of EPA shared her perspectives on the new USDA NRCS Nutrient Management Conservation Practice Standard 590. This is a critical standard for getting adequate nutrient management on the ground and for setting expectations for nutrient management even in the absence of cost-share. NRCS state offices have until January 2013 to comply with the standard.

NRCS is just beginning to work on implementing this standard and the opportunity is ripe for state drinking water programs to engage with their NRCS state conservationist and state Clean Water Act partners on it. The state conservationists will need state water program support and input to customize their individual plans of action for each state. This 590 Standard provides an invitation for you to get involved!

Please note that NRCS leaders are aware of, and working on solutions for a number of issues that affect water quality including:

  • Conducting pilot projects using bio-reactors to lessen infiltration where problems exist with tile drains and drainage in general;
  • Reworking its policy on comprehensive nutrient management planning with its technical assistance team to ensure good quality nutrient management plans;
  • Increasing the number of, and working on issues with certification of, 3rd party Technical Service Providers (TSPs) that are now required to be engineers. Some states noted that it would be helpful if hydrologists would also be eligible for the certification.

In addition to the 590 standard, there are two other documents that work in conjunction with the standard–Title 190, General Manual Part 402 and Tile 190 National Instruction. All three documents can be found at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/landuse/crops/npm

In addition, EPA’s new nutrient website is expected to be launched early next week. Again, stay tuned!