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NACD Annual Meeting and Breakout Session Highlight Water and Agriculture Connections

The National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting was held last week in San Antonio, Texas, and ASDWA staff attended and participated in a breakout session on drinking water protection. Participants at the conference included representatives from Conservation Districts and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices in every state and territory of the US. The theme of the conference was “Mission Focused: Fulfilling Our Legacy,” and many of the speakers and sessions highlighted the connections between food production, soil health, water quality, and the economy, including NACD President Brent Van Dyke, the new NRCS Chief Matt Lohr, and Dale Hall from Ducks Unlimited. The meeting also featured panels on urban agriculture and soil health and a lunchtime talk on the need for regenerative practices on farms and ranches for soil and animal health.

As part of the meeting, ASDWA conducted a breakout session with representatives from EPA, NRCS, AWWA, and the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District in Nebraska. The session presentations offered tips and resources for Conservation Districts to partner and leverage funding with water utilities, state drinking water programs, and other partners on NRCS partnership program opportunities. During the session, the panelists shared collaborative approaches, highlighted mutual goals, and provided examples of local projects from across the nation that are implementing conservation and management practices to protect both surface and groundwater sources of drinking water. Thanks to those states who provided information for us to share on their new NRCS National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) Source Water Protection (SWP) Pilots! There were 16 NWQI SWP Pilot proposals submitted this year from nine states (AL, CT, HI, IA, NE, ND, OR, PA, WV) and all of them were accepted. This session was part of a broader effort by ASDWA and partners to promote collaboration on existing Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects, the new NWQI SWP Pilots, and future opportunities in the new Farm Bill provisions that will now require ten percent of NRCS conservation program funding to be aimed at protecting drinking water sources.