New NRCS Bulletin on Refining Source Water Protection Local Priorities  

On June 1, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) posted a national bulletin on “Refining Source Water Protection Local Priorities for FY 2021” that was discussed during the June 4th Source Water Collaborative (SWC) webinar entitled, “Updates from the NRCS and the Northeast: Partnering to Protect Drinking Water.” The purpose of the bulletin is to further refine the source water protection (SWP) areas that NRCS developed last year based on the data and information submitted by state source water programs and water utilities. It is important to understand the two terms used in the bulletin:

  • Local priorities: These are the SWP areas that were developed last year (in FY 2019).
  • High priority areas: These will be the newly refined areas to be used beginning FY 2021.

The high priority areas will be refined from the local priorities to create some national consistency using HUC-12 watersheds and ground water protection areas representing no more than 20% of the total land area of the state. NRCS will use these newly designated high priority areas to target increased payments and assistance to landowners for implementing agriculture and forestry conservation and best practices to protect drinking water sources, as per the 2018 Farm Bill requirements. State drinking water programs are encouraged to reach out to their NRCS State Conservationist’s office and continue working with them to fulfill the goals of this new bulletin that is due to be completed by September 30, 2020, but will continue as these efforts move forward.

Additional information is provided in the bulletin and webinar about the use of EPA’s geospatial SWP area data layers and mapping tool for NRCS to use and measure progress toward the 10 percent goal for using conservation program funds for source water protection. View the NRCS Bulletin here and stay tuned to see the webinar recording on the SWC Learning Exchange page that will be available soon.