Polluted Runoff: Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint Source: National Water Quality Initiative


In 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state water quality agencies, to reduce nonpoint sources of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens related to agriculture in small high-priority watersheds in each state. These priority watersheds have been selected by NRCS State Conservationists in consultation with state water quality agencies and NRCS State Technical Committees where targeted on-farm conservation investments will deliver the greatest water quality benefits. NWQI provides a means to accelerate voluntary, private lands conservation investments to improve water quality with dedicated financial assistance through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Clean Water Act Section 319 or other funds to focus state water quality monitoring and assessment efforts where they are most needed to track change. A key part of the NWQI targeting effort includes the implementation of conservation systems that avoid, trap, and control run-off in these high-priority watersheds.

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NWQI Assessments

Water quality monitoring plays a critical role in the NWQI. State water quality agencies are assessing progress through in-stream water quality monitoring in at least one watershed per state using Clean Water Act Section 319 or other funds. The objective of NWQI instream monitoring is to assess whether water quality and/or biological condition related to nutrients, sediments, or livestock-related pathogens has changed in the watershed, and if so whether this can be associated with agricultural conservation practices. Through EQIP, edge-of-field monitoring projects are taking place in a select number of NWQI watersheds in order to assess the impact of conservation practices at the field scale, calibrate USDA water quality models, and inform adaptive management. 

Useful Links

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  • NRCS-EPA National Water Quality Initiative: Water Quality Monitoring and Data Sharing Agreements - September 11, 2013Exit. This webinar provides an overview of the NWQI, describes the role of agencies including those of NRCS Headquarters, NRCS state offices, EPA, and state offices, an introduction to NWQI instream monitoring and NRCS edge-of-field monitoring, and data sharing and confidentiality considerations.
  •  July 2013 Water Quality Monitoring for National Water Quality Initiative(future link to you tube) 
  • April 2013 EPA - State Approach to Instream Monitoring for NWQI  webcast(future link to you tube
  • Watershed Academy Webinar: USDA's National Water Quality Initiative, July 10, 2012. Go to Webcast Archives to view the archived webinar and to learn more about the NWQI.

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Documents and Presentations

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