| Farm bill expands NRCS opportunities for source water protection
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Farm bill expands NRCS opportunities for source water protection

When President Trump recently signed the new farm bill – officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – the American Water Works Association celebrated the success of Iowa watershedmore than two years of member-supported efforts to raise awareness and funding for source water protection.

The new legislation specifies that 10 percent of conservation funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – at least $4 billion over the next 10 years – be targeted for source water protection. NRCS is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that works with private landowners including farmers and ranchers. (Photo of Iowa watershed project courtesy of USDA NRCS.)

Adam Carpenter“There is now a directive for the USDA to work closely with water utilities to identify and prioritize areas that need source water protection,” said Adam Carpenter, energy and environmental policy manager in AWWA’s government affairs department. “AWWA members should get to know their state conservationists and get involved locally to help target conservation dollars to source water protection needs that best protect public health.”

NRCS works through state technical committees and local work groups to discuss and prioritize source water protection needs. “This is where decisions are made about how, where, on what, and how much of the conservation funds go toward source water protection,” Carpenter said. “Working with NRCS is vital if utilities wish to address nonpoint sources such as nutrients, sediment, and chemicals.”

NRCS has about 11,000 employees decentralized across the country and represented in each state with a state office, areas offices, and multiple field offices. The agency’s engineers, agronomists, biologists, soil scientists and other scientific experts provide direct technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest land owners.

More information is available in AWWA’s publications, “Working with the NRCS for Source Water Protection” and “USDA Tools to Support Source Water Protection.” Both are located on the Source Water Protection Resource page on AWWA’s website.

For more information about agricultural conservation opportunities, contact Adam Carpenter in AWWA Government Affairs.