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Missouri Section embracing farm bill source water protection opportunities

By taking advantage of new opportunities created by the 2018 farm bill to expand source water protection, the Missouri Section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) is beginning to see big results in influencing and supporting new projects.

The latest farm bill – called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 -- requires that a minimum of 10 percent of the funding for Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Farm bill whiteboard animationprograms be spent on source water protection. This equates to at least $4 billion over the next 10 years.

“This is newly-available federal money that has previously never been prioritized explicitly for source water protection,” said Bob Parks, production engineer for the water department in Independence, Mo. “Though the NRCS is long experienced in the areas of soil health and water quality, they have limited experience in explicit source water protection for drinking water and we have a tremendous opportunity to influence and support these efforts.”

Charles Stevens, Karen Brinkman, Bob Parks and J.R. FloresParks and Charles Stevens, water utility officer with KC Water, are leading the Missouri Section’s efforts to develop working relationships with the Missouri’s State Conservationist J.R. Flores and Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships and Initiatives, Karen Brinkman. (Pictured from left, Charles Stevens, Karen Brinkman, Bob Parks and J.R. Flores)

Parks and Stevens, along with Mike Galluzzo of St. Louis Water and Mary West-Calcagno of the City of Moberly, joined the State Conservationist’s statewide technical committee to provide formal recommendations for existing and future NRCS programs that prioritize source water protection.

“The Missouri Section has been able to provide significant input on drafting our NRCS source water protection implementation plan through the course of meetings and continued correspondence with the NRCS State Conservationist office,” Parks said. “In this plan, which we expect to be submitted in September by the Missouri NRCS for approval by the national office, we were able to identify watershed areas and related water utilities to be the focus of NRCS source water quality conservation programs.”

In addition, Parks and Stevens represent the Missouri Section on the technical committee’s new source water protection sub-committee to provide guidance and direction for implementing the NRCS’s 10 percent funding in Missouri. Other groups represented on the sub-committee include the state’s Department of Natural Resources, Soil and Water Conservation Program, Department of Agriculture and Rural Water Association.

“As Missouri AWWA representatives close to the source water protection initiative, we’ve been able to provide feedback to the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, which City Utilities of Springfield is a member,” Parks added. “Similarly, we have been able to advocate on behalf of and provide input to the City of Moberly’s interest in participating in the initial implementation.”

Nate Goodrich, Bob Parks, David White, Sandi KrekeEarlier this year, the Missouri Section invited NRCS representatives Nate Goodrich and Sandi Kreke to attend its annual meeting and join AWWA consultant and former national NRCS chief David White in presenting about the farm bill. The Missouri NRCS has already committed to expand its presence at the Section’s 2020 annual meeting. (Pictured from left, Nate Goodrich, Bob Parks, David White, Sandi Kreke)

“In order for this federal money to be leveraged to greatest effect, the water industry must be proactive and engaged with NRCS and the agriculture producer community,” Parks said.

“Missouri farmers and landowners have already accomplished a great deal to improve their practices and operations in relation to soil and water health and conservation, while remaining viable business operations,” he added. “Our industries share a lot of common ground, and their inclusion as stewards of the farmland is incredibly critical to this effort. I highly encourage any other AWWA members who have an interest is learning more about this opportunity to reach out to the NRCS, as well as Charlie or myself.”

More information about source water protection resources is available on AWWA’s website.

Special thanks to Bob Parks, AWWA Missouri Section Trustee, for providing the comprehensive summary for this article.

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