Protecting sources of drinking water is an effective way to reduce risks to public health, instill customer confidence, and control water treatment costs. Addressing water quality concerns at the source also has many other environmental and societal benefits that aren’t seen from treatment alone.
With nearly $6 billion spent per year by the USDA on environmental restoration, enhancement, and stewardship (collectively known as conservation) in the agricultural community, there is a key opportunity today to protect sources of drinking water through working with existing USDA programs. The 2018 Farm Bill brought enhanced focus on source water protection, which is currently being implemented through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Helping to bring together the agricultural community, water utilities, and other partners, AWWA is committed to helping protect sources of drinking water through collaborative approaches.
See this short video on collaborative opportunities, this op-ed from AWWA CEO David LaFrance and a detailed overview of the opportunities in Journal AWWA
The 2018 Farm Bill made the following enhancements to source water protection:
Made source water protection a goal of farm bill conservation programs for the first time.
Made it easier for water utilities to participate in state and local NRCS advisory groups developing conservation priorities.
Authorized state NRCS offices to designate some practices beneficial to source water protection for up to 90% federal cost share.
Require at least 10% of conservation program dollars be dedicated to source water protection
Look for collaborative opportunities with the agriculture sector. Many sources of drinking water have agricultural production contained within their source watershed or recharge areas for their aquifers. AWWA’s guide to navigating USDA programs can help identify steps to take.
Get to know your USDA state conservationist and any local NRCS offices. It’s each state conservationist’s job to understand the conservation needs of the area.They convene state technical committees and are responsive to the needs of stakeholders within and working with the agricultural community. They should be a key point of contact, and can help you in finding partners to accomplish your source water protection goals. NRCS maintains a list of state contacts which can be an excellent starting point.
Learn from and collaborate with others working on source water protection through Farm Bill programs. Representatives from many AWWA sections have begun to build relationships with NRCS and their agricultural partners. Tens of millions of dollars’ worth of projects with utilities as partners are either underway or being proposed. In addition to engaging with NRCS, considering seeking out contacts within your AWWA section or contact Adam Carpenter in the AWWA DC office. Resources such as Protecting Drinking Water at the Source: Information for our Agricultural Partners and USDA Tools to Support Source Water Protection also provide additional information.
Stay tuned for legislative updates to get involved. AWWA will be providing updates as well as seeking assistance from members as the farm bill progresses. These updates will be sent through our legislative alerts system to utility members, and posted on this site.