Supporting source water protection through USDA and the Farm Bill

Overview

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. This could be further enhanced through the upcoming 2018 farm bill. 

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, and this op-ed from AWWA CEO David LaFrance

AWWA is seeking to:

  • Make source water protection a specific goal of farm bill conservation programs
  • Make it easier for water utilities to participate in state and local NRCS advisory groups developing conservation priorities
  • Have 10% of conservation program dollars (and acres) dedicated to source water protection

 

what's happening now

Congress is currently working on early drafts of the conservation title to the Farm Bill, along with other sections of the legislation. AWWA has been working with Congressional staff and with partners in the sector to elevate source water protection’s role in the conservation programs.

Concurrently, AWWA has been working with its membership to identify potential partnerships between agriculture and the water sector to utilize existing programs and be prepared for increased future focus on source water protection. Several key partnerships to protect their sources of drinking water are already underway, and others are expected to begin in the near future. Many of these programs receive nearly 50% of their funding from the NRCS, with the remainder coming from local partners. 

steps your system can take

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.

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.

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.