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NRCS Invests $650,000 to Improve Indiana Water Quality
Indiana Ag Connection - 09/16/2020

Indiana State Conservationist Jerry Raynor announced that USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest over $650,000 in new projects this year targeting high priority watersheds throughout the state. These projects are funded through NRCS' Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), both which use Farm Bill conservation programs to encourage farmers to adopt conservation systems to improve water quality.

"By targeting small priority watersheds, we are helping farmers to deliver local water quality benefits that contribute to large-scale improvements for the basin as a whole," Raynor said. "Water quality is important to everyone and the many partnerships created through these initiatives are promising to the future health of these watersheds."

As USDA's premiere water quality initiative, NWQI provides a way to promote voluntary, on-farm conservation investments and focused water quality monitoring where they can deliver the greatest benefits for clean water. While NWQI has been focused on conservation implementation projects in the past, it has recently introduced new updates including a focus on watershed assessment and planning.

This year Indiana is funding one new NWQI planning project. The Upper White -- Muncie Creek watershed was approved to develop an assessment plan on 11 small watersheds in Delaware and Randolph counties. Led by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with Indiana American Water (IAW) and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the project area includes protecting surface water and groundwater supplies. This project will focus on social science research to help farmers, including non-operating landowners and young and beginning farmers, understand the benefits of applying conservation practices on farmland. The project will also collaborate with agribusinesses, local government, Indiana Farm Bureau, commodity groups and the Indiana chapter of the American Water Works Association.

Now in its ninth year, NRCS has worked with more than 3,650 producers nationwide to adopt conservation practices on more than 825,000 acres in priority watersheds through NWQI. To date, at least 11 impaired water bodies have been improved and subsequently scheduled for de-listing or otherwise removed from NWQI due to successful water quality improvements.

Known as "America's River," the Mississippi River is North America's largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America's heartland. NRCS has identified the Mississippi River Basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.

NRCS approved two new MRBI watershed implementation projects aimed at addressing water quality concerns and agricultural sources of nutrients and sediment in Indiana. Both projects will work with local farmers and conservation partners to implement conservation practices that help trap sediment and reduce nutrient runoff to improve the overall health of the Mississippi River.

- The Treaty Creek-Wabash River watershed project is focusing on critical areas within seven small watersheds in Miami and Wabash counties. Partners include Miami and Wabash SWCDs, Wabash River Defenders, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana American Water and the City of Wabash.

- The Big Walnut watershed project is targeting hot spots within four small watersheds located in Boone, Hendricks, Putnam counties. Partners include Boone, Hendricks and Putnam SWCDs, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Purdue Cooperative Extension and Putnam County Planning Department.

MRBI has shown that focused water quality efforts in high priority areas can be effective in building strong partnerships, increasing trust and collaboration with landowners and farmers, and getting more conservation systems on the ground. To date, segments of the Flowers Creek in Indiana have been scheduled for de-listing from the state impaired waters lists due to improved water quality conditions from an MRBI project.

For more information about NRCS and other assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or contact your District Conservationist www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/in/contact/local/


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