USDA is committed to protecting streams, rivers and lakes through agricultural conservation, and has a long history of working with partners to implement the practices and policies needed to meet water quality goals. One of these policies, water quality trading, can help communities develop innovative, practical solutions for improving water quality, while generating environmental benefits at lower cost and increasing investment in rural America. At least twelve states have established one or more water quality trading programs—but creating the trading rules, working with stakeholders, and running a trading program can be difficult.
In 2013, The National Network on Water Quality Trading began as a dialogue between 18 organizations to tackle the challenges involved with establishing water quality markets. The Network represents a variety of perspectives, including farmers, utilities, environmental groups, regulatory agencies, and others interested in water quality trading. USDA participated in the process as a technical advisor.
Over the past two years, the dialogue evolved into a comprehensive reference document for those interested in setting up a program, or learning from those who have. The document introduces 11 key elements of establishing trading programs, and provides examples and program design considerations to help stakeholders evaluate how best to build a program that meets local needs.
The Department welcomes the document, recognizing the significant impact an effort of this scale can have on water quality. Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, noted that the reference “incorporates the most complete discussion of water quality trading program development to date. The effort can serve as an instructive tool for states, members of the agricultural community and others as they look to learn from past experiences to develop effective water quality trading programs.”
Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Advisor for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency, also showed support. “This document reflects the collective experiences of many experts on water quality trading. By assembling such a how to document on the sequential steps that must be considered when setting up a trading program, the National Network on Water Quality Trading has added value to the conversations surrounding trading, and helped provide certainty around the notion of trading.”