For most people, water quality markets are probably a new concept. They are not something you hear about on the news every day, even though reports frequently cover the need to clean up rivers and lakes. But to some—like states, utilities, and farmers—they represent an opportunity, and should be on the radar.
Water quality markets can reduce costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources with high costs of meeting water quality requirements to purchase credits from sources that have lower costs of making the same water quality improvement. Agricultural producers often have lower costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to supply water quality credits.
USDA supports the participation of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in water quality trading as a voluntary way to put more conservation on the ground, and improve water quality. The Department develops tools to calculate water quality benefits and resources on how to structure trading programs. Furthermore, the Department provides funding to support the development of water quality trading markets through NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants.
And now, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA is offering the public an opportunity to learn more about water quality markets. The EPA-USDA Water Quality Markets Workshop is bringing a host of experts involved in water quality trading markets together to share their experiences and provide a wealth of information to those interested in starting or participating markets. The event will take place September 15-17 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and includes regional forums where participants can learn more about trading programs in their area.
The Workshop will do more than provide information—it will also highlight the history of collaboration on water quality trading within the federal government. USDA and EPA signed a partnership agreement in 2013 to work together on environmental markets, including water quality markets. Tools and resources developed under the agreement will be previewed at the Workshop, and participants will learn how they can apply to water quality planning and management.
Workshop participants will also get a taste of the larger partnership that has developed in support of water quality markets—including a look at the National Network on Water Quality Trading. The National Network is composed of representatives from agriculture, industry, state, and environmental groups from across the country working to help others develop and participate in water markets. The National Network recently released Building a Water Quality Trading Program, which identifies common trading issues and the options, considerations, and examples important to developing a program.
There are plenty of reasons to attend next month’s Workshop—it will be an excellent forum to learn more about water quality markets. Registration closes August 31st. We look forward to seeing you there!