AWWA, former USDA official push Farm Bill measures protecting source water

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Speaking before the Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas, the former chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), explained how the upcoming Farm Bill can advance collaborations that protect source water.

David White, speaking on behalf of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) last week, detailed how water providers and farmers can form partnerships that are supported by NRCS and other USDA programs. He provided examples of past successes that benefited both farmers and downstream communities.

“Every year, voluntary, private land conservation programs spend about $6 billion and make incredible advances in natural resource protection,” White said. “The American Water Works Association is seeking to ensure that at least 10 percent of those funds – some $600 million a year – is spent on protecting the drinking water that Americans use every day.”

RELATED: AWWA says ‘Farm Bill’ program would benefit water quality, partnerships

AWWA is urging Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill to:

  • Provide robust funding for the conservation title;
  • Emphasize protecting source water in all conservation programs;
  • Expand opportunities for the NRCS to work with water systems to prioritize source water protection activities in each state;
  • Increase benefits for farmers who employ practices that benefit downstream water quality; and
  • Ensure at least 10 percent of conservation program funds are focused on the protection of drinking water.

“Cooperative activities represent the best path forward to achieve water quality improvements,” White said. 

With excess nutrients impacting water quality nationwide, water groups such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) are urging Congress to use the Farm Bill reauthorization to help farmers and water utilities work together to protect the nation’s drinking water.

Large algal blooms resulting from nutrients have threatened water quality throughout the country, including shutting down the drinking water supply for the entire city of Toledo, Ohio, in 2014.

“Water utilities and farmers are eager to collaborate on projects that protect public health and the environment, reduce the cost of water treatment and help farmers succeed,” said Tracy Mehan, AWWA executive director of government affairs. “Our nation’s farmers do heroic work to put food on the tables of Americans every day. There’s an opportunity through the Farm Bill to encourage partnerships that allow them to meet their production goals while protecting our nation’s drinking water.”

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