One Water for America Policy Framework Big Idea 2

Accelerate Agriculture-Utility Partnerships to Improve Water Quality

When it comes to taking action to conserve water and improve water quality, one area deserves particular focus: building partnerships between water providers and the agricultural sector. Too often in our siloed water systems, we do not fully consider the impacts of agriculture and land management on our water sources. Yet the management of land presents one of the greatest opportunities for protecting water quality, preserving ecosystems, and safeguarding our drinking water supplies. Agriculture is one of the largest users of water in the US, and runoff from agricultural lands is believed to be the largest single source of nonpoint source pollution in US waterways. By concentrating on the development and implementation of best practices that balance conservation with productivity, we can greatly improve water quality of surface and groundwater resources, especially for downstream users.

Key Issue: Partnerships with agriculture
Successful collaborations among municipalities, farmers, and other stakeholders provide multiple benefits in the form of watershed health, water quality improvements, sustainable agriculture, and cost-effective business decisions.

Key Issue: Funding for agricultural and land management best practices
In many cases, it can cost a community far less to support farmers in implementing best practices than to make costly upgrades to wastewater systems—and the water quality improvements realized from better farming practices can be far greater than treatment upgrades could provide.

Key Issue: Policy environment for land management solutions
Many agricultural water policies that utilize best management practices are deployed at the individual farm level, and it is difficult to scale them up to achieve lasting impacts on water quality. Policies can incentivize the use of advanced technology for water quality optimization.

Key Issue: Larger-scale conservation investments
Another problem to address is the need for sustained funding for improvements that support water quality and other ecosystem benefits, such as reduced downstream flooding, habitat improvement, and enhanced soil health on agricultural lands.