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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Optimizing the Placement of Practices That Improve Water Quality Within a Watershed

Author
item Tomer, Mark

Submitted to: National Pork Board Web Site
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 20, 2002
Publication Date: August 20, 2002
Citation: TOMER, M.D. OPTIMIZING THE PLACEMENT OF PRACTICES THAT IMPROVE WATER QUALITY WITHIN A WATERSHED. NATIONAL PORK BOARD WEB SITE . 2002.

Technical Abstract: There is an increasing need to design and implement best management practices (BMPs) that will effectively protect water resources. While BMPs can be put into practice in agricultural fields to minimize erosion and reduce nutrient losses, complementary practices placed within riparian ecosystems are also being advocated and supported using public subsidies. Riparian buffers and constructed wetlands are the dominant examples of these practices; riparian buffers can intercept surface water runoff, but constructed wetlands are needed to intercept and treat tile drainage. Can the placement of these practices be optimized within a given watershed? The Tipton Creek watershed, a 20,000 ha catchment in north-central Iowa, was used as a case study. Hydrologic modeling of digital elevation data helped to identify where the best opportunities to intercept surface runoff waters exist along the channel network. Buffer placement is prioritized for streamside zones where overland flow should occur as distributed (sheet or rill) flows. Also, we identified those sites that qualify as possible CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) wetlands in Iowa, which are aimed to treat tile-drainage waters. Results of the analyses were produced as a series of maps, and a field review was carried out, assisted by locally stationed NRCS personnel, to evaluate the accuracy of the maps and their utility for planning purposes. The feedback from this review was positive. The maps were compared to existing land use along the watershedÂżs riparian corridors, and 12 specific sites were selected for review. While several of these sites had BMPs installed recently, several others were identified as priority sites for establishment of new riparian BMPs. Agency personnel are initiating landowner contacts to encourage voluntarily participation in USDA conservation programs for these sites. One conclusion from this study, supported by statistical analysis of terrain data, is that sensitive areas best suited for riparian BMPs tend to be relatively small in size (<1000 ft of length along the stream), and well distributed throughout the watershed. This may alleviate landowner concerns that watershed assessment technologies may target a small group of individuals to bear a disproportionate share of conservation investments.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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