A new water quality certification program in Minnesota is highlighting the importance of, and challenges to, reducing water pollution from agricultural land.
Farming can pose a threat to water quality and water safety because fertilizers and manures can run off when it rains and pollute nearby watersheds. Minnesota’s water quality certification program, which was piloted three years ago and then rolled out statewide, aims to reduce this hazard by helping farmers assess the risk of water pollution on their farms and implement some simple steps to reduce that risk. Farmers enrolled in the program receive some technical and financial assistance to change the way they apply manure, till the soil, and rotate their crops and to add buffers, such as grass waterways, to reduce runoff into nearby bodies of water. Once farmers complete the program, they become certified and are exempt from new water quality rules for the next ten years.
So far, the program covers about 250,000 acres of land across Minnesota.
State officials report that the program has reduced the amount of sediment and phosphorus being washed into Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, as well as preventing millions of pounds of soil from eroding each year.
Minnesota’s agricultural water quality program is a step in the right direction to ensure safe drinking water in the state. Regular monitoring of watersheds near agricultural lands will continue to be needed to ensure that the program is being effective, and water quality indicators (like Hydro-Check’s Hy-Lite Water Quality Indicator) can provide a low-cost way for farmers and state officials to stay up-to-date on changes in water quality levels in their area.