Konopacky Talks Clean Water: How Wisconsin Shows the Way Forward

Runoff carrying nutrients and sediment from urban and agricultural areas impairs water quality across the US. Managing this pollution can be very challenging, but attorney and Environmental Policy Initiative Fellow Jamie Konopacky suggests a better way forward using Wisconsin as a case study. In her new article “Battling the (Algae) Bloom: Watershed Policies and Plans in Wisconsin,” in the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, Konopacky describes how to leverage existing laws and policies to create a small watershed approach to nutrient and sediment pollution. Central to her approach is using the right scale for planning and implementing urban and agricultural land use best management practices.

Wisconsin is an ideal state to more deeply investigate Konopacky’s proposed small-scale watershed approach. Through the state’s adaptive management program and other innovative initiatives, several municipal stormwater entities, municipal sewage entities, and agricultural stakeholders have begun implementing small-scale watershed projects focused on using best management practices to address runoff. Konopacky makes recommendations for stormwater, Total Maximum Daily Load, and agricultural policies, and suggests a new funding mechanism to support a small-scale watershed approach. She also offers an in-depth look at existing watershed management plans and projects in Wisconsin.

Konopacky will host a briefing on July 11th for Congressional staff to describe the benefits of using a small-scale watershed planning approach to manage agricultural runoff. The briefing will introduce the new Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) recently developed by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The ACPF includes a powerful GIS watershed planning tool for producers, county conservation districts, state agencies, and other community stakeholders. After a technical introduction to the ACPF by its developers, an NRCS official from Kansas and a trade group from Iowa will talk about their on-the-ground experiences in small-scale watershed planning and why the ACPF is a game-changer for implementing conservation practices and improving water quality. The ACPF and the small-scale watershed planning approach could have important implications for conservation programs in the 2018 Farm Bill.

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