An Everyday Approach to Improving Water Quality

Each year, the world comes together to recognize the importance of our fresh water by commemorating World Water Day. This year’s theme, “Water for Cities,” highlights the pressures that development places on our resources, a concern that is certainly familiar to farm fields in the United States.

A significant amount of our best farm and ranch land is near expanding cities where it’s threatened by sprawling development. Once this productive land is gone, it can’t be brought back. The ripple effect is tremendous and the impact stretches from our rural landscapes to our most populated city centers. When farmland is lost to sprawl and paved surfaces, we also lose the role it can play in helping protect water quality. Well-managed farm and ranch lands protect wetlands and watersheds, can help absorb and filter wastewater, and provide groundwater recharge.

That’s why we work with farmers across the United States to help them implement management practices that can improve water quality. These Best Management Practices, or BMPs, offer farm-friendly solutions to encourage better land management that, in turn, helps to protect and improve water quality.

By enrolling in our BMP Challenge program, corn farmers have implemented practices that reduce tillage and the amount of fertilizers used on a portion of acres in their farm. Through direct involvement with the BMP Challenge program, participating farmers have implemented improved practices on nearly 18,000 acres across the country.  This has resulted in more than 430,000 pounds of fertilizer and sediment prevented from running off into rivers and streams!

Furthermore, farmers indicate that they are implementing the practices on additional acres in their farm operation after participating in the BMP Challenge program. These efforts are helping to provide even more environmental benefit to our rivers and streams.

World Water Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great strides we have made and we’ll continue our work toward improving water quality each and every day. We recently signed on to the Charting New Waters pledge to protect clean water and with your help, we can reach our goal for 54,000 households making their own commitment to improve water quality.


About the Author: Brian Brandt is Director, Agriculture Conservation Innovations Center at American Farmland Trust.

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