Handbook Helps Conservation Districts Engage Farmers in Water Quality Trading

Handbook Helps Conservation Districts Engage Farmers in Water Quality Trading

By Kristiana Teige Witherill, Willamette Partnership; Stephanie Addison, National Association of Conservation Districts

 

Farmers and conservation districts are key players in making water quality trading programs work, but there has been a gap in resources tailored specifically to support these people until now. Growing out of a workshop hosted by the National Network on Water Quality Trading, the “Handbook for Conservation Districts on Environmental Markets,” released earlier this year by the National Association of Conservation Districts and American Farmland Trust, provides guidance and lessons on water quality trading and other ecosystem markets learned from the real-world experiences of conservation districts across the country.

NACD handbook for conservation districts

The “Handbook for Conservation Districts on Environmental Markets,” was released earlier this year by the National Association of Conservation Districts and American Farmland Trust and draws part of its findings and recommendations from a National Network on Water Quality Trading dialogue workshop last year in Sacramento, Cali.

“This is a first-of-a-kind effort that provides relevant information and guidance on water quality trading and other environmental markets directly from conservation districts engaged in the work,” said Jeremy Peters, CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts. “We hope conservation districts across the country will use the information, recommendations, and guidance to consider best practices suited for their conservation district’s needs.”

“The report underscores that conservation districts have a major role to play in developing and implementing innovative new programs that help farmers protect water quality and achieve conservation goals on their land,” said Brian Brandt, Director of Agriculture Conservation Innovations at the American Farmland Trust. “Farmers and ranchers want to be good stewards of the land, but they need programs like these to support their efforts.”

The handbook is meant to help conservation districts and their partners determine potential roles in water quality trading and other environmental markets programs. It includes key findings and recommendations, nine case studies from conservation districts across the country, and a checklist for conservation districts interested in water quality trading and other environmental markets.

Part of those key findings and recommendations came out of a workshop held a year ago, put on by the National Network on Water Quality Trading, on how trading program developers and administrators could support conservation districts, cooperative extensions, crop advisers, and other “trusted intermediaries,” as they’re known in the field, in getting farmers involved in water quality trading.

Kristiana Teige Witherill staff photo

Kristiana Teige Witherill

Over the two days in Sacramento, Cali., workshop attendees discussed the various roles and challenges that trusted intermediaries, particularly conservation districts, face when participating in water quality trading programs and how to address them. The National Network on Water Quality Trading structured the workshop as a dialogue to have people from agriculture, permitted point sources, state water quality agencies, and environmental groups share lessons learned and work collaboratively on innovations that can benefit the water quality trading community.

Willamette Partnership’s Kristiana Teige Witherwill coordinates the National Network on Water Quality Trading, which is a group of organizations from across the country working to improve consistency, innovation, and integrity in water quality trading.

To learn more about the other takeaways from the dialogue, visit the summary report here. Or, to learn more about Willamette Partnership’s work with water quality trading, visit http://willamettepartnership.org/water-quality-trading/.

 

Kristiana Teige Witherill
Kristiana Teige Witherill is Willamette Partnership’s Clean Water Project Manager and lead on strategy development and facilitation for the National Network on Water Quality Trading. Prior to joining the Partnership, Kristiana was deputy director of Carpe Diem West, a nonprofit network of water resource and land managers pioneering innovative source water protection programs across the American West. Her work centered on building the value of the network, communications, and fundraising. Drawing on her experience at a water and wastewater utility, Kristiana has felt first-hand the challenges faced by the utility sector and works to find solutions to those challenges that benefit both people and the environment. She holds a Master of Environmental Science with a water resources management focus from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a BA in economics from Wellesley College.