In March 2013, water quality agency staff from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, U.S. EPA Region 10, Willamette Partnership, and The Freshwater Trust convened a working group for the first of a series of four interagency workshops on water quality trading in the Pacific Northwest. Funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, the Willamette Partnership facilitated the group’s discussions that drew lessons learned from water quality trading policies, practices, and programs across the country. The group also sought to better understand EPA’s January 13, 2003, Water Quality Trading Policy, its 2007 Permit Writers’ Toolkit, and the existing states’ guidance and regulations on water quality trading. All documents presented at those conversations and meeting summaries are posted on the Willamette Partnership’s website.
The final product is intended to be a set of recommended practices for each state to consider as they develop water quality trading. The goals of this effort are to help ensure that water quality “trading programs” have the quality, credibility, and transparency necessary to be consistent with the “Clean Water Act” (CWA), its implementing regulations and state and local water quality laws. This effort stemmed from growing interest in trading in the region and from agencies’ desire to respond to the wide diversity of proposed approaches in a more consistent way. The participating agencies were interested in comparing and contrasting approaches across the region in order to
inform their own approaches to trading and to identify some common principles and practices in the region. In particular, these discussions focused on how trading can help “point sources” meet their permit “effluent limits” in a way that provides greater environmental benefits than traditional compliance solutions.
The initial focus of this effort is to provide recommendations on trades between point source “buyers” and “nonpoint source” sellers of “credits.” Future efforts can incorporate more explicit considerations for point-point trades, nonpoint-nonpoint trades, and application of this framework to other water quality mitigation contexts. Many of the recommendations and elements will be similar in these other contexts.