July 30, 2012
Watersheds across the United States have used different forms of water quality trading over the last decades as a flexible tool for meeting water quality goals. The successes, failures, and valuable lessons learned gathered by pioneering groups can be instrumental in helping new trading programs lay the groundwork for success. These lessons, paired with existing resources from U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA), and others, have been incorporated into this how-to reference (Trading Reference) as part of USDA’s ongoing efforts to advance market-based solutions as important tools for landowners implementing conservation practices.
Emerging water quality trading programs need not start from scratch—most programs require the same supporting infrastructure (standardized processes and technology tools), which is now available from model programs across the country. A framework has evolved that identifies what steps can be taken in order to build a water quality trading program for a local watershed. These steps include: 1) evaluating the feasibility of a program, 2) convening the right group of stakeholders, 3) designing the program itself, 4) securing some form of program approval from regulatory agencies, 5) implementing the program, and 6) setting up an adaptive management approach that will allow for improvements and fine tuning along the way.
The Trading Reference is divided into several parts so readers can quickly access the information they need.
Part 1 of this Trading Reference presents an overview and current status of point-nonpoint water quality trading programs around the country. This part is a useful primer for those interested in water quality trading in general or as an important background summarizing existing water quality trading programs and the lessons they provide for new programs. Lessons
from trading programs across the U.S. provide illustrations about what works in building and implementing point-nonpoint trading programs.
Read Part 1 of “In It Together”
Part 2 is a design reference for building and operating water quality trading programs. It is essentially a manual for new or emerging programs that outlines how to move through each of the phases of trading program development and provides milestones within each phase that will help trading program designers identify and plan for the work required to walk through the process.
Read Part 2 of “In It Together”
Part 3 presents case study write-ups for water quality trading programs in North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, and the Chesapeake Bay. These case studies are meant to add to existing write-ups of other programs (e.g. Midwestern programs).
Each Part is designed to stand on its own. Taken together, this Trading Reference should be helpful for local groups as they build programs to reduce program startup time, increase efficiency, and build the base of trust necessary to sustain water quality improvements over time.
Read Part 3 of “In It Together”