Markets for Better Water Quality








Water Quality Trading

River restoration that’s good for fish, good for farmers, and good for business.



With water quality trading, factories and utilities can improve water quality by working with landowners to do conservation work instead of installing expensive water treatment technology. Side effects may include improved air quality, climate change mitigation, and habitat creation for fish and wildlife. 

Willamette Partnership is involved in all levels of water quality trading, from the national discourse on best practices to tracking, accounting, and verifying credits. Learn more by browsing our project and state policy tools below.




We need new tools to achieve fishable, swimmable rivers, lakes, and streams. We also need to invest in resilient, functioning ecosystems while also supporting public health and economic growth. Water quality trading is one such tool that offers a flexible, more cost-effective and environmentally beneficial approach to reducing pollution in our waterways than more traditional engineered solutions.

As an alternative to installing expensive technology to meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, point sources, like wastewater and stormwater facilities, can work with landowners within the watershed to implement conservation and restoration practices that reduce pollutants at a lower cost. That might be planting trees to shade the river or changing tillage and the timing of fertilizer use to keep water cool and clean. Landowners are compensated for their efforts after the water quality benefits are verified. These verified benefits become “credits,” which can be purchased by point sources to meet regulatory requirements.

Water quality trading can create new sources of revenue for farmers, ranchers, land managers, and conservation groups. In addition, trading projects may provide a range of additional environmental benefits, such as air quality improvements, fish and wildlife habitat creation, and climate change mitigation.

Additional Resources

Video / Electric Power Research Institute



water quality trading as a compliance alternative for clean water


National Network on Water Quality Trading

We are facilitating a national conversation on how to improve consistency, innovation, and integrity in water quality trading. 

water quality trading, Verification Accreditation

Credit Verification for Water Quality Trading Programs

We use science-based quantification and accounting methods to prove whether restoration projects are providing the water quality benefits that trading programs said they would. Learn more about the projects we verify in Oregon.

Pacific Northwest Water Quality Trading Recommendations

Regional Recommendations

States from the Pacific Northwest released joint recommendations for improving water quality through credit trading.



State Policy Tools


water quality trading toolkit willamette partnership awcaWATER QUALITY TRADING TOOLKIT 

The Water Quality Trading Toolkit makes it faster and easier for state agencies and stakeholders to develop robust trading programs that achieve clean water goals. The toolkit consists of fives templates that work in concert with each other: state guidance, watershed framework, state rule, NPDES permit, and program annual report. The templates can be used as a starting point, a checklist of important considerations, or customizable sample language.

Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations coverBUILDING A WATER QUALITY TRADING PROGRAM

The Water Quality Trading Toolkit was designed to go along with the following National Network on Water Quality Trading publication.

Publications and News


Get in touch with your questions about our work on water quality trading.


Kristiana Teige Witherill


Kristiana Teige Witherill, Partner, Natural Infrastructure
email |
phone | 503.946.1904


Banner photo / The Wetlands Conservancy, Photo of tree planting / Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District, Photo of Portland / Port of Portland