Palouse agriculture slice

Nonpoint Pollution from Agriculture

Other Efforts to Protect Clean Water

There are multiple strategies to prevent polluted runoff on agricultural lands. Coordination between state agencies and the federal government help to prevent polluted runoff on agricultural lands.



Federal and State Coordination

Total Maximum Daily Load (Water Cleanup Plan) Implementation

Yakima River at sunset, Washington State. Photographer unknown.

The federal Clean Water Act requires the Department of Ecology to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for state waters that have been declared polluted. TMDLs are responsible for directing state waters from being polluted to being clean and safe and keeping them so.

Although total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) map out the path to restore state waters to clean, actual results are only derived when the TMDL’s actions are implemented. The implementation process requires both Ecology and local partners to institute water pollution controls for all identified sources. However, the process for instituting pollution controls occurs somewhat differently, depending on the nature of the pollution source.

For facilities with a discharge permit, existing water pollution controls are updated and improved as part of the TMDL implementation process. These controls are developed to ensure that the objectives of the TMDL are met, bringing both the facility and the waterbody in compliance with the law.

For pollution sources that do not have a permit (often known as nonpoint source pollution), Ecology uses other means to implement the TMDL. For example, Ecology implementation staff may work with landowners and conservation districts to get water pollution controls applied on a parcel-by-parcel basis. Importantly, these pollution controls, also known as best management practices, are required to be implemented to a level that ensures that both the water body and the landowner will comply with state and federal water quality regulation. To the greatest extent feasible, Ecology uses educational and incentive-based approaches to accomplish this task. However, enforcement is used to prevent and reduce sources when immediate action in required, or when pollution threatens the beneficial uses of that water.

Ecology also works with local partners to build support and stewardship for state waters through various facets of local decision-making. For example, TMDL science may inform local decision-making about the impacts of land use on the clean-up process, as well as on water quality in general. Also, implementation staff may work with local partners to develop or enhance existing pollution control programs to address pollution sources squarely within the local partner’s jurisdiction. No matter what the context, though, the theme is always the same – following the TMDL road map to institute pollution controls which will return polluted waters back to being clean and safe, and keeping them that way.

Learn more about Water Quality Improvement projects (Total Maximum Daily Load studies).

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Straight to Implementation

In addition to TMDLs, Ecology may also use different watershed clean-up strategies. These approaches, commonly referred to as straight to implementation, do not set numeric daily maximum pollution loads but instead place greater emphasis and resources on the pollution control implementation phase. This strategy is used when permitted facilities are not present and if the proposed pollution controls have been proven to attain compliance. Ultimately, the straight to implementation process is one of efficiently instituting pollution controls through active, on-the-ground, clean-up efforts. Examples:

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Effectiveness Monitoring

Monitoring water quality

Effectiveness monitoring (EM) is a fundamental component of water quality cleanup efforts. At one level, it measures to what extent the waterbody has improved and whether it has been brought into compliance with state water quality standards. At a different level, EM evaluates total maximum daily load (TMDL) implementation, watershed management plan implementation, and other watershed-based cleanup activities. Success may be measured against TMDL load allocations, water quality standards, targets correlated with baseline conditions, or other desired future conditions.

The expectations of EM evaluation include:

  • Is the restoration or implementation work achieving the desired objectives or goals?
  • How can restoration or implementation techniques be improved, or adaptively managed?
  • Is the improvement sustainable?

Learn more about effectiveness monitoring.

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Last updated July 2012