Voluntary Clean Water Guidance for Agriculture

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Farmers are a crucial partner in protecting clean water across Washington. Many in the agricultural industry have asked us for guidance about farm practices that protect water quality.

We are partnering with others to develop voluntary clean water guidance for agriculture. This guidance will outline practices that help farmers meet clean water standards. It will serve as a technical resource for the agricultural community to put these practices into place.

Our approach to developing the guidance will be through an advisory group that includes diverse representation. More specific information can be found in the Process Design document.

Developing guidance with partners

The advisory group will help compile a list of management practices to include in the guidance. For each practice, the guidance will include information on effectiveness in reducing pollutants, as well as implementation considerations, such as capital costs, operation and maintenance requirements, and challenges to implementation.

Advisory group participants will serve on one of two workgroups:

Throughout this effort we are reaching out to the agricultural community, tribal governments, federal, state and local agencies, environmental and public interest groups, academia and the general public. Our goal is for an inclusive process that benefits from the knowledge and expertise of stakeholders.

Why it matters

Completing the guidance is an important part of our Nonpoint Source Management Plan. We have clean water guidance for cities, counties, many industrial sectors, land development, and forestry, but we do not have clean water guidance for agricultural land use. Similar to the other sectors, polluted runoff from agricultural lands can pose a threat to fish, shellfish and the groundwater we drink. Farming practices can also contribute to unhealthy water temperatures that harm salmon. Clean water guidance for agriculture would benefit the state more broadly.

oluntary Clean Water Guidance for Agriculture Process Flowchart Use this link to see a full-size version

Advisory group

The solicitation for advisory group participants is now open. Our goal is to have participants with diverse backgrounds, farming experiences, and technical expertise. We are looking for representatives from the agricultural community, public and private research institutes or organizations, academia, government (federal, state, local, and tribal) and non-government organizations, and other relevant interest areas.

We request that interested candidates submit a letter of interest by July 18, 2017 to Ben Rau at ben.rau@ecy.wa.gov. We will review the information submitted by candidates, and select participants by early August.

Your letter of interest should include the following information:

More information on the workgroups and participant qualifications can be found in the Process Design document.

Implementation workgroup

Ideal candidates for the implementation workgroup will have one or more of the following types of experience or education:

We encourage participation from agricultural production interests, technical assistance providers, and producers/farmers.

Effectiveness workgroup

The effectiveness evaluation workgroup will be composed of advisory group participants with technical or science backgrounds.

Ideally, participants will have technical qualifications or expertise in one of the following areas:

Participants must have education or experience in agronomy or rangeland science, engineering, water quality, stormwater management, fisheries/aquatic science, water quality modeling, or planning, conducting or reviewing effectiveness monitoring studies.

If you have any questions about the solicitation process or advisory group, please contact Ben Rau at 360-407-6551 or ben.rau@ecy.wa.gov.


Voluntary Clean Water Guidance for Agriculture development timeline

Stakeholder involvement

In January 2017 we released a draft process design for public comment. It was the result of months of outreach and discussions with stakeholders and tribes. Based on the feedback we received, we made several edits to the Process Design document. Read our response to comments.

2016 Stakeholder Involvement

In 2016 we reached out to stakeholders and tribes to get their perspectives on how we should approach developing clean water guidance for agriculture. We used this feedback to design our proposed process. Feedback came in several ways:

We contracted with Ross Strategic to support our stakeholder involvement. Ross Strategic helped us develop the questionnaire, conduct interviews with other states on their approaches, and provided a summary and recommendations on the proposed process.

Ross Strategic findings report


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ecology planning on mandating best management practices (BMPs)?

No, we will not develop mandatory BMPs. We are currently seeking input on how to design a process that will ultimately be used to evaluate the effectiveness of management practices, and identify practices or combinations of practices that support compliance with the water quality standards. In the next step, when the process is implemented and practices are evaluated, practices that are identified as effective will provide technical guidance that producers and farmers can voluntarily choose to implement.

The BMPs will not have any independent regulatory authority and they will not establish new environmental regulatory requirements.

How will Ecology use the guidance once it is completed?

Once completed, we will update our funding guidelines to be consistent with and support the implementation of the practices contained in the new guidance. The guidance will allow us to maintain federal grants that are passed through to producers to make on-the-ground improvements. We provide over $1.5 million annually in pass through grants to landowners.

The BMP guidance can also be used by the public and producers who want to have certainty that they are meeting water quality standards. Finally, the end product will provide technical guidance that can be used to inform the implementation of other parts of our nonpoint water quality program such as watershed clean-up plans, efforts to protect shellfish beds, and salmon recovery efforts.

Some producers are concerned that the guidance will result in one-size-fits-all BMPs. How will Ecology make sure that producers have options and flexibility in implementing practices that address pollution problems?

Ecology doesn't believe that one-size fits all. We want to make sure that any guidance that is developed is reasonable to apply and will provide a range of options to protect water quality. The BMP guidance will be designed to provide flexibility and, to the extent possible, recognize site-specific factors. Furthermore, the BMP guidance that we develop is not the only way to properly manage nonpoint source pollution. Producers may choose alternative methods that can provide equal protection of water quality.

How can I get more information?

For more information on this project please contact Ben Rau at ben.rau@ecy.wa.gov or (360) 407-6551.

Last updated July 2017