New AWWA guide encourages farmer-utility collaborations to protect source water

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A recently published guide by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) points out many opportunities for the U.S. Depart of Agriculture (USDA) conservation to safeguard potable water resources. AWWA is one of the largest professional organization which has championed collaboration between the agricultural producers and the water community.

The AWWA was established in 1881. Their primary goal as the largest scientific non-profit association is to protect, manage, and treat water. They are 51,000 members strong and are in a capacity to address other water-related avenues as well - improving public health, strengthening the economy, enhancing the quality of life, and protecting the environment.

The AWWA emphasizes collaboration with the goal of reducing nutrient runoffs. Nutrient runoffs cause excessive algae growth because additional nutrients enter water bodies and thus pollute.

The USDA has published a guide that would help agricultural producers and other agencies to leverage beneficial programs to protect water resources. They also have funding and schemes to help farmers adopt proper water conservation practices. USDA recommends that water utilities work alongside farmers to maximize the benefits without losing track of the primary goal- To protect water resources.

Tracy Mehan, the executive director of government affairs at AWWA, says that the USDA has untapped potential to create robust and resourceful partnerships between water agencies, water consumers, and agricultural producers. She notes that the published guide outlines all of the schemes available for stakeholders. The guide includes case studies that show how effective collaborations between agricultural producers and water utilities could be.

Here are the overarching recommendations for water utilities from the published guide:

  1. Restructure how to spend money allocated to conservation. Focus dollars on source water protection.

  2. Encourage and foster trust along with an improved problem-solving capacity between farmers and water systems.

  3. Focus on the best strategies that address source water problems.

  4. Cut-short on the expenditure associated with installing additional treatment procedures.

  5. Assess and reduce water supply risks.

  6. Focus on increasing public trust in the agricultural and water sectors.

  7. Maximize the utility of every dollar through NRCs and strategic partners.

An additional avenue AWWA is working on is policy. AWWA has highlighted the advantages of the USDA conservation programs in the context of the U.S. Farm Bill. They have uploaded an animated video illustrating how USDA programs and schemes are central to the potable water protection mission.

Two years of AWWA efforts to protect source water have materialized with the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Farm Bill- The agricultural and Nutrition Act (2018). The Bill includes critical advances made by the AWWA. Another advancement toward source water protection is a work-in-progress Bipartisan Farm Bill the U.S. Senate is working on - the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

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