Partnership supports water quality trading to benefit environment, economy
A USDA and EPA partnership will support water quality trading and other market-based approaches that provide economic and environmental benefits.
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 3, 2013 -- A new partnership between the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will support water quality trading and other market-based approaches that provide benefits to the environment and economy.
Water quality trading provides a cost-effective approach for regulated entities to comply with EPA Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements, including water quality-based effluent limits in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Trading would also allow regulated entities to purchase and use pollutant reduction credits generated by other sources in a watershed.
Accordingly, cost savings and other economic incentives are also key motivators for parties engaged in water quality trading. The process can also provide additional environmental and economic benefits, such as air quality improvements, enhanced wildlife habitat, carbon capture and storage, and new income and employment opportunities for rural America.
EPA and USDA are working together to implement and coordinate policies and programs that encourage water quality trading. Further, the organizations will identify opportunities to work collaboratively to help improve trading programs across the country. Cooperative management and technical assistance will improve resource management and public services, and accelerate implementation.
"New water quality trading markets hold incredible potential to benefit rural America by providing new income opportunities and enhancing conservation of water and wildlife habitat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Additionally, these efforts will strengthen businesses across the nation by providing a new pathway to comply with regulatory requirements."
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy commented, "EPA is committed to finding collaborative solutions that protect and restore our nation's waterways and the health of the communities that depend on them. We're excited about partnering with USDA to expand support for water quality trading, which shows that environmental improvements can mean a better bottom line for farmers and ranchers."
The purpose of this policy is to support states, interstate agencies and tribes as they develop and implement water quality trading programs for nutrients, sediments and other pollutants where opportunities exist to achieve water quality improvements at reduced costs.
USDA and EPA Duties
· Coordinate and enhance communications and outreach to states, agricultural producers, regulated sources, and interested third parties on water quality trading
· Engage expertise across agencies in the review of grants, loans or technical assistance programs focused on water quality trading
· Share information on the development of rules and guidance that have the potential to affect water quality trading
· Collaborate on developing tools and information resources for states and credit generators to guide decision making, reduce costs in program design and implementation, improve environmental performance, and foster consistency and integrity across regional initiatives
· Co-host a workshop by 2015 to share tools and resources available to assist in stakeholder decision making and opportunities