State of Virginia forms innovative, market-based water quality trading program

EPA joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, White House Council on Environmental Quality, Commonwealth of Virginia, and others to recognize an innovative, market-based water quality trading program run by Virginia to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

Dec 23rd, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 23, 2014 -- On Tuesday, Dec. 16, the Environmental Protection Agency joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Commonwealth of Virginia, and others to recognize an innovative, market-based water quality trading program run by the state of Virginia to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

The organizations convened at the McConnell Safety Transportation Operation Center, in Fairfax, Va., where they highlighted the cost-effective program that has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million, demonstrating an innovative means of meeting Clean Water Act stormwater requirements and Virginia state water quality goals for the Bay.

The program encourages economic investment while reducing phosphorus pollution to local waterways in order to meet water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay. It is expected that similar programs will be established around the nation to provide new revenue sources for agricultural producers while reducing soil erosion and runoff.

Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality has created a demand and supply market for land conservation projects that are protective of water quality for future generations. The agency's stormwater program requires reductions of phosphorus runoff from certain types of road construction projects that can be achieved by purchasing phosphorus credits from state-certified credit banks.

Credits purchased are generated by Virginia farmers in the Potomac and James River watersheds, whose farming practices have permanently reduced the amount of phosphorus flowing into those rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. The farm practices are certified by the state as "nutrient credit banks" and come solely from private investors, reducing reliance on public funds and generating a new revenue stream for participating farmers.

These credits cost the Virginia Department of Transportation approximately 50-percent less than other, more traditional engineered pollution reduction practices, such as detention ponds and underground filters. In addition, these banks advance other goals such as wildlife habitat, stream buffers and land preservation.‎

See also:

"Water quality credits cut river pollution at low cost, research shows"

"National Water Quality Trading Alliance recently formed"

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