SYRACUSE — Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation announced the landmark Wawasee Inlets Nutrient Study has helped secure the National Water Quality Initiative designation for the Wawasee Area Watershed, making it a priority watershed for additional federal funding.
This premier USDA program focuses on partnerships between federal, state, local and private resources to accelerate voluntary on-farm conservation investments that benefit soil health and water quality by reducing erosion and nutrient runoff and promoting practices such as cover crops and reduced tillage to improve soil health.
The Wawasee Area Watershed is the first lake watershed in Indiana to receive this designation. It is one of 283 small watersheds selected nationally out of roughly 100,000 watersheds to participate in this program.
The selection of the Wawasee-area watershed was driven by WACF’s investment in WINS that has provided unparalleled data showing how much precious and costly nutrients and soil are being lost from farmland and inadvertently ending up in local streams and lakes. This study was undertaken proactively to protect the healthy watershed from degradation and maintain clean water for future generations.
“We are gratified to see our strong conservation efforts as well as our groundbreaking ecological study making such a difference for our watershed,” shared Beth Morris, WACF ecology chair. “We are finishing year three of the robust WINS study and thanks to the expertise of our partner, Dr. Jerry Sweeten and his team at EcoSystems Connections Institute, we are already reaping remarkable benefits.”
“As a member of our local farming community and a WACF board member, I am excited to see the partnerships that the NWQI designation will support,” stated Russell Anderson, WACF Ecology Committee member. “Farmers work extremely hard to protect their land, increase crop productivity and sustain their business. To have another resource to provide expertise and possible financial incentives is extraordinary.”
With the designation, WACF has received $16,000 to begin the initial readiness phase. During this stage, they will leverage the expertise of local Natural Resources Conservation Services staff and other partners to develop an assessment that identifies the opportunity areas, resource needs, develops goals and establishes metrics to track project progress. Additional focus will be given to development of outreach and education strategies within the watershed.
Once completed, this will unlock significant federal cost-sharing money in support of our partners in the farming community for projects such as:
• Cover crops and no-till farming.
• Restoring and protecting wetlands adjacent to lakes, rivers or streams.
• Other practices that help reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and reduce pollution.
Healthy ecosystems include agricultural lands to grow healthy food and clean water to nourish the land. The NWQI designation for the Wawasee Area Watershed is a giant step for making generational change toward supporting both agriculture and clean water in the community.