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Water and agriculture leaders plant seeds for environmental progress in rare collaboration
The U.S. Water Alliance issued a report highlighting common ground and innovative strategies between agriculture and water and wastewater utilities to reduce nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin. “Coming Together to Protect Mississippi River Watersheds: Agriculture and Water Sector Collaboration for Nutrient Progress” (August 2014) embodies the discussions and recommendations of agriculture, wastewater and drinking water leaders, with participation from environmental, academic and scientific, business, local, state and Federal agency interests.
Participants met frequently between March 2013 and February 2014 in cities and towns across the Upper and Middle Mississippi River Basin to build trust and understanding. The starting place for the Mississippi River Nutrient Dialogues was common recognition that current “point source” regulation under the Clean Water Act and non-point source voluntary efforts to manage nutrient loadings are not achieving the reductions needed for a healthy, vibrant River Basin and Gulf. As noted in the report: "Though there were considerable differences of view within the group about the sources of excess nutrients and the extent of the impacts, there was agreement that both the agriculture and water sectors stand to benefit from efforts to reduce the amount of nutrients leaving agricultural lands." Building on previous and ongoing broader efforts, participants in the Nutrient Dialogues worked together closely to identify opportunities for targeted, localized solutions based on new partnerships. Here are key strategies and recommendations from the report:
The dialogues were prompted by the challenges of nutrient pollution facing the Mississippi River Basin, as well as communities and regions throughout the U.S., from the Great Lakes to the East and West Coasts. The report states that “high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous threaten human health, wildlife and plant populations, recreation opportunities, and livelihoods in communities and watersheds throughout the Mississippi River Basin.” The effort received financial and in-kind support from the McKnight Foundation, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and Meridian Institute, with active engagement and support from representatives of agricultural and water-related utilities and organizations, environmental groups, state and federal government, and academic and scientific research organizations.