By Alli Lews, Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership
As warmer spring weather brings fullness to Vermont’s waters, the Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership (VAWQP) nods to the investments of farmers to help ensure those waters stay clear. The VAWQP released its 2022 Annual Report highlighting the impacts of state and federal investments toward protecting and improving water quality. The VAWQP report shares conservation practice implementation data which indicates a high level of commitment from Vermont farmers in land stewardship.
The VAWQP reports that in 2022, $25.9 million was invested by state and federal entities throughout Vermont to implement agricultural water quality projects. This assistance helped farmers install conservation practices such as crop rotation, manure injection, reduced tillage and cover crops, and riparian forested and grass buffers. In addition, 9.3 miles of permanent 50-foot riparian buffers were installed and protected through easements on private lands. Buffers improve water quality by filtering sediments and nutrients, protecting streambanks, shading waters and providing important habitat that support biological diversity; and providing opportunities for educational, scientific and recreational activities.
These figures highlight that farmers are accelerating their adoption of conservation practices that benefit water quality and soil health. Water quality initiatives across all sectors have already achieved 19% of the phosphorous reduction requirements in the Lake Champlain TMDL, and 13% in the Lake Memphremagog TMDL. This has reduced an estimated 41.8 metric tons of phosphorus from entering Vermont’s water bodies.
“These important management practices are a sure sign that many farmers are embracing their role in the stewardship of our water resources. Their investments are paying dividends in our work to provide clean water and communities in which all residents can thrive,” said Dr. Eric Howe, Director of the Lake Champlain Basin Program. These meaningful gains in water quality improvement on farms were reflected in the recent Clean Water Initiative 2022 Performance (CWIP) report, published annually by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Thanks to the effort and engagement of Vermont farmers, we have been able to document continual reductions in the amount of phosphorus going into our waters year after year. We are pleased to support practices that are beneficial to both our environment and the stewards of our agricultural lands.
There is no easy fix to “clean up” our lakes and rivers from historical phosphorus loading and it will take time to see the results of water quality efforts; encouragingly in recent years, significant progress has been made in improving and protecting water quality across the state. “The challenges facing Lake Champlain can’t be overcome by one individual or organization alone; that’s the value of partnerships. We have to come together in partnership and collaboration to protect this invaluable resource for current and future generations.” said Vermont USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Travis Thomason.