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Development and Testing of a Texas BMP Evaluation Tool to Aid Decision-Making in Conservation Planning on Agricultural Lands

Project Goals/Objectives: To develop an easy-to-use Texas BMP Evaluation Tool to aid in science-based BMP selection, cost-effective conservation spending, and program benefit analysis. Specifically this tool will be designed to assist land managers and agency planners in conservation practice decision-making related to on-farm (field-scale) alternatives and effectiveness and facilitate evaluation and reporting of agricultural nonpoint source load reductions from WQMP implementation.

The TSSWCB, SWCDs, and USDA-NRCS have been collaborating with agricultural producers (collaborators) to implement best management practices (BMPs) to protect natural resources on Texas farms and ranches for decades. Through the TSSWCB Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP) Program, technical assistance is provided by TSSWCB Regional Office staff, SWCD Technicians, and USDA-NRCS Field Office staff (planners) to assist cooperators in developing and implementing whole-farm, resource management systems (WQMPs). A WQMP is a site-specific plan which includes a suite of appropriate land treatment practices, production practices, management measures, and technologies that prevent and abate agricultural and silvicultural nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution.

TSSWCB utilizes the WQMP Program to implement BMPs on agricultural lands in watersheds with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and Watershed Protection Plans (WPPs). TSSWCB has had difficulty in estimating load reductions achieved from implementing specific WQMPs and then translating those reductions to in-stream effects on the toal reductions called for in the TMDL or WPP. TSSWCB needs a tool that will estimate pollutant load reductions achieved from implementing a WQMP and that aids in translating those reductions to watershed-wide effects.

The Texas BMP Evaluation Tool will be simple enough, yet scientifically valid, so cost-effective conservation practice altrenatives can be examined and appropriate options chosen based on field-specific soil, crop, livestock, and climatic information. The Tool will provide scientifically-valid estimates of the environmental effects of conservation practices, i.e., impacts on water quality. These estimates will provide resource conservation savings (for example tons of soil saved or lbs of P kept out of streams).

The Tool will allow conservation planners and land managers to take advantage of the predictive power of a complex hydrologic water quality model to develop better WQMPs by evaluating the water quality impact arising from proposed BMPs. The Tool will allow TSSWCB to better gage the programmatic effectiveness (fiscal and environmental) of the WQMP Program and associated state and federally sponsored cost-share funding mechanisms. Thus, development and implementation of the Texas BMP Evaluation Tool will improve conservation planning, enhance soil conditions, improve water quality, and increase fiscal efficiency across Texas.

Project Location: Statewide

Project Costs: Federal ($0); State ($155,250); Total Project: ($155,250)

Project Participant(s): TSSWCB and USDA Agricultural Research Service

Project Workplan: 09-50

"Protecting and Enhancing Natural Resources since 1939."

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