Rural Water Quality Program
What is the indicator and why measure it?
The Rural Water Quality Program (RWQP) was established in 1998 to protect water quality of the Grand River Watershed. Administered by the Grand River Conservation Authority, the program provides financial incentives to farmers to upgrade their farming methods. Farmers understand the importance of a healthy environment for their crop and livestock production. However, traditional farming methods may jeopardize water quality. New practices and recommendations can change farming practices and therefore improve water quality. Grants provided by the Waterloo Region Rural Water Quality Program come exclusively from the Region of Waterloo.
This progress indicator includes information on the impact of the program as rural landowners implement preventative measure to protect surface and groundwater quality.
Protecting our water
One method to estimate the impact of this program is to examine the relationship of projects implemented to the kilograms of phosphorus potentially retained on the farm. This method can not directly show the reduction of phosphorus in water, but it can be used as an indicator of the impact. Phosphorus is a common component of fertilizer, manure, and organic waste. It is an essential element for plant life but too much of it in water causes eutrophication. Eutrophication reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in water, harming aquatic life. Soil erosion and surface runoff are two major ways phosphorus enter waterways.
From inception to 2013, the RWQP has supported 1270 projects in Waterloo Region. Figure 1 shows a map of all the local projects. Projects have included:
- Cover crops,
- Residue management,
- Clean water diversion,
- Erosion control,
- Livestock access restriction,
- Manure storage,
- Milkhouse waste,
- Nutrient management, and
- Tree planting.
Figure 1. Location of Rural Water Quality Program projects in Waterloo Region from 1998 to 2013.
As a result of this program:
- Approximately 39,770 kilograms of phosphorus is retained on land annually.
- 53 km of watercourse are fenced to restrict over 45,000 heads of livestock.
- 582 acres of land have been planted with trees and shrubs.
- 175 landowners completed a nutrient management plan. (This contributes to more than 40,000 acres that are managed under these plans, resulting in better use of nutrients.)
For more information, visit the Rural Water Quality Program website.