2014 Webinar Recap: Conservation, HABs, and New Approaches

On October 9, 2014, the NEMWI held a webinar entitled “Conservation, HABs, and New Approaches” targeting information needs of NEMW Congressional Coalition Great Lakes Task Force staff and Great Lakes regional leaders and stakeholders. This Webinar was the second in an NEMWI series inspired by the Toledo “Do Not Drink” Advisory in August. The first webinar focused on managing the public health impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), while this one focused on prevention, particularly the need for, and approaches to, agricultural conservation.

Webinar speakers, including Dr. Deanna Osmond (North Carolina State University), stressed the importance of working at the watershed scale when looking at conservation impacts, rather than simply reductions in nutrient flows at the field or local scales. Dr. Patrick Lawrence (University of Toledo), along with the other speakers, raised the lack of monitoring information needed to assess the on-the-ground results and effectiveness of conservation programs and practices. Elin Betanzo, P.E. (NEMWI) described the NEMWI’s two-year collaborative study with the U.S. Geological Survey, now nearing completion, on the state of water monitoring information in the Western Lake Erie Basin, and its capacity to inform policy solutions. The study showed the region currently lacks sufficient data to assess effects of proposed conservation approaches. It also suggested that more intensive monitoring of the specific pollutant of concern, dissolved reactive phosphorus, within small and large watersheds would be the most efficient means to generating the needed information. David White (former Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service) and Alex Echols (Independent Consultant, Principal, Terra Altus) provided background on new conservation infrastructure and practices that are relatively easy to implement and could have dramatic effects on the flow of nutrients into watersheds, as well as innovative approaches to pay for these efforts. They highlighted the cost-savings measures of nutrient trading, whereby nutrient reduction on farms allows wastewater facilities to economically and effectively meet nutrient discharge permits. Over 30 million acres in the Midwest region have potential to include more effective conservation practices to reduce nutrient inputs and the resultant algal blooms.

A recording of the webinar is available here.