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One Water Quality Trading—What is it?

A Cost Effective Way to Improve Water Quality

Bridge over Chesapeake BayWater always runs downhill. Throughout Earth’s history, rainwater has run from high places to low, running off the surface of the land or seeping below into ground water. All of it eventually ends up in local waterways, whether a small creek or a mighty river. That water has carried with it nutrients from the land, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. In the right quantities, these nutrients are necessary for life. Without this “feeding,” the intricate system of microbes, plants, animals and fish can't survive. But you can have too much of a good thing. If too many nutrients and too much sediment enters these bodies of water, they stimulate excessive plant growth -- including algae and weeds. This imbalanced growth, often called an algal bloom, reduces oxygen in the water as dead plant material decomposes and cause other organisms to die. This, along with other pollutants entering our waters is unhealthy for all inhabitants, including humans.

In the last 50 years, due to growth in population, industry, and developed land and intense agricultural production, we are sending too many nutrients and too much sediment into our waterways.  As contaminated waterways have become more prevalent in the United States, the need to reduce pollutants has brought together diverse groups working to find ways to improve water quality. While many things can be accomplished by individuals and groups acting on their own, government regulation has been used to protect public health and economic interests. As industries and local governments launch efforts to reach new regulatory goals, Water Quality Trading Markets are becoming a way to balance the polluted waterway budget. 

 
American Farmland Trust