Selling Water Quality Credits to Implement Conservation Practices
Elton and Bret Lowmiller and their father, Dale, work together on Lowmiller Farms in northeastern Ohio, milking 130 cows. Over the years, they have implemented many conservation practices on their dairy farm, including measures to protect against soil erosion. But it was tough to find the money they needed to redirect the flow of water through their farm—and they knew there was a problem.
When it rained, water flowed through the farm’s barnyard, carrying cow manure and wastewater from the milkhouse down a hill toward a small stream. The stream drains into the Tuscarawas River.
The Lowmillers got help from the Ohio River Basin Trading Program, the nation’s first interstate water quality trading market, which the Electric Power Research Institute, AFT, and other partners established to allow industries to purchase water quality “credits” from farmers in the watershed. The farmers use the funds from the credits to pay for conservation practices that reduce the amount of fertilizer running off their fields and barnyards.
Working with their local soil and water conservation district, the Lowmillers used the funding to build a catch basin, where barnyard and milkhouse waste is contained and pumped into a lagoon. They established grass waterways to filter water before it reaches the stream, and they put in a heavy-use pad that helps them keep the barnyard clean.
Photo of Ohio dairy farm by Scott Bauer, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service