Refining Models for Quantifying the Water Quality Benefits of Improved Animal Management for Use in Water Quality Trading

Author(s): Lydia Olander, Todd Walter, Peter Vadas, Jim Heffernan, Ermias Kebreab, Marc Ribaudo, Thomas Harter

Published: March 2014

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Publication Type: Report

Water quality trading (WQT) allows point-source permittees to meet their water quality obligations by purchasing credits from other point or nonpoint sources that have reduced their discharges. Improved management of animal operations could reduce nutrient discharges into waterways and thereby generate credits for WQT programs. But first, methods for quantifying pollutant reductions resulting from animal management changes must be adapted for use in such programs. This report explains the Clean Water Act underpinning of WQT programs and how animal operations fit into them. It surveys models of animal production of nutrient waste, surface water transport, and the transport and transformation of pollutants in watersheds. It also describes how direct measurement and monitoring of nutrient losses is evolving. Finally, it presents ideas on how to improve models’ accuracy and usability. The report reflects insights from three supplemental papers: Management Practices to Improve Water Quality on Central and Western Rangelands, Assessing Potential Impacts of Livestock Management on Groundwater, and Management Options for Animal Operations to Reduce Nutrient Loads.