Communities need multiple tools to achieve fishable, swimmable waters for the public, and ideally, those tools can adapt to the dynamic ecological and social conditions of a given watershed, while also supporting public health and economic growth. Water quality trading is one such tool that offers a flexible, more cost-effective approach to reducing pollution in our waterways than more traditional engineered solutions.
As an alternative to installing expensive technology to meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, point sources, like wastewater facilities, can work with landowners within the watershed to implement conservation and restoration practices that reduce pollutants at a lower cost. Landowners are compensated for their efforts, and after the water quality benefits are verified they become credits, which can be used by point sources to meet regulatory requirements. Water quality trading can create new sources of revenue for farmers, ranchers, land managers, and conservation groups. In addition, trading projects may provide a range of additional environmental benefits, such as air quality improvements, fish and wildlife habitat creation, and climate change mitigation.
Want to learn more about water quality trading? Check out water quality trading 101 or watch the Electric Power Research Institute's video below.
Growing Interest in Trading
An increasing number of state, cities, and utilities have adopted or are exploring the development of water quality trading programs and transferring lessons learned between programs is more important than ever. The National Network on Water Quality Trading was formed to convene a national dialogue on how water quality trading can best contribute to clean water goals and, in 2015, the Network released Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations, as the culmination of the participant’s collaboration and a road map to rigorous, transparent, and effective water quality trading program design. Learn more about the National Network's current activity on the Initiatives page.
Additional WQT Resources
- Advances in Water Quality Trading as a Flexible Compliance Tool (Water Environment Federation, 2015)
- Joint Regional Recommendations on Water Quality Trading for the Pacific Northwest (Idaho DEQ, Oregon DEQ, Washington DOE, Willamette Partnership, The Freshwater Trust, 2014)
- In It Together: A How-To Reference for Builing Point-Nonpoint Water Quality Trading Programs (Willamette Partnership, 2014)
- USDA's website on environmental markets
The National Network publication, Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations, provides a comprehensive guide to trading program development.