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Improving Investments in Ecosystem Services: Quantifying and Prioritizing of Conservation Spending Heather Simmons-Rigdon, Executive Director South Central.

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Presentation on theme: "Improving Investments in Ecosystem Services: Quantifying and Prioritizing of Conservation Spending Heather Simmons-Rigdon, Executive Director South Central."— Presentation transcript:

1 Improving Investments in Ecosystem Services: Quantifying and Prioritizing of Conservation Spending Heather Simmons-Rigdon, Executive Director South Central Washington RC&D Council NRCS STAC meeting, October 25, 2012

2 South Central Washington RC&D Council Non – profit located in City of Yakima. Long relationship with NRCS. Works primarily in the Yakima Basin, but recently expanding efforts throughout Washington State. Primary purpose is to facilitate more effective and efficient collaboration to increase success of conservation goals. Acts as a non-stakeholder to convene federal, state, and local level governmental and non-governmental entities to further various initiatives. Projects often focus on new ways to tackle conservation issues.

3 Yakima Basin Clean Water Partnership A committee of the South Central Wa. RC&D Council. Formed primarily to explore the suitability and applicability of an Ecosystem Services Market in the Yakima Basin. Focused on water quality. Goals: o Develop proactive processes for more effective conservation spending. o Quantify conservation benefits of various conservation practices. o Develop tools for prioritizing conservation funding and quantifying conservation benefit. o Bring point sources and non-point sources together to solve water quality issues.

4 Ecosystem Services Market Also known as Payments for Ecosystem Services, Water Quality Trading, Conservation Markets, Environmental Markets, etc. Has potential of providing additional tools to reach conservation goals. Entities who are regulated, or face likely regulations in the future, pay for conservation practices on private land that have quantifiable benefits greater than what they themselves are required, or would be able, to provide. Occurs after the entity has taken reasonable measures to meet permit limits. Further measures to meet permit limits would be very expensive and have limited benefit.

5 Reduce your impacts! (please) Of course. I can do some myself and I’ll look to the market for the rest Regulator Buyer Grey Infrastructure: Technological upgrades that can result in significant water quality improvements. Green Infrastructure: Investments in Ecosystem Services provided by functional resources or BMPs.

6 Species credits Temperature credits Habitat credits Nutrient credits Activities Riparian Planting Wetland Restoration Conservation Easement Upland Planting

7 Projects Early on it was clear that more information was needed long before a functional market was possible. Questions we had: o What would an actual market look like in the Yakima Basin – who would play the various roles, what would be their responsibilities? o What outreach is necessary to involve the right stakeholders? o What “reasonable” technological standards do potential buyers need to meet before they could participate in a market? o What are the opportunities for floodplain improvement across land ownerships? o For potential credit development projects, how can you predict the nutrient reduction resulting from any new or modified practice? The South Central Wa. RC&D Council received NRCS funds to help develop assessments and tools for answer these questions.

8 NRCS Funded Projects Conservation Technical Assistance 1.Market Outreach 2.Market Analysis 3.Floodplain Supply and Opportunity Analysis (potential sellers) 4.Demand Analysis (potential buyers) Washington Conservation Innovation Grant 5.Nutrient Tracking Tool

9 Outreach and Market Schematic Analyses Outreach Plan o Many markets are developed in response to outside direction (state mandate or regulatory requirement). o Yakima Basin is advocating for a proactive, locally led approach. o Outreach plan evolved into a “How To” for developing a locally led outreach effort to assess market potential should be done (based on Yakima Basin). Market Analysis o Describing all aspects of a market schematic and how it could look in the Yakima Basin. o Developed to help understand potential roles and responsibilities of local participants. o Also helped to identify knowledge gaps.


11 Floodplain Supply Analysis The Goals: o Inventory remaining floodplain in need of improvement, reconnection, or restoration. o Overlap with land ownership maps. o Gather all GIS database layers to identify active floodplains from 20 - 100 year floodplains. o Look for opportunities to: Identify large-scale restoration projects with multiple landowners, Prioritize outreach and funding, Identify market opportunities (sellers?).

12 Land Use/OwnershipAnalysis Focus on FEMA 100-500 year floodplains GIS for coarse filter Publicly available data Land use Land ownership

13 Naches Floodway





18 LiDAR Imagery

19 Market Potential? Buyers? Sellers? Restoration Potential WWTP


21 Demand (Buyer) Analysis Wastewater Treatment Plants treat municipal and food processing wastewater before it is released back into the river. They are regulated entities. Each plant has a discharge permit for various water quality aspects (temperature, toxins, nutrients, fecal coliform, etc.) Treatment plants employ various technologies to clean water. Certain basic technologies are standard. Over the last 20-40 years, we have greatly improved the condition of rivers. But many are still impaired (including Yakima). When a TMDL is set on a river or tributary, it often contains a standard for a specific water quality aspect that is very low and very expensive to meet.

22 The Cost of Treating Wastewater LevelTotal Nitrogen (mg/L)Total Phosphorous (mg/L) 1No removal 281 34-80.1-0.3 43<0.1 51<0.01 Levels of treatment and resulting amount of nutrient in water quality output. LevelRelative Capital CostsRelative Operations Cost 11.0 21.71.8 3 2.7 41.93.6 52.76.2 Levels of reduction of nitrogen and phosphorous compared to capital and operation costs.

23 Developing the Baseline Question: What is “reasonable” efforts in using technology to meet water quality goals? Recruited internationally recognized wastewater treatment technology scientists David Stensel and James Barnard. They evaluated all 22 WWTPs in the Yakima Basin and identified free or low cost retrofits that could be done to decrease phosphorous in effluents. Will identify other upgrades that are cost effective and significantly beneficial for water quality. Next step – working with Dept. of Ecology to identify baseline for trading.

24 I Know What You Want To Ask! Why should NRCS care about Wastewater Treatment Plant Technology!!??? Because treating food processing wastewater (all resulting from local agriculture) is a large cost for rural communities. Because increasing local capacity to treat food processing wastewater keeps food processors in town – good for our farmers and jobs! Because a market would allow communities to redirect some of their conservation dollars toward non-point improvements - i.e., paying farmers and other landowners to improve practices and conditions on their land. Struvite & biosolids recovery of phosphorous – available for reuse in farming (phosphorous is not a renewable resource!)


26 Nutrient Tracking Tool (NTT) NTT designed and developed by USDA NRCS, USDA ARS, and Texas Institute for Applied Environ. Research (Tarleton St. University). NTT estimations are based on the Agricultural Policy Environmental eXtender (APEX) model. The APEX model was developed to simulate whole farms and small watersheds. APEX has components for routing water, sediment, and nutrients across complex landscapes and channel systems to the watershed outlet. Agricultural producers and land managers can enter a Baseline (current conditions) management system and an Alternative conservation management system and produce a report showing the nutrient loss potential difference between the two systems. Used in Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon, Chesapeake, Mississippi… NTT being used in various forms across the nation, along with various methods for providing online interface - allowing users to track projects and their benefits.

27 Web based NTT System

28 Online Interface – Nutrient Net

29 Pros o Faster and cheaper than monitoring. o Quantify and compare the cost-effectiveness of conservation practice options – better invest limited conservation dollars. o Can be used for prioritizing outreach and/or funding (NRCS). o Can be used as water quality trading tool, where appropriate. Cons o Garbage in, garbage out o Limited analysis ability, important to not make conclusions beyond what model can do. o May be useless without verification and ground testing. Nutrient Models – Pros and Cons

30 o Project Goal – to enhance the existing NTT for use in quantifying nutrient results of specific conservation practices. o Focus Area - Lower Yakima Valley o Future Potential Projects Include more BMPs / crops GWMA Expand geographically (Washington NTT?). Interactive Web based version Goals

31 Project Objectives 1.Build Initial Stakeholder Participation. The first workshops will be provided to all locally interested conservation professionals on the use and application of the NTT model – led by Dr. Ali Saleh. These workshops will enlist local involvement in the design and validation of the NTT model during the course of the project. November 7 th and 8 th, 2012 2.Verify the NTT Model for the Yakima Basin. Local Conservation District staff will work with national modelers to collect and assemble local data on soils, weather, land use, topography and other data needed to calibrate the model. National modelers will perform NTT verification procedures by working with local staff to compare model outputs with data collected on soil and water quality to calibrate model components.

32 3.Enlist Stakeholder Input. o A second training with conservation professionals, landowners, and others will be conducted to roll out the enhanced NTT model. This event will introduce the model for broader use and work to gather local support and buy in. o A period of time will be allowed for interested persons to test and provide feedback on the model. During this period, NRCS will also have the opportunity to test and adopt the model as a conservation tool. 4.Evaluate Conservation Practices Using NTT Model. The model will then be used to evaluate the nutrient reduction benefit of various conservation practices. Project Objectives, cont.

33 Provide Updated NTT Documentation. Updated NTT documentation will be produced and provided to Yakima Basin for use of the tool in this region. Final Report. A final report will be provided that will describe overall results of this project, as well as next steps for expansion of the tool in Washington State. Project Objectives, cont.

34  Funded by a Washington Conservation Innovation Grant.  Timeline: November 2012 – September 2013  Providers of Match: WSU, Benton CD, RC&D  Other Partners: World Resources Institute, Willamette Partnership, NRCS, Washington Dairy Federation, Washington Conservation Commission Other Info


36 Thank you NRCS! o Project Info will soon be available for review on our website: o For more information, please contact Heather Simmons-Rigdon 509-452-8392

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