Farmers in Waterloo Region have reached a milestone in making farm improvements to protect water quality. As of December 2020, more than $20 million in total capital projects have been completed through support from the Region’s Rural Water Quality Program (RWQP).
The RWQP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers implementing voluntary projects to improve and protect water quality. Funded by the Region of Waterloo, the program started in 1998 to address non-point sources of sediment and nutrients and to protect groundwater.
“This program continues to be an important component in the Region’s approach to source water protection and complements our investments in regional drinking water and wastewater treatment upgrades,” says Eric Hodgins, Manager of Water Resource Protection with the Region of Waterloo.
In 2021, the Region is providing $200,000 in funding to support the program and has renewed its support for another five years. The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) contributes program delivery and administration costs.
Since 1998, 1,938 projects totaling approximately $20.9 million have been completed in the Region. Landowners have contributed $13.4 million of their own resources toward these projects and have received over $7.2 million in grants. Of the grants provided, $6 million came from the Region of Waterloo and $1.23 million in funding was distributed through corporate, provincial and federal initiatives delivered by the GRCA.
“The RWQP demonstrates a very successful partnership between the rural and urban communities working with the GRCA and the Region of Waterloo,” says Mark Reusser, Vice President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “This partnership creates incentives that support the great work by farmers to help improve water quality in our streams and rivers.”
These voluntary, private land stewardship projects provide water quality benefits to indivdual properties, the Region of Waterloo and downstream communities. The program offers grants for projects like manure storage upgrades, stream fencing, and planting windbreaks and creek buffers to help manage nutrients and runoff. Incentive payments are also available to encourage practices such as cover crops and crop nutrient plans to promote soil health, nutrient use efficiency and help sequster greenhouse gases.
“Working with growers to implement these projects is a win-win,” according to Louise Heyming, GRCA Supervisor of Conservation Outreach, “The grower keeps the nutrients and soil on their land, and those resources don’t become a pollutant for drinking water users downstream.”
About the Rural Water Quality Program
The GRCA delivers a voluntary Rural Water Quality Program on behalf of 6 Upper Tier municipalities in the watershed. Annually, these municipalities provide a combined $800,000 that is delivered as cost share funding within their municipalities. Each program was locally developed with input from the farming community. For the municipalities choosing to invest in private land stewardship projects, the GRCA provides technical staff and an established delivery framework. Over the past 20 years, the GRCA has worked with more than 3,000 rural landowners to complete over 6,500 voluntary projects, with more than $19 million in grants, representing more than $54 million in total investment. This investment supports the rural economy and source water protection, builds green infrastructure and climate change resiliency on the landscape, and helps to improve the quality of the Grand River.
More information is available by contacting the GRCA at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 519-621-2761 and asking to speak to a Conservation Specialist. To learn more about the broad range of services and grants that are available through the GRCA, please visit www.grandriver.ca/ruralwater.