Location: Delta Water Management Research
Project Number: 6024-13000-004-067-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement
Start Date: Sep 19, 2022
End Date: Sep 30, 2027
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a multi-agency effort led by USDA NRCS and ARS to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs that includes development of science-based approaches to manage agricultural landscapes for environmental quality. Research needs include prioritizing and combining conservation practice effects on soil erosion that leads to nutrient loss, reservoir sedimentation, and aquifer decline; determining how conservation practices affect soil health and water use; and synthesizing how conservation practices interact at landscape levels. This agreement describes a partnership between the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to achieve conservation goals of mutual benefit, as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). Through this agreement, the NRCS proposes to contribute funding to enhance and accelerate the completion of research and assessment, and associated products and outcomes, contained within the ARS National Program 211 Water Availability and Watershed Management 2021-2025 Action Plan, which remains in force through January 2025, including objectives of particular interest to NRCS to support conservation activities. The overall goals of the CEAP are to: •Estimate conservation effects and benefits at regional and national scales; and •Develop scientific understanding of conservation practice effects at watershed scales. The goals of the CEAP Watershed Assessment Studies Components are: •Quantify the measurable effects of conservation practices at the watershed scale. •Enhance understanding of conservation effects in the biophysical setting of a watershed. •Inform local watershed conservation strategies. ARS will: •Identify key contributors to soil erosion when conservation practices are used in critical areas, as opposed to whole field implementation, and identify how conservation practices impact water balance including contaminant transport to groundwater, effects on soil properties, including soil water storage or reduced water usage by plants. •Determine how practices can be used to reduce dependence on synthetic inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, and how improved manure management can reduce nutrient discharge and microbial contamination; and •Collect data to improve soil erosion models under conservation practices, nutrient management scenarios, and manured cropping systems, and evaluate how stacked conservation practices alter soil and water processes compared to single practices.
The effects of conservation activities on water and soil quality will be assessed at the watershed scale using models such as ARS' Soil and Water Assessment Tool, in combination with ARS long-term watershed data sets, expertise, and resources. Problems to be addressed through this agreement include the following four areas: 1.1 New and innovative modeling and assessment tools to quantify sediment and contaminant transport on the landscape. 1.2 Understanding how to select, place, and combine conservation practices to achieve improvements in water quantity and quality in watersheds. 1.3 Improving conservation technologies to better protect water resources: Development and testing of new designs, equipment, and materials. 1.4 Ensuring conservation and agricultural management practices can increase agricultural profitability and resilience under changing climate and land use.