Key actions under this strategy include:

  • Encourage farmers to adopt on-farm best management practices, emphasizing a “systems approach” 
  • Adopt 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship Certification or similar programs; avoid nutrient application on frozen or snow-covered ground; and implement and enforce fertilizer and manure application requirements where they apply
  • Improve soil health and manage drainage systems to hold back or delay delivery of runoff though the use of saturated buffers, constructed wetlands, or other drainage water management techniques
graphic showing ag non-point source pollution drainage

© National Center for Water Quality Research (NCWQR) 

In agriculturally dominated watersheds like the Maumee River and the Thames River basins, it is clear that adoption of agricultural management practices needs to aggressive and widespread. New approaches are needed to increase and target the adoption of conservation and stewardship programs to maximize results. Each jurisdiction is seeking opportunities to improve the effectiveness of these programs and significantly increase the current rates of adoption.

A significant portion of the phosphorus that is contributing to the harmful and nuisance algal blooms and hypoxia in Lake Erie originates from surface and subsurface losses of commercial and organic fertilizer applied to agricultural land. The predominant sources and pathways (surface or tile) will vary in the region, depending on the land management, soil type and other factors.



Related Investments

United States: RCPP Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) led by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, was created by the 2014 Farm Bill to promote partnerships in conservation. Under the RCPP, more than 40 partners in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana formed the Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) Phosphorus Reduction Initiative.

United States: GLRI ag nonpoint source projects

Under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), U.S. EPA issues grants to state and local partners to implement watershed management and domestic action plans to reduce nutrient loading from agricultural lands.

A major priority of the GLRI is to reduce harmful algae in the nearshore areas of Green Bay, Saginaw Bay and Western Lake Erie basin. Projects will target best management practices to critical source areas to achieve phosphorus reduction goals.

For more information, visit

United States: Runoff Risk Advisory Forecasts for Farmers

Runoff Risk Decision Support is a real-time forecasting tool that gives farmers guidance about when to apply fertilizers to their fields.The tools provide farmers and producers actionable recommendations about when to avoid short-term nutrient applications due to unfavorable environmental conditions.  Runoff Risk tools are based on real-time National Weather Service (NWS) weather and hydrologic models and have been collaboratively developed with ma

Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program

The primary tool for working with agriculture in Michigan's portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) is the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).  MAEAP is an innovative, proactive program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily minimize agricultural pollution risks. MAEAP was developed by a coalition of farmers, commodity groups, state and federal agencies, and conservation and environmental groups.