The Conewago Initiative is a ‘discovery’ approach in which local, state, and federal partners, along with research institutions, unleash each of our respective resources to focus on one watershed – and build one success. The end goal is to reduce the nutrient and sediment pollution within the Conewago, improve the health of the local watershed, engage citizens across all sectors – while developing an integrated approach that will benefit other watersheds throughout the region.
The Initiative seeks to engage the entire watershed community and provide the resources and skills of the partnership organizations to work with farmers, residents, businesses, and municipalities in the watershed to accelerate the adoption of practices to improve local water quality and the Chesapeake Bay.
A four-pronged approach is being taken:
Partners are making the human resources available to engage the watershed community so that awareness and adoption of practices to improve water quality can be accelerated. Methods of outreach and engagement include website and media outreach, community events, a community visioning process, and youth education.
Partners are working with farmers in the watershed to assess and account for conservation practices on their farms and provide technical assistance to implement more practices to improve water quality. Core practices (cover crops, no-till, buffers, nutrient management) are of highest priority. Opportunities for implementing newer “innovative practices” for reducing nutrients will also be offered. Similar programs to assist homeowners, business owners, and municipalities to address nutrient and sediment pollution from non-agricultural sources will be developed.
The practices that landowners put in place have a multitude of benefits to the ecosystem and the community, including reducing nutrient and sediment pollution, reducing drinking water treatment costs, improving wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, flood control, storm water management, etc. These ecosystem services may allow landowners who implement such practices to take advantage of existing or emerging environmental markets, such as nutrient trading. Partners will work to increase local awareness of ecosystem services provided by practices in the watershed and provide support to landowners interested in taking advantage of environmental markets.
To evaluate early signals and long-term improvements, a monitoring program will be developed so that early signals and long term improvements can be measured to determine movement toward meeting environmental goals.