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GRCA program enables farmers to improve and protect water quality

Since 1998, the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) has aimed to improve water quality and protect groundwater by providing farmers with funding to implement voluntary projects, through the Rural Water Quality Program (RWQP).

It initially started when the Region of Waterloo started to look at their long-term water strategy in conjunction with the New Hamburg wastewater treatment plant. From there, they recognized there must be efficiencies to keeping water clean.

Since then, almost 46 per cent of farms in Waterloo Region (637 of 1,374) have participated in the RWQP, undertaking projects to protect adjacent water bodies such as installing fences to keep livestock out, building manure storage and planting trees.

The program is funded by municipalities and the money is then given to the GRCA to deliver to landowners for their approved projects.

“The program has a list of eligible practices where funds are available. And that was created with input from the local farm community. So, if someone is interested in applying, they would contact us at GRCA, and we would work with them to submit an application. It then goes to a review committee which is made up of representatives from the agricultural community, and they look at projects and approve them based on their merits for improving and protecting water quality,” said Louise Heyming, supervisor of conservation outreach with the GRCA.“It’s just very much locally driven.”

She says farmers are stewards of the land and programs like this help them to do more for the community.

“I think it’s important to note that the farmers are good stewards of the land, and programs like this, help them to do more. There’s a real strong focus recently, or a growing focus on the importance of soil health, and I think this program helps to support soil health and farm sustainability because what’s  good for farms is also good for the watershed health and environmental sustainability.”

In 2019, 88 projects worth $627,395 were completed with support from RWQP. Cost sharing totalled $282,341 ($241,061 from the Region of Waterloo and $41,280 from federal and provincial initiatives delivered by the GRCA).

She says about 1,900 projects have been completed since this was implemented in 1998. Almost $7 million in grants have been given out and landowners have contributed more than $12 million to these projects. In total almost $20 million has gone to projects such as these.

Eligible projects under the RWQP include manure storage, milk-house waste, clean water diversion, dead stock composting, nutrient management plans, manure storage decommissioning, cover crops, tree planting and fragile land retirement, living snow fences, natural area restoration and creation, exclusion fencing, erosion control structures, tile drain control structures, machinery crossing improvements, fuel storage/handling, fertilizer and/or chemical handling storage, wellhead abandonment, wellhead protection, and innovative technologies.

Grants range from $2,000 to $25,000 depending on the project.

Click here for more information.

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