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Why it Matters: The Nature Conservancy is working with the agricultural sector, and other partners to implement strategies that will improve the health of watersheds for nature and people, while also helping farmers maintain or improve productivity.

Agriculture is a culturally and economically important sector in Michigan, annually producing $13 Billion worth of products. In many of the agriculturally intensive watersheds of the state, the cumulative impact of land-use and management decisions has altered the hydrology and degraded the water quality of these watersheds, altering inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems.

The Conservancy is deploying conservation programs in the row-crop agriculture dominant watersheds of Michigan, namely the Michigan portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin and Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay. Using a science-based approach, the Conservancy and its partners have forecasted the effect of field-level agricultural activities on watershed ecological outcomes, identified watersheds where improvements can be attained, and is deploying scalable programs to cost-effectively achieve ecological objectives. These programs and their outcome-based approach are important demonstrations of key concepts and methods that inform the Great Lakes Project and North American Agriculture Program.


  • Use science to determine watershed conservation goals 
  • Develop innovative agricultural conservation practices and delivery systems
  • Work with strategic partners in the agricultural supply chain, federal and state government to incorporate water quality and quantity goals into their business practices and programs to achieve those outcomes

 Relevant Documents:

Real Time Drain Water Management final report