Working Lands Runoff

Reduce and prevent non-point source pollutants from agricultural and forest lands by improving outreach and incentive programs and ensuring compliance with policies.
Improperly managed surface water runoff from agricultural and forest lands can transport a variety of pollutants, depositing them into the groundwater, surface water, and Puget Sound, and adversely impacting human populations. Implementation of this strategy should be targeted geographically to address low dissolved oxygen caused by excess nutrients and closed shellfish beds caused by fecal pollution. Poor freshwater quality caused by altered hydrology, changing inputs and temperature, and degraded instream and riparian habitat, should also be addressed.

Better management of runoff from agricultural and forest lands is best achieved through helping and incentivizing landowners to use Best Management Practices that reduce volume and improve the quality of surface water runoff. Numerous programs, guidelines, and technical assistance opportunities already exist to help landowners identify potential pollution impacts and implement Best Management Practices to reduce, control, or eliminate pollution. Delivery of these services, however, is frequently based on landowner interest and capacity and may not be targeted to specific locations to address resource concerns. Better targeting and coordination of these programs to address priority resource concerns and alignment with regulatory efforts will make them more effective. In addition, incentive-based approaches and improved compliance with water quality protection policies are necessary and should include both permitted sources (for example, Confined Animal Feeding Operations and dairies) and non-point sources (for example, pasture-based, hobby, and small livestock operations). Actions should prioritize eliminating disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations and underserved communities.

Implementing the Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity, Land Development and Cover, Shellfish, Marine Water Quality, and other Implementation Strategies support the success of this strategy.
  • Reduce peak flows, increase low flows
  • Reduce nutrients to improve DO
  • Reduce bacteria to protect shellfish beds
  • Reduce inequitable health outcomes

Facilitate the increased use or performance of best management practices to reduce pollutants and the volume of runoff from agricultural lands and working forests. (ID #5)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Prioritize areas for BMPs (for example, restrictive use of herbicides and pesticides);
  • Analyze costs and benefits of different BMPs and approaches;
  • Ensure regulatory compliance;
  • Ensure adequate funding and support for voluntary incentive-based programs.

Implement agricultural management practices proven to reduce nutrient loads. (ID #6)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Research BMP effectiveness (including BMPs to reduce barriers and increase opportunities to improve riparian buffers);
  • Identify opportunities and priorities for technical assistance, implementing BMPs, and funding.

Expand and improve incentives and education for agricultural land users to motivate voluntary actions for reducing fecal pollution. (ID #7)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Adequately fund the work of voluntary and incentive- based programs;
  • Develop targeted outreach and engagement approaches to encourage land users to implement BMPs;
  • Support the implementation and monitoring of BMPs.

Strengthen and implement authorities and programs that prevent fecal pollution from agricultural lands. (ID #8)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Use regulatory programs with incentives for BMP implementation to encourage compliance;
  • Reduce pollutant discharges to water through effective and funded regulatory requirements;
  • Enforce regulatory backstops for noncompliance in a timely manner to stop pollution sources.

Facilitate the increased use or performance of best management practices, including increasing riparian restoration, to reduce stream temperatures. (ID #196)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Identify the co-benefits of implementing actions within this strategy where reduction in stream temperatures may be achieved;
  • Increase shade and amount of vegetation;
  • Remove invasive species;
  • Align regulatory requirements with state incentive programs
Implementation Considerations

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • Engage communities, specifically vulnerable populations and underserved communities, to identify best approaches to reduce and prevent non-point source pollutants.
  • Integrate databases and open knowledge networks to share information and increase transparency in decision-making about water pollution activities across watersheds.
  • Create new funding mechanisms, beyond reimbursement-based mechanisms, to support projects in vulnerable populations and underserved communities.

Climate Change

  • Promote working lands BMPs that also sequester carbon and increase resilience
  • Incorporate climate information into education and technical assistance for agricultural land users.
  • Incorporate climate information into authorities and programs for preventing fecal pollution from agricultural lands.
Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs are contributing efforts that provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

What We're Measuring

We achieve our recovery goals of healthy water quality by increasing infiltration and water holding capacity of upland areas; reducing nutrient loading in runoff from agricultural lands and working forests; reducing disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria and viruses in runoff from agricultural lands; and ensuring levels and patterns of pollutants and biotoxins in surface waters do not threaten the health of Puget Sound communities; and eliminating the disproportionate impacts to vulnerable populations and underserved communities. Indicators of success include:

Nutrient balance in marine water

This indicator reports on direct, field-based measurements of the ratio of silicon to nitrogen, at representative spatial and temporal scales for the Puget Sound ecosystem. This will enable an understanding of whether Puget Sound has a nutrient balance that supports lipid-rich diatoms all year round, creating the base of the Puget Sound food web.

Nutrient balance in marine water

No reported data available

Current Legislative Actions (4 Bills)
2024 | State Bill HB 1574
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 1936
Related Activity Types
Related Strategies
2 - Working Lands
12 - Working Lands Runoff
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2235
Status: Did not pass
2024 | State Bill HB 2400
Status: Did not pass