Monday, May 4, 2015

Capitol Hill Briefing Recap: "Nutrient Trading – Can it Help Make the Lake Less Green?"

On April 27, the Northeast-Midwest Institute hosted a Washington, DC briefing on Capitol Hill focused on the potential for nutrient trading to address water pollution management challenges across the U.S.  Event speakers highlighted the many aspects, challenges and benefits of nutrient trading; trading's capacity to improve the health of water resources affected by nutrient pollution; and the potential for nutrient trading to be one part of a more comprehensive nutrient management package, whether in the Great Lakes watershed, the Mississippi River Basin, or elsewhere. A briefing audio recording can be found here, and briefing slides, here.

Briefing presenters included Bruce Knight (Strategic Conservation Partnerships), Alex Echols (Terra Altus), Brent Fewell (Troutman Sanders, National Water Quality Trading Alliance), Elin Betanzo (Northeast-Midwest Institute), and Victoria Pebbles (Great Lakes Commission).  An overview of each of their presentations follows.
  • Knight and Echols provided political, policy and technical background on the issue, and addressed the need for innovative solutions to manage nutrients, 
    Source: EPRI, Ohio River Basin Project
    including recent technological advancements that allow for precision farming and innovative nutrient trading to work (technologies such as targeted soil quality monitoring and fertilizer application).  They also stressed the potential money-saving potential of those innovative tools. 
  • Fewell described the necessary components of and challenges to trading, including trade ratios that require greater projected nutrient reductions from nonpoint pollution sources (i.e., compared to point sources), and the need to account for weather-related and other uncertainties. He also also emphasized the potential pitfalls associated with nutrient trading, and the need to effectively manage liability and credit trading contracts.
  • Betanzo described tools for measuring nutrient trading program water quality outcomes, and presented preliminary results from a soon-to-be-released report on water quality monitoring in the Lake Erie Basin. That study indicates that sizable nutrient reduction goals, and five- to ten-year monitoring windows will be necessary to reliably detect water quality changes resulting from nutrient trading or other nutrient reduction strategies. 
  • Pebbles provided an overview of the mechanics involved in a Fox P Trade pilot trading project in the Green Bay watershed, Wisconsin.  That pilot focused on the potential for phosphorus trading between agriculture and point sources, including wastewater treatment plants. 
Questions regarding the briefing, and briefing materials may be directed to Danielle Chesky, Director, Great Lakes Washington Program at the Northeast-Midwest Institute (telephone: 202.464.4012; email:, who is the primary contributor to this article.

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