What is Soil and Water Conservation?

Soil and Water Conservation Offices are government agencies that provide information on conservation and management for soil, water, and related natural resources. Their mission is to protect and improve soil and water resources as well as conserve land, water, forests, and wildlife. In addition, Soil and Water Conservation District Associations and the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) provide conservation support on the local level.

Offices charged with Soil and Water Conservation develop, implement, and enforce policies to protect natural resources. This can include issues that affect farmers and ranchers, such as policies for grazing, animal waste, and soil erosion, as well as regulations on pest and nutrient management. They also enforce erosion control and management practices for construction and mining, including efforts to protect water quality. Soil and Water Conservation agencies monitor and protect ground and surface water, including regulating water pollution and stormwater runoff.

Many Soil and Water Conservation agencies also provide financial and technical support for conservation efforts. This can include programs for conserving water, reducing soil erosion, and improving water quality, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Additional programs may provide support for existing conservation systems. Many also offer cost-sharing programs to install conservation systems as well as access to grant funding for soil and water conservation.

Soil and Water Conservation can also include educational programming on conservation. Many state Soil and Water Conservation agencies offer programming on irrigation, water management, and practices to limit soil erosion for local farmers and landowners. The SWCS also offers training and professional development for conservationists, educates policy makers on conservation practices, and helps implement policies that conserve resources.

At the federal level, the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977 gave the Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority over Soil and Water Conservation, including conservation, protection, and enhancement of soil and water resources. The USDA monitors soil and water trends, recommends policies, and develops the national Soil and Water Conservation program. The USDA also runs the Conservation Innovation Grants program.