US Long-Term Ecological Research Network

WSC 2007 - 2012 Yahara Watershed surface water quality policies and practices created and implemented by public agencies

This dataset was created June 2012 - August 2013 to contribute to research under the Water Sustainability and Climate project. Interventions collected are those land-based policies and practices written and implemented by public agencies. Policies were implemented in Wisconsin's Yahara Watershed the period 2007-2012. They aim to improve surface water quality through nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) and sediment reduction. Interventions included in the mapping must have spatially-explicit, publicly available data through personal communication or website.
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We developed a database of water quality interventions by government agencies in the Yahara Watershed. Interventions were included if they were a) publicly funded and implemented, b) land-based, c) implemented within the 5-year period 2007 to 2012, and d) aimed to reduce nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) and sediment runoff to surface waters as a primary or secondary goal. Our criteria excluded interventions implemented directly in the water. They also excluded work by non-profit watershed groups and for-profit companies.Interventions were categorized by type of conservation tool: regulation or standard; incentive (grant and cost-share programs); direct management (including public management actions and engineered practices); and acquisition (land conserved through fee simple acquisition or conservation easement). Interventions were next categorized by which government level (or multiple levels) of government were involved in rulemaking and implementation (Table 1). We defined the rulemaking level of government as that which created the standard or wrote the law, and the implementing level of government as that which made field-level decisions, negotiated with landowners, and monitored practices. If the intervention was a grant given to private recipients, the implementing agencies were considered those that supervised grant implementation.We mapped policy interventions in ArcGIS (version 10.1). The goal of mapping was to determine the extent and overlap of interventions throughout the watershed and the agency responsible for establishing and implementing the policies. Public acquisitions of conservation land were mapped and categorized by the government level acquiring the parcel or parcels. Incentive programs – grants and cost-share – were mapped for the parcels where the incentive program was applied from 2007-2012. For federal Farm Bill Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs, for instance, the farm parcels of the cost-share recipients were mapped with publicly available data or by matching recipient names with parcel ownership records. Regulatory programs were mapped according to each statutes definition. For example, Wisconsins shoreland zoning ordinances were mapped as the area in the 300 meter buffer around rivers or streams and 1000 meter buffer of lakes or ponds, using the Wisconsin DNR water body base layer. Regulations were represented by specific permit area when permit data were available, such as farms with county winter manure-spreading permits.Regional water quality experts validated the interventions list and map. Reviewers included a regional planner, two municipal administrators, a commissioner on the County Lakes and Watershed Commission, a County water conservationist, a lawyer for an environmental non-profit, and the director of a Wisconsin soil and water conservation organization. Through this process we added several interventions and clarified the mapping rules. Analyses were conducted on 35 of 41 interventions that could be represented spatially through publicly available data. The most significant unmapped intervention was nutrient management planning, for which the County office did not have spatial data. We estimated the percent land area covered by each intervention by subwatershed. The Yahara Watershed was divided into 300 subwatersheds based on a recent modeling effort that delineated 200 subwatersheds in the upper Yahara Watershed (Montgomery Assoc., 2011) and our delineation of 100 comparably-sized subwatersheds based on a Digital Elevation Model in the lower Yahara Watershed. We then calculated the percentage of each subwatershed covered by each of the 35 interventions. The percentage of land covered by every intervention within a subwatershed was then summed to get a cumulative percent coverage. This ranged from 0 to a possible 3,500 for each subwatershed. The total percent intervention coverage is shown in heat maps depicting low to high policy coverage by subwatershed, created in ArcGIS.We categorized subwatersheds as urban or rural in order to compare coverage of interventions. Subwatersheds were classified as urban if the developed land cover classes were 50percent or more of land area, based on 2010 National Land Cover Data, which resulted in 83 urban (28percent) and 217 rural (72percent) subwatersheds. We conducted a Welch 2-sample t-test to determine whether cumulative percent area of interventions differed significantly for urban and rural subwatersheds. The untransformed cumulative percent area data were consistent with assumptions of normality and were not improved by an ArcSin transformation (sometimes used with percentage data), so we report the t-test with untransformed data.We compared intervention locations with total phosphorus yields (kilograms phosphorus per hectare per year) for the 200 subwatersheds modeled for the year 2008 with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The Montgomery and Associates SWAT model is widely used by policymakers in the watershed. The subwatersheds with the highest nutrient yields are consistent with earlier models and measurements conducted for conservation planning (Lathrop, 2007).A Pearsons product-moment correlation matrix compared interventions with modeled phosphorus yield by subwatershed, calculated in R (version 3.0.1). We correlated phosphorus yields with cumulative percent intervention coverage by municipal, county, state, and federal governments in both their rulemaking and implementation capacities. We also compared the correlation of phosphorus yields with intervention coverage for each type of intervention tool. Interventions were also grouped by whether they targeted agricultural or nonagricultural activities. These correlations give a proxy measure of whether public interventions target areas of concern for watershed nutrient reduction.
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