Watershed Agricultural Council – Celebrating 20 Years of Working Landscapes for Clean Drinking Water from WAC / Pure Catskills on Vimeo.

The Watershed Agricultural Council (also known as “WAC” or “the Council”) works with farm and forest landowners in the New York City Watershed region to protect water quality on behalf of nine million New York residents. The Council uses

  • Whole Farms Plans
  • Forest Management Plans
  • Conservation Easements

to help farmers, forest professionals and private landholders address water pollution concerns on properties located in the Croton and Catskill/Delaware Watersheds.

Internationally recognized as a successful example of public-private partnership, the Council applies strategic watershed management approaches that benefit the general public through incentivized, on-site practices performed on private lands. This partnership model, referred to as “Payment for EcoServices” or PES, empowers private landowners to be surface-water stewards of New York City’s drinking water. Landowner willingness to participate in WAC’s upstream water quality programs continues to provide New York City residents with over 1.1 billion gallons of clean drinking water each day.

The Council’s success is directly related to:

  • Voluntary landowner participation within the watershed.
  • The organization is locally controlled through the nonprofit structure, WAC.
  • Water-quality recommendations in the Whole Farm and Forest Management
  • Plans are funded by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, U.S.D.A, U.S. Forest Service and other funding sources.

The Watershed Agricultural Council partners with local, regional, state and federal agencies and nonprofits to achieve its programmatic successes. The Council calls on the technical expertise of

  • local Cornell Cooperative Extensions
  • county Soil & Water Conservation Districts, and
  • the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

taking a team approach with landowners in addressing water quality.

WAC holds a dual mission: to address surface-water quality through land conservation while supporting the economic viability of agriculture and forestry in the watershed region. A Whole Farm Plan or Forest Management Plan incorporates a number of water-quality improvements, mitigation approaches and common sense measures, called best management practices or BMPs. These BMPs, along with land conservation techniques and team planning, are tailored to that farming or forested property.

Similarly, conservation easements placed on watershed farms and woodlands ensure working landscapes are protected for future generations. Strong agriculture-focused and forestry-based industries bolster the local watershed economy. The natural environment, complimented by WAC’s water-quality protection programs, not only serves as New York City’s watershed, but as its viewshed and foodshed, too.