The Model Implementation
      Lessons Learned From Agricultural
            Water Quality Projects
                    Prepared by

       The National Water Quality Evaluation Project at
             North Carolina State University
                 Harbridge House, Inc.
          The U.S. Department of Agriculture and
         The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                   February 28, 1983

          The Model Implementation Program

 Lessons Learned From Agricultural Water Quality Projects

              This document was printed for the project

            USDA Cooperative Agreement 12-05-300-472
            EPA Interagency Agreement AD-12-F-0-037-0

              Biological  & Agricultural Engineering Dept.
                   North Carolina State University
                   Raleigh, North Carolina 27650


                        Harbridge House, Inc.
                   1301 Pennsylvania Ave.,  N.W.
                            Suite 1200
                      Washington, D.C. 20004
This report represents the conclusions and views of North Carolina State University and Harbridge House.
Inc The report does not represent the official policy or views of the U S Department of Agriculture or the
U S Environmental Protection Agency Additional copies of this executive summary may be obtained

                         Public Information Office
                         Soil Conservation Service
                       U S. Department of Agriculture
                           Washington. D C

                        February 28, 1983
                                           U.S. Environmental Protection
                                           ftsgion 5, Library (PL-12J)
                                           H West Jackson Boulevard, 12th Floor
                                           Chicago,  IL  60604-3590

            The Model  Implementation Program

    Lessons Learned from Agricultural Water Quality Projects


    The following is an executive summary of a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and the U S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate the results of seven nation-
wide Model Implementation Program projects (MlPs) conducted between  1978 and 1982 * The central pur-
pose of the study was to extract "lessons learned" from the seven MIPs. In order to provide an independent.
objective review, North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Harbridge House, Inc . were commis-
sioned (1)  to perform field surveys and data analyses and (2) to prepare a  detailed report that would
serve as the basis for the executive summary

    This summary focuses on various highlights of the full report. These highlights include problem
descriptions or findings concerning MIP activities, the demonstrable consequence of such problems, and
recommendations to address these problems The information presented is designed to add to the limited
body of knowledge on how government can more effectively manage ongoing and future agricultural
non-point source pollution control projects.

MIP  Background

    In early 1977, USDA and EPA examined several alternative methods  for  implementing the agri-
cultural and silvicultural non-point source pollution portion of water quality  management plans devel-
oped under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. These 208 plans were designed to address water quality
problems caused by non-point sources of pollution, in the case of agriculture, a voluntary approach
based  on farmer participation was selected. However,  no mechanisms existed for implementing these
abatement plans  Monies for ensuring USDA and EPA participation  in  cleanup efforts had not been
appropriated; nor had cost-share funds been earmarked to assist in  installing needed conservation and
management practices (called Best Management Practices) to solve water quality problems in specific

    The Model Implementation Program was designed to demonstrate and study a  concerted attempt
by USDA and EPA to address agricultural non-point source water quality problems by using existing
program authorities. There were many unknowns in conducting such a program  However, one clear
goal was to learn from the experience of the MIPs
"This summary is abstracted from a report entitled "An Evaluation of the Management and Water Quality Aspects of the Model
 Implementation Program

    The program was initiated and conducted primarily by the USD A workgroup on water quality.
Participating agencies included the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, the Soil Conser-
vation Service, the Cooperative  Extension Service,  the  Economic Research Service, the  Agricultural
Research Service, the Forest Service, and the Farmers Home Administration of USDA, and the Imple-
mentation Branch, Water Planning Division, of EPA

    In September 1977. USDA and EPA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct
a Model Implementation Program using existing USDA and EPA programs and activities Projects from
seven states (Indiana,  Nebraska,  New  York, Oklahoma, South  Carolina, South Dakota,  and Wash-
ington)  were selected  in December 1977.  The projects  were  originally scheduled to terminate  in
December  1980 but were later extended, with final reports on  all project activities due in December

Evaluation Study Methodology

    The methodological approach  used in this study is somewhat unusual  Typically, studies are con-
ducted from either a management perspective or a scientific perspective, however, this study employed
both  The  National Water Quality  Evaluation Project at NCSU supplied the water quality analytical
skills (scientific perspective) and Haibndge House supplied the management perspective

    The seven projects were highly diversified  in terms of geographic  conditions, water quality prob-
lems, and  farm operations Moreover, the projects were not designed, financed,  or administered  as
rigorous, highly controlled field experiments. In order to accommodate these limitations, the NCSU and
Harbndge House team used a "reasonable person" approach to reviewing the projects That is, the team
looked  at the various phases of  project planning and implementation from  scientific, management.
institutional, and assistance  (technical, financial,  and educational)  viewpoints and asked, "What would
one reasonably expect the projects to have done if they were going to efficiently achieve their objectives?"

    It should be noted that the procedure followed throughout this study was that each point  was eval-
uated independently, without reference to preceding points  In other words, each observation  was eval-
uated as though all other activities were conducted according to  an ideal model for project direction.

                                     STUDY RESULTS

    The following discussion provides a summary of Model Implementation Program assessments and a
series of observations, outcomes, and recommendations grouped under seven major headings, program
structure, project selection, problem definition, goals and objectives, plan of action, implementation, and
results Major recommendations for program refinement are also presented The following is taken from  an
evaluation of project activities and suggestions by project personnel on how to improve future and ongoing
agricultural water quality programs

Program Structure

    This section assesses how the overall program  was developed and conducted by USDA and EPA head
quarters staff  The major points are summarized below

       The Model Implementation Program demonstrated that USDA and EPA could work together to
        develop a program structure for addressing agricultural non-point sources through a project ap-
        proach  This coordinated effort also focused national attention on the agricultural water pollution

       USDA and EPA did not state program goals and objectives in precise terms No mechanisms were
        set up to measure progress in meeting goals As a result, the success of the Model Implementation
        Program is difficult to assess  In future agricultural non-point source control programs, goals and
        objectives should be well thought out and carefully stated Ways to measure progress should be bu'lt
        into the program from the start

       Specific tasks, responsible persons, and reporting formats were not established for project conduct.
        especially for the water quality component As a result, many vital program and project activities did
        not receive adequate attention In future programs, tasks should be clearly stated, definite responsi-
        bilities assigned, and progress reports submitted. Adequate resources should be made available and
        results assessed on a continuing basis

       No one person or agency had overall responsibility for directing the program  Clear and complete
        direction to the seven projects was lacking  Therefore, when projects needed guidance, there was  no
        central source for the projects to consult This lack  of direction caused  problems for  nearly  all
        projects, particularly in the early stages  Future programs should designate a program director with
        authority to act on behalf of all agencies in directing project activities  This  person should have
        management experience as well as water quality expertise

Project Selection

    This section assesses the way USDA and EPA selected the seven projects from among the 50 applica-
tions prepared at the state level  The major points are summarized below

       State and Local Preparation of MIP Applications The 50 applications received within the 30-day
        time period underscore  the  program's success in  heightening  interest in addressing non-point
        source water quality  problems. Many applications were  received  from states with  no previous
        experience in developing  non-point source project proposals

        Headquarters' Role in Selecting MIPs The selection criteria established by USDA and EPA were not
        closely related to program goals.  A good procedure used by USDA and EPA was to numerically
        rank project applications based upon uniform criteria  However, in specific cases these rankings were
        superseded by other considerations in final project selection  As a result, three lower-ranked projects
        were selected, and several with high scores were rejected Future project candidates should meet all
        technical criteria before other factors are used in the selection process

        Weight Giuen to an Identified Agricultural Water Quality Problem Following USDA and EPA head-
        quarters guidance, states were asked to select MIP candidates on the basis of several factors  How-
        ever, MIPs varied in the attention given to identifying and documenting a solvable,  agriculturally
        related water quality problem  Four projects  adequately addressed  this matter  Future programs
        should devote greater  attention to the identified agricultural water quality problem if water quality
        improvement is a primary goal
                                        (MIP PROJECTS)

       Complexify  of the Water Quality Problem One of the MIP selection criteria was the diversity of
        sources contributing to the  water quality problem  This implies a complex problem and a corre-
        sponding difficulty in obtaining water quality improvement Rather than tackling the most complex
        problems. MlP-type projects should be limited  to manageably sized project areas where water quality
        problems are caused primarily by agricultural  non-point sources Anticipating this observation,  the
        Rural Clean Water Program (RCWP) regulations required this more simplified focus

Problem Definition

     This section covers the problem definition phase of a project, which was defined as the process of iden-
tifying and documenting the water quality issues to be addressed Water quality expertise is necessary to pro-
vide technically sound leadership in these important work areas, as noted below.

       The 208 Water Quality Plans  In four cases, 208 plans were unfinished or  inadequate, yet, immedi-
        ate implementation was still expected As a result of improper planning,  resources were spent in-
        appropriately or  inefficiently In  future programs,  a logical and detailed action plan should be re-
        viewed and  approved by headquarters staff before implementation begins If necessary,  additional
        time and resources should be given to projects  to prepare an action plan with a supporting data base
                                      USABLE 208 PLAN

    Intended Use Efficiency dictates that cleanup efforts focus on waters that have an impaired use,
    this first requires a definition of the intended (and actual) uses  Four of the MlPs did undertake a
    precise evaluation of the intended use of the affected waters. All future projects should identify the
    value of beneficial uses for benefit-cost analyses
                             INTENDED USES IDENTIFIED

    Use Impairment  After the intended uses are defined, the impairment should be identified  This
    must be a clear, documented statement of the water quality problem Four projects did document
    use impairment  In the other projects, efforts were not  focused on a clear-cut problem  Proper
    identification and documentation of use impairment  are  necessary for project justification and
    specification of corrective actions Future pollution abatement projects should not be funded unless
    a clear use impairment is documented
                          USE IMPAIRMENT DOCUMENTED

   Identification of the Pollutant(s)  Closely  allied with use  impairment is the question of which
    pollutants are causing the impairments  Three MIPs provided clear definitions of the pollutants and
    linked them to the perceived impaired uses Others developed a "shopping list"  of pollutants with
    no discernible linkage to impaired uses Thus, some projects addressed pollutants that did not relate
    to use impairment Because success in addressing impaired uses depends on aiming control strate-
    gies at the pollutants, future efforts should be quite explicit in this regard

  Identification of Pollutant(s) Sources Although the pollutants causing the use impairment were not
   always properly identified, four of the MIPs still had sufficient data to identify pollutant sources in a
   precise  manner This accurate source identification facilitated formulation of effective abatement

        strategies If sufficient background data are not available at project start-up, data for source identifi-
        cation should be collected immediately following identification of the pollutants
                               POLLUTANT SOURCES DEFINED
Goals and Objectives
    This section covers project goals and objectives; that is, the process of defining the projected overall
achievements (goals) and the necessary steps (objectives) to reach the desired outcomes. This process is de-
scribed below.

        Statement of Goals and Objectives  A primary purpose (goal) of the MIPs was water quality im-
        provement, but only two of the projects stated quantitative objectives for abating the water use
        impairment. Since quantified  goals make project performance easier to measure, future projects
        would benefit from more attention to this issue  In addition, headquarters agencies should critically
        review project goals and objectives to ensure their consistency with the overall program goals and
        Use of Operational Goals  Four projects did not establish operational goals Project goals need an
        "operational orientation", that is, a precise definition of goals, the translation of these goals into
        measurable objectives, the development of strategies to meet objectives effectively, a continuous
        monitoring of progress in achieving objectives, and an evaluation of success at project conclusion
        Projects that devoted little attention to goals lacked a solid basis for progress evaluation Future
        projects can benefit by having objectives more rigorously guide actions throughout the project
                                    OPERATIONAL GOALS

        Measurabihfy of Objectives.  Although projects  tracked the Best Management Practices (BMPs)
        installed, objectives such as  "effectiveness of the USDA delivery system" and other institutional
        areas that may be non-quantifiable were given little treatment other than in general statements like
        "agency personnel worked well together " Future projects could benefit from assistance in using
        potentially applicable measuring techniques,  as  well as guidance as to what should be measured
Plan of Action

    This section assesses how the project developed a work plan, including a statement of the roles
and responsibilities of participating agencies, schedules, budgets, work products, and other require-
ments to accomplish the project goals and objectives

      Project Coordinator  All seven MlPs noted the  need for a full-time project coordinator from
        project inception  Ideally, this person should  have both water quality and project management
        expertise Four of the projects had a coordinator, and project personnel stated that this was an
        important factor  There is no evidence from  the MlPs as to whether the coordinator should
        come from a cooperating agency or other organization  Those  projects without a  full-time co-
        ordinator experienced  problems such as lack of interagency communication and  confusion
        over responsibilities All MIPs recommended that future projects should have an active,  en-
        thusiastic, and capable project coordinator who is  involved at the  outset of project planning
        and is employed full-time in this capacity
                           FULL-TIME PROJECT COORDINATOR

       Pre-lmp!ementatton Planning  The MlPs unanimously noted that they had insufficient time for
       planning prior to  BMP installation   Project personnel felt pressured to obligate Agncultural
       Conservation Program (ACP) funds as quickly as possible  This meant the funds were obligated
       before planning, including baseline data gathering, could be comj^leted  Such a practice not
       only disrupts baseline data requirements,  but  also risks inefficient resoutce allocation  Future
       projects should provide a specific jjenod for pre-imj.ilementation planning, followed by the allo-
       cation of cost-sharing money when needed for implementation

  Planning Activities. The MIPs evidenced a range of approaches to planning. One project pre-
   pared a detailed plan of action that linked project activities to objectives, a workload analysis, a
   plan of work for monitoring and research, and a priority rating system for farms to target, with
   annual revisions. At the other extreme, three projects relied on their initial statement of goals
   and milestones, with few formal, documented revisions as the  project proceeded. Greater
   attention to planning as an ongoing project responsibility could be of  value to future activities
   by enabling the redirection of project resources as experience is gained.

  Definition o/ Responsibilities It is important that the responsibilities of each agency be  clearly
   stated, agreed to,  and executed. In the Model Implementation Program, there was some con-
   fusion as to which agency would perform specific duties. As a result, certain tasks were either
   not completed or received inadequate attention. Future programs  should more clearly state the
   responsibility of each agency and incorporate  mechanisms to ensure that assigned tasks are

  Resource Allocation  It was clearly  stated at the  start of the program that no new congressional
   appropriations  would be available, but that existing resources should be  redirected to assigned
   tasks. Some agencies were successful in shifting manpower and funds to project activities, but
   others could not or did not provide necessary resources. Future programs should incorporate
   mechanisms to ensure that adequate resources are allocated by or given to each  agency to
   complete assigned tasks

  Pollution Source Priontization. Very little was done in the project planning stages of the Model
   Implementation Program to estimate non-point source pollution resulting from various land
   uses. The result  was that  resources were  inefficiently allocated  in some projects   Future
   projects would benefit from making such estimates, which provide the basis for developing ef-
   fective abatement strategies It should be understood that such estimates may need updating as
   new  information  is developed;  projects should  respond  with  modifications in  abatement

  Critical Area Definition. From a water quality perspective, critical areas are those lands that are
   disproportionately responsible  for water use impairments.  Four MIPs  did not define  critical
   areas, this resulted in less efficient abatement strategies for these projects  Because treating all
   the land in a project area is usually economically unfeasible, it is essential to  identify critical
   areas within the watershed. Critical area identification should be  performed jointly by agricul-
   tural  and water quality experts
                            CRITICAL AREAS DEFINED
    BMP Selection  MIPs generally evidenced a basic understanding of methods to control various
    agricultural pollutants,  and many projects attempted to prioritize BMPs.  However, all  of the
    projects approved some BMPs that were of questionable value  in addressing the identified
    water quality problem. USD A and water quality personnel at the project level should work

        more closely together in future BMP selection and pnoritization. It is also recommended that all
        BMP lists be accompanied by a project-specific water quality rationale
                             MOST BMPs REASONABLY SELECTED
        Cost-Effective Solution Identification  For the most part, projects relied on structural practices (such
        as terracing) to control pollutants Less expensive management practices (such as conservation
        tillage) were not widely used in the MIPs. Future projects should more systematically evaluate the
        trade-offs between structural and non-structural practices


     This section deals with aspects of the work performed in carrying out a plan of action  The highlights of
this process are described below

        Techniques for Obtaining Voluntary Farmer Participation  All seven MIPs noted that one-on-one
        contact between project personnel and farmers was the key method for getting farmers to become
        cooperators Agency personnel promoted BMPs based on their benefits  to the farmer (e.g ,  drier
        barnyards or soil conservation) as well as water quality improvement. Project personnel uniformly
        noted the value of demonstration farms, whereby a farmer could see BMPs installed on neighbors'
        fields. The MIP  experience  contributes to the  hypothesis that high cost-sharing rates  (e.g , 80
        percent to 90  percent)  may be more critical in early project stages to get  demonstrations going
        After that, cost-sharing rates may be reduced

        Information  and Education  As techniques to obtain voluntary participation, information  and edu-
        cation (I&E) efforts deserve special mention Concerted l&E efforts were made in each of the MIPs
        by various agencies, including newsletters, radio spots, meetings, and personal contacts. However,
        the majority of project personnel noted the need for greater  attention in these areas  The l&E
        project component should publicize the project, clarify the roles and responsibilities of farmers, en
        courage farmer participation,  identify sources of assistance, and communicate project results
                           EXPRESSED NEED FOR GREATER I&E

        Delivery of Technical Assistance  In all seven MIPs, technical assistance was emphasized and addi-
        tional resources were allocated This resulted in timely assistance to farmers in the project areas and
        promoted farmer participation However, the proper BMPs were not always put in the right places
        because of any combination of the following  improper pollutant identification, poor BMP selection,
        and inadequate critical area definitions  Future projects should carefully determine the BMPs
        needed  (and where) to maximize the efficiency of the technical assistance delivery system

       Delivery  of Financial Assistance  Five of the MIPs did not select farms within a project area for
        priority financial assistance, even though the critical area concept and efficiency of resource alloca-
        tion would argue for such an approach Instead, funds and assistance were delivered in the tradi-
        tional USD A method  of "first-come-first-served," subject  to the applicant  being  qualified and
        assistance being available Future project personnel will need guidance in developing techniques to
        concentrate assistance in an acceptable manner, particularly if financial assistance is limited.
                            FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PRIORITIZED

        Implementation Monitoring  In general, the standard USDA reporting formats used as the primary
        land use data collection  instrument by most projects did not track BMP application with enough
        frequency and  in  enough  detail  to establish quantitative  land  use-water  quality relationships
        Future projects  should design a tracking system based more on pollutant control than on acres
        served or cost-share monies spent,

        Water Qualify Monitoring Because of the diverse nature of the MIPs, unique water quality moni-
        toring systems were designed for each project  Projects that relied more heavily on a scientific
        approach in the problem definition and solution stages were generally able to design and implement
        water quality monitoring systems capable of determining changes in the water quality

Project Results

     This section addresses some of the major accomplishments and deficiencies in the MIPs. These project
results are described below

        Time Frame  The program's time frame was adequate for gaining farmer participation, installing
        BMPs, and implementing water quality monitoring programs However,  the planning, background
        data collection, and data analysis and interpretation steps were cut short. From a scientific perspec-
        tive, water quality benefits to receiving bodies could not be documented for the majority of project
        situations within this period  of time.

        BMPs Installed  All seven MIPs were successful in accelerating the level of BMPs installed  This
        reflects well on the ability of SCS, ASCS, and other agencies to get farmers to adopt conservation
        practices However, many practices were not selected and applied from a water quality perspec-
        tive  Better guidance and direction  for field personnel are needed if perceived water quality prob-
        lems are to be solved Recognition of this need during the RCWP resulted in training for USDA and
        EPA staff members and workshops for project personnel Updated and cooperative training should
        be provided for this continuing need.

  Farmer Support  Generally, farmers supported the MIPs through participation in meetings
   (Conservation District Board meetings and ASC County Committee meetings) and by install-
   ing BMPs. Compared with pre-MIP rates, farmer participation increased during the MIP period
   for every project. One project got nearly all of 275 active farms to participate (96 percent).
   while another project got 528 individuals or groups out of 1,247 to install one or more  prac-

  Water Quality Results  Of the four projects from which final reports have been received, one
   has demonstrated statistically  significant progress  in achieving water quality improvement
   Status reports from the other three projects indicate that none has demonstrated  statistically
   significant progress in achieving  water quality improvement. However, five projects  have
   demonstrated the water quality benefits of BMPs from field and plot studies
                           PLOT/FIELD STUDY RESULTS

    Although the limited MIP time frame hindered documentation of receiving body water quality
    improvements,  more success could have been  achieved  in reaching  this  principal goal  if the
    program had more effectively addressed all steps outlined in this report

    Value oj the Project Approach  MIP personnel believe that the project approach was bene-
    ficial in addressing non-point source water quality issues  Specifically, cost-sharing was in-
    creased, funds were obligated, and BMP installation was accelerated  Quantified data on the
    benefits of water quality improvement as well as other project benefits were not requested of
    the  projects and have  not been forthcoming This lack of data  makes it difficult to conclude
    whether or not the projects  were economically efficient (i.e  . benefits exceeded costs)

    USDA Delivery  System  The USDA's national, state, and local organizational system and pro-
    fessional staff capabilities are well  established in  the agricultural community USDA employees
    know farmer attitudes,  soils, crops, erosion problems, and farm conservation practices  The
    MIPs demonstrated that this substantial technical competence can be deployed in non-point
    source water pollution control efforts. As has been noted, a need exists to supplement this
    capability with water quality  expertise. Workshops and training (such as that conducted during
    the RCWP) should be continued  The water quality training could be  most effectively handled
    by both in-house and extramural water  quality  experts.


    This evaluation of the Model Implementation Program has revealed both strong and weak elements
in each of the projects. It must be remembered  that this was an experimental effort; learning how to
better conduct agricultural non-point source control projects was thus a program goal. Grouped below
are  major recommendations worthy of further scrutiny. These recommendations, which are drawn
from the preceding evaluation, should help future programs and projects

       Future water quality programs should operate within more realistic time frames. Several years
        are generally required to document water quality improvements due to agricultural non-point
        source control efforts. The recently established RCWP is based on a more realistic time period.

       Future programs should provide sufficient time for pre-implementation planning. Such plan-
        ning  should include, water quality problem documentation; abatement strategies, monitoring
        plans; estimates of time required to document  water quality changes; and definition of data
        analysis and evaluation procedures.

       Future programs should designate a program director with authority to ensure that  assigned
        agency tasks are carried out and program goals are achieved. This person should have both project
        managment and water quality expertise.

       Mechanisms should be  developed at the headquarters level to ensure that all important pro-
        gram elements are clearly assigned to specific agencies; that resources are adequate for the
        task; that accountability measures are established; that reporting requirements are  met;  and
        that the evaluation of progress in meeting program goals is periodically updated.

       Future water quality program managers should structure more explicit goals and objectives at
        the headquarters level  and  develop guidelines to assist project personnel in their efforts. In
        addition, feedback mechanisms should  be set up to  disseminate successful (or unsuccessful)
        methods for program enhancement. This information should  be shared  among all project
        participants and other interested groups.

       Future programs should place greater emphasis on identifying the most current knowledge in
        the evolving field of agricultural non-point source control. Mechanisms should be established to
        transfer  state-of-the-art  technology  to projects and ensure that it is appropriately utilized

       Future water quality programs should adopt the scientific method as a management model,
        especially in the areas of problem definition, design of abatement strategies, plan implementa-
        tion, monitoring, and evaluation and reporting of results.

       All of the recommendations stated  above for the program structure  at the headquarters level
        apply equally to  state and local entities  at the project level.

                                AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY MODEL
                PROGRAM DIRECTOR
                                                  PROJECT DIRECTOR
                 PROGRAM PROGRESS
                 TECHNICAL GUIDANCE
                                                                   DEVELOP APPLICATIONS
                                                                  WATER QUALITY PROBLEM
                                                                       Intended Use
                                                                       Pollutant Sources
                                                                   GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
                  SELECT PROJECTS
                 TECHNICAL CRITERIA
                                            SELECTED PROJECTS
    Critical Areas
                                                                      MONITORING AND
                                                                       ANNUAL REPORTS
                                                                       DATA ANALYSES
                                                                    TENTATIVE ASSESSMENTS