Watershed Profile for Water Quality Trading
In order for potential water quality trading (WQT) opportunities to be assessed in practice, pertinent environmental and economic data at the farm-field level (for nonpoint sources such as farms, ranches, and dairy operations) and at the source level (for point sources such as wastewater treatment facilities) must be compiled in what is known as a basin profile. For an introductory discussion on how a profile is typically compiled, see the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Water Quality Assessment Handbook. For the Bear River Basin, the profile includes seasonal nutrient loading estimates and corresponding delivery ratios (these ratios account for the percentage of a source’s loadings that are "delivered" from their point of entry into a river, e.g., a given field, to a receptor point) for each source identified in the basin. Loading and delivery ratio estimates for each source located in the basin have been derived using a sophisticated water quality model developed at the Utah Water Research Laboratory. Click here to learn more about this model.
A receptor point is the downstream point at which the pollutant loadings are actually measured, usually the confluence of two rivers or the mouth of a river. A basin may have more than one receptor point, which is the case in the Bear River Basin. These are the locations at which society cares most about the nutrient levels. For the northern portion of the Bear River Basin, the receptor points are located at the confluence of the Cub and Bear Rivers and at the mouth of the Bear River near the northern end of Cutler Reservoir
Additional environmental data contained in the profile includes the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) for nonpoint sources and control technology effectiveness for point sources, each measured on a percentage basis. The most common BMPs in the Bear River Basin are conservation tillage, nutrient management plans, and grass buffer strips. Estimates of their effectiveness in controlling nutrient loadings have been gleaned from previous field studies conducted nationwide, and are being continually updated as the results from new studies are released. The same type of estimates for point-source control technologies have been taken from previous studies, particularly a long-term study conducted in the Chesapeake Bay area of the U.S.
The economic data included in the basin profile consists of estimates of the total and average costs associated with the various BMPs and control technologies (again, as gleaned from the existing literature). Total control costs are on a per-field basis for nonpoint sources and per technology “step” basis for point sources. Average control costs are on a per-credit (or gram of nutrient abated) basis.