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Illinois’ Second Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report Released Significant Investments Being Made with Measurable Progress in Reducing Nutrient Loss
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the release of the state’s second Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) Biennial Report. This document describes the continued progress being made in Illinois to reduce nutrient losses from multiple sources to improve water quality not only in Illinois waterways, but also in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.
“The report illustrates all facets of agriculture coming together to promote best management practices,” said John Sullivan, Department of Agriculture Director. “The next step is transitioning more farmers from awareness of nutrient loss practices to application.”
“The 2019 Biennial Report describes some the dramatic reductions in total phosphorus discharges from some of the largest wastewater treatment facilities in the state,” said Illinois EPA Director John Kim. “We’ve already nearly met one of our 2025 goals of 25% reduction of phosphorus from the point source sector, and we look forward to continued nutrient reductions.”
These reductions are being realized as a direct result of investments by wastewater treatment facilities to meet more stringent nutrient permit limits. Illinois officials expect to see continued progress in meeting the long-term goal of 45% reduction in nutrients as additional planned wastewater treatment facility upgrades occur.
The Illinois NLRS was first released in 2015. The Strategy’s goal is to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in Illinois waterways by 45%. Interim goals include reducing the amount of phosphorus by 25% and nitrogen by 15% by 2025. Implementation efforts are led by Strategy partners in the Policy Working Group and other sector committees, guided by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois EPA, with assistance provided by the University of Illinois Extension. The Illinois NLRS is part of a broader effort being implemented by states in the Mississippi River Basin to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the Gulf of Mexico, which causes a “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted water.
During the reporting period of 2017-2018, the agriculture sector invested more than $59 million in nutrient loss reduction for research, outreach, implementation and monitoring. These contributions have come from Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Forum members and other agriculture related organizations that are working toward reaching the goals set forth in the Illinois NLRS. During that same period, over 84,000 people attended field days, conferences, or workshops to learn about practices that can be implemented to reduce nutrient loss from farm fields.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture administers the state-funded Partners for Conservation program in cooperation with the states’ 97 Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The program provides technical and financial incentives to Illinois landowners for the construction or adoption of conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and nutrient loading from non-point agricultural sources and improve water quality. Popular practices include conservation tillage, cover crops, grass waterways, field buffers, streambank stabilization structures, and various other similar practices.
Illinois EPA issues National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to wastewater treatment facilities (point sources) to regulate the amount of pollutants that can enter Illinois waterways. By the end of 2018, Illinois EPA had issued 65 NPDES permits to wastewater treatment facilities limiting the total phosphorus concentrations to 1.0 mg/L. The Agency expects the number of permits with a total phosphorus limit to grow substantially in the coming years. Data also shows some facilities without permit limits are reducing their nutrient loads by optimizing existing equipment. During the reporting period of 2017-2018, the point source sector invested over $224 million dollars in nutrient removal technologies and related activities.
The Illinois EPA, through its State Revolving Fund program, provides low interest loans to point source projects addressing water quality issues, including nutrient pollution. This program provided $668,408,486 in loans from 2017-2018, with $176,191,342 specifically spent on nutrient removal technologies. In addition, Illinois EPA’s Section 319 grant program provides funding for nonpoint source projects designed to achieve nutrient reduction and provides $3.5 million annually to projects mitigating agriculture and urban stormwater runoff.
The Full Biennial Report is available at: This Biennial Report will be updated again in 2021. The agencies and organizations leading this effort will continue to collaborate and invest in programs that meet the goals of the Illinois NLRS.

NLRS Guest Column

By Trevor Sample | November 19, 2019
Agency Coordinator for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) 2019 Biennial Report was released on November 18, 2019. The report can be found at: This is the second biennial report since the release of the NLRS in 2015. The first biennial report was released in 2017. The 2019 Biennial Report presents and discusses data and information related to the implementation of the NLRS for the past two years from the three main sectors: agriculture, point sources, and urban stormwater.  It also contains an updated Science Assessment conducted by University of Illinois professor Dr. Greg McIsaac. The updated Science Assessment used more recent water quality data to calculate nutrient loads and yields statewide as well as on a HUC 8 watershed basis. The 2019 Biennial Report also features a new chapter called Adaptive Management, which compares implementation levels to the water quality goals and implementation scenarios outlined in the NLRS.

The agriculture chapter once again highlights the acres of conservation practices that have been installed with state and federal financial and technical assistance programs. The 2019 Biennial Report also includes data from the Soil Transect Survey as an indicator for reduced tillage practices and acres meeting or exceeding “T”. A National Agricultural Statistics Service NLRS survey was conducted to estimate the amount and types of conservation practices that were established as well as gauging farmer knowledge on certain practices for the 2017 growing season. The report also recognizes the contributions of the non-governmental organizations who are working to implement the NLRS.

The urban stormwater chapter shows the level of urban stormwater practices that were installed in the last two years with financial assistance provided by the Illinois EPA 319 Nonpoint Source Grant Program. In addition, data gleaned from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) annual inspection reports were summarized for the first time, as a means to track additional urban stormwater practices. This chapter also recognizes stormwater partner contributions and programs from around the state.

One of the highlights of the 2019 Biennial Report is found in the point source chapter. Using Discharge Monitoring Report data from municipal and industrial point source facilities, the data show that from 2011 to 2018, there has been an annual reduction of 4.3 million pounds of total phosphorus from point sources. This represents a 24% reduction in point sources’ total phosphorus loads compared to the 2011 baseline loads used in the NLRS. This achievement is largely due to phosphorus concentration limits being placed in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for major municipal facilities (those discharging one million gallons per day or greater).

All of this information and more will be discussed at the NLRS Annual Conference being held at the Crown Plaza in Springfield on December 3rd-4th. Registration information can be found at the website listed above. On behalf of the NLRS Steering Committee, I would like to thank all of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts who submitted information to be included in the 2019 Biennial Report, as well as your continued efforts working to implement the NLRS.


Kim Kreher Joins St. Clair SWCD

Welcome! Kim Kreher officially began with the St. Clair County SWCD on November 4th. Kim grew up on a farm in Kansas, but has lived in Smithton, Illinois since 1987. She and her husband, Tom, have 2 daughters who are both out of college and working in Indianapolis. In her career, Kim worked with Bunge in the Soybean Processing Division, but for the last 19 years, has worked seasonally for H & R Block as a tax professional. In her free time, she enjoys reading and quilting.  

Please take a moment to welcome Kim to the soil and conservation network! She can be reached at 
NEWS ... ICYMI ...

6 Tips for Switching to No-Till

By Neil Sass, NRCS 
Nov 20, 2019

No-till is one of the most popular and effective conservation practices but making the switch from tilling to not can be intimidating. No-till allows farmers to grow crops with minimal disturbance to their fields and the organisms that live in the soil. This increases soil health while also reducing the cost of fuel and labor. Today, Neil Sass provides us with some tips for transitioning to no-till that he has learned from farmers who’ve been there.

These are the things farmers and other experts doing no-till have told me are necessary for success.

1. Start planning at least 1 year before implementation

Considerations should include:

a. Smooth field surface
b. Sufficient fertility and appropriate pH
c. Adequate drainage
d. Changes to weed and nutrient management
e. Manage compaction
f. Adapting equipment
g. Even distribution of crop residue
h. Implementing cover crops

2. Pick an easy entry point and crop

a. After a perennial crop
b. After a cover crop – adding a cover crop to your system will speed up the process of building Soil Health.
c. Plant the right crop your first year.

For example, in the Midwest, consider planting soybeans the first year. They are more forgiving of soil conditions and nitrogen immobilization.

3. Select the right seeds

a. Select for more than just yield. Including good seedling and root vigor.
b. Talk to local producers using no-till about managing pests through seed treatment

4. Set up your planter correctly

a. Every seed should be placed at exactly the same depth at exactly the same spacing in exactly the same environment.
b. Planter should be level. Row units run true.
c. Depth gauging wheels should have uniform pressure.
d. Row cleaners should move residue, not soil. Row cleaner should not work against depth control.
e. Sharp disk openers & quality closing wheels properly aligned.

5. Plant according to soil conditions, not the calendar

a. Stay out if too wet!
b. Follow equipment manufacturer recommendations for speed.
c. Keep the planting pass sacred. You get one chance to plant that seed.

6. Seek advice and recommendations from successful no-tillers

No-till is a completely different system of farming, doing things in the same old way can lead to disappointment. Be prepared to learn and adapt.

Neil Sass, NRCS Area Soil Scientist, in West Union, Iowa, is the creator of No-Till November and owner of a no-till farm.

Copyright © 2019 Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts, All rights reserved.

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