Cooperatove Conservation Project

Suwannee River Partnership

Location: Southeastern Region: Florida

Project Summary: The Partnership is working with producers to improve river water quality through a voluntary program of Best Management Practices (BMP) and verification.
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CARES (County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship) dinner and awards sponsored by the Suwannee River Partnership.
Resource Challenge
The Suwannee River arises from the famous Okefenokee Swamp. From Georgia, the River flows through north Florida before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Along its path, it is fed by springs that bubble to the surface from the massive Floridian aquifer, which underlies all of Florida and South Georgia. The watershed spans nearly 10,000 square miles.

Formed in 1999, the Suwannee River Partnership began with 24 state, federal, and regional agencies, local governments, and private industry members. The Partnership’s focus was the Middle Suwannee Watershed, where in some areas, nitrates and nitrogen in groundwater and springs were well in excess of drinking water standards. In 2003, the Partnership expanded its work to include the Santa Fe River Basin.

The Partnership’s primary goal is to improve and protect water quality in the Suwannee and the dozens of crystal clear springs that feed it. They seek a balance between protecting natural resources and sustaining the region’s agricultural economy.

Fifty-three partners strong, the coalition has mobilized 89 percent of the dairies and 94 percent of the poultry farms in Florida’s Suwannee River Basin to participate in a voluntary conservation and nutrient management program.
Examples of Key Partners
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Farm Bureau, Suwannee River Water Management District, University of Florida, Institute of Foods and Agricultural Sciences.
Results and Accomplishments

Noteworthy accomplishments of the Suwannee River Partnership include:

• The Partnership established a Quality Assurance Program that uses field technicians to help farmers implement BMPs. Specialists verify and document that BMPs are applied properly, reporting results to the Partnership and tracking long-term success in reducing contamination.

• Thirty-nine of 44 dairies and 168 of 178 poultry producers are developing conservation plans and applying BMPs that meet or exceed state regulatory requirements. Primary tools are the PL-566 - Small Watershed Program and Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

• Under the PL 566 Small Watershed Program, $8.7 million in federal dollars have been pledged to poultry, dairy, and swine producers to develop on-farm waste management systems. In addition, $15.5 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) dollars have been obligated to address confi ned livestock, plant and animal health, soil erosion, and water quantity. Nearly 30,000 acres are enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program, and 3,497 acres under Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program contracts.


The Partnership developed “reasonable assurance” documentation showing that its non-regulatory watershed management programs successfully improved water quality for the Suwannee River.

Project Contact
Jeffrey Woods
Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
Natural Resources Conservation Service



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