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Technical Note: Assessing Best Management Practices Effectiveness at the Watershed Scale

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 27(6): 925-931. (doi: 10.13031/2013.40632) @2011
Authors:   G. G. Ice
Keywords:   BMPs, Biological, Effectiveness, Forestry, Physical, Water quality

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are commonly used to address water quality concerns from nonpoint source activities. BMPs must be effective to reduce impacts to acceptable levels at a watershed scale, but there is controversy about how to represent BMP effectiveness. The most common way is by calculating a percent reduction in pollutant load, but some criticize this as potentially misleading. Percent reduction is a legitimate and relatively easy to understand method of describing effectiveness, but it is only one of many ways. Other approaches include attainment of water quality or habitat standards and goals, biological response, and even economic efficiency. Perhaps the three biggest challenges for assessing BMPs directed at nonpoint source activities are defining appropriate water quality expectations (how much is enough and what is attainable), determining what site conditions limit BMP effectiveness, and determining specific watershed metrics and appropriate spatial and temporal scales for assessment. Ongoing efforts to develop beneficial and realistic numeric nutrient criteria and contemporary forest watershed studies, both using monitoring of multiple response parameters, provide examples of how weight-of-evidence approaches may be the most useful way to judge BMP effectiveness.

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