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Evaluating the Role of Wetlands in a National Water Quality Trading Program

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As Raffini noted, the rate of adoption of point and nonpoint source trading schemes has been slower than the rate at which point and point source trading pilot projects have developed. Widespread implementation of watershed-scale trading may create opportunities to restore and/or construct wetlands as a means to generate pollutant reduction credits. Strategically located and designed, wetlands may be used to improve water quality capturing nutrients and sediment, and generating water quality credits for permitted dischargers who must comply with NPDES permit limits. This may meet water quality goals at a reduced cost while restoring, improving, or protecting at least three million additional acres of wetlands.

This initiative of Office of Research and Development (ORD), Office of Water (OW), and EPA regions examines the science questions that must be answered before including wetlands in a national water quality trading program. This project will contribute to goals 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of ten Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds (OWOW) research needs. It will also leverage the proposed work of an isolated wetlands and headwaters research initiative. We will collaborate with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) when possible.

Proposed Studies

Years 1–2

  1. Organize a workgroup of wetland scientists, hydrologists, economists, policy experts, modelers, and other experts to develop a comprehensive research strategy
  2. Conduct a science review and feasibility study, identifying critical gaps in the knowledge base
  3. Conduct a workshop of experts and publish the proceedings
  4. Develop a STAR grant RFP with NCER to petition the academic community to address research gaps
  5. Organize and assemble EPA, USDA, and USGS wetlands and trading research

Years 2–5

  1. Expand ORD research into critical knowledge gaps
  2. Design and test a pilot water quality trading program that incorporates wetlands
  3. Evaluate the pilot studies and apply the results to integrate wetlands into a national water quality trading program


Joseph Schubauer-Berigan
U.S. EPA National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division
26 W. Martin Luther King Dr.
Mail Code: 190
Cincinnati, OH 45268

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