DEP and Watershed Agricultural Council Announce $92 Million Contract to Continue Water Quality Protection Work on Watershed Farms and Forests

August 5, 2019

Contract will continue work to protect water quality and working lands through 2025

The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced a $92 million contract that will continue to protect water quality and promote working landscapes in the watershed through 2025. The DEP funding will allow WAC to continue and expand its agriculture, forestry and economic viability programs in the watershed. The contract is the largest since WAC was established in 1993.

“Since our inception we have been a firm believer that there always needs to be a balance between conservation efforts, economic viability initiatives, and water quality protection in our region,” WAC Executive Director Craig Cashman said. “Building local relationships with land and business owners has always been the key to our success and this contract builds on the past accomplishments. These efforts could only be accomplished through our partnerships with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, Delaware County Soil and Water, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.”

“Our collaboration with WAC is considered a worldwide model for protecting water quality while enhancing the viability of working lands,” DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said. “This work, driven by sound science and applied through the permission of private landowners in the Catskills and Hudson Valley, has yielded measurable improvements in water quality for New York City’s reservoir system. I want to thank all the staff at WAC, and the farm and forest owners who voluntarily enrolled in the programs, for driving the success of these efforts for the past 26 years.”

After extensive negotiation between DEP and WAC, this new contract will allow programs throughout the watershed to continue and expand. The contract includes additional funding to accelerate implementation of best management practices on farms, thereby reducing a backlog of covered barnyards, manure storage, and other practices that are waiting to be installed. Other programs include the expansion of the Nutrient Management Credit Program, now available to all eligible farms in the West-of-Hudson Watershed. That program provides a financial incentive for farmers who follow a prescribed plan for the spreading of manure and/or fertilizer on their fields throughout the year to minimize nutrient-laden runoff into nearby streams. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) will be joined with the Catskill Streams Buffer Initiative (CSBI) in a pilot program to preserve buffer lands along streams, creeks and rivers. In addition, the Precision Feed Management Program will continue to include a maximum of 60 farms.

A total of $845,000 was also set aside for business planning, farm transition planning and micro grants for West-of-Hudson farm and forest producers through 2025. These programs are designed to encourage activities that enhance the economic viability of farm and forest businesses through marketing, training, events, staffing and more. They will also support the development of professional business and/or farm transition plans for farm or forestry businesses to better position them for improved economic profitability and sustainability. Other economic viability programming includes the continued funding of the Pure Catskills campaign, which encourages consumers to buy local products, and WAC’s annual publication of the Guide to Pure Catskills Products.

The forestry program will continue funding water quality best management practices on logging jobs, as well as forest stewardship practices such as timber stand improvement and wildlife enhancements on privately owned forestland in the watershed.

Since it was established in 1993, the Watershed Agricultural Council has completed 450 whole farms plans on agricultural lands in the City’s West-of-Hudson and East-of-Hudson watersheds, and it has installed more than 7,800 best management practices to improve the operation of farms and the quality of runoff coming from them. WAC has also preserved more than 30,000 acres of farm and forest lands through conservation easements.

WAC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the economic viability of agriculture and forestry through the protection of water quality and the promotion of land conservation in the New York City Watershed region. It is funded by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, and other federal, foundation and private sources. For more information, visit

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of high-quality water each day to more than 9.6 million New Yorkers. This includes more than 70 upstate communities and institutions in Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties who consume an average of 110 million total gallons of drinking water daily from New York City’s water supply system. This water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and the system comprises 19 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and numerous tunnels and aqueducts. DEP has nearly 6,000 employees, including almost 1,000 scientists, engineers, surveyors, watershed maintainers and other professionals in the watershed. In addition to its $70 million payroll and $168.9 million in annual taxes paid in upstate counties, DEP has invested more than $1.7 billion in watershed protection programs—including partnership organizations such as the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the Watershed Agricultural Council—that support sustainable farming practices, environmentally sensitive economic development, and local economic opportunity. In addition, DEP has a robust capital program with $20.1 billion in investments planned over the next decade that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.