Soil and water conservation districts in Wadena and East Otter Tail counties are receiving $217,300 to find new ways to limit nitrate use on agricultural lands in the area.

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Soil and Water Grant Nitrates by Michael Johnson on Scribd

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources approved $12.3 million in Clean Water Fund grants at the Dec. 17 board meeting. A portion of those funds were approved for the Wadena and East Otter Tail county projects meant to use new technologies to limit nitrates in drinking water.

Large areas in Otter Tail and Wadena County are at risk of nitrogen contamination due to sandy soils and nitrogen fertilizer use. These funds can be used for irrigation scheduling and fertilizer management through variable rate technology and soil moisture sensors to better utilize and inform irrigators of when to fertilize, according to the BWSR news release. East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District and Wadena SWCD will use cost share to help establish precision management for variable rate irrigation in one field, soil water sensors in 20 fields, and 10 nutrient management plans for irrigation management on high and medium priority parcels.

The conservation districts will develop an assessment report detailing the local results for variable rate irrigation and soil moisture sensors that will provide results to local landowners and for future projects. It is anticipated that nitrate leaching will be reduced by 9 pounds/acre over at least 2,000 acres totaling 17,800 pounds of nitrate reduction.

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Across the state, the grants will be used to improve water quality in lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater across the state, according to a Board of Water and Soil Resources news release. Most of the grant funding is allocated for voluntary conservation projects across Minnesota, including $646,825 for projects that specifically focus on improving and protecting drinking water. Multipurpose drainage management projects will receive $551,159.

“Throughout Minnesota, local government staff and private landowners are collaborating with the state to make meaningful progress toward improving water quality,” said BWSR Executive Director John Jaschke. “These grants are a key component in ongoing efforts to keep our water clean and our lakes, rivers and streams healthy.”

The $12.3 million will fund 37 separate grants that will be awarded to local government entities (soil and water conservation districts, counties, watershed districts, watershed management organizations, and cities). Grant funding will support projects and practices that reduce erosion, protect and restore surface water quality in lakes and streams, and protect ground water. This includes stormwater treatment, shoreline restoration, and treatments that reduce sediment, bacteria, nitrate and phosphorus.