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New Grant Funded Work on Westport Farms Lowers Nitrogen Loads to the Westport River

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

A 2023 report from the Mass Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) describes the results of implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs) on six farms in Westport. This work was financed with Federal Funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) under a § 319 competitive grant.


This is great news for the improving the ecological health of the Westport River. Despite high nitrogen loads demonstrated by the Massachusetts Estuaries Report (MEP), nitrogen concentrations in the River have gone down over the recent years. Many local farmers are playing an important role in helping clean up the Westport River. They are applying conservation to their farm operations and using a variety of tools that are collectively known as “agricultural best management practices,” or Ag BMP’s. Best management practices are a range of actions, and sometimes structures that are used to stop land based pollution from entering streams and rivers. Scientific studies have documented the effectiveness of these BMP’s in agricultural settings in preventing sedimentation, animal waste, and nitrogen from polluting our waterways.


A total of $327,000 was spent to fund projects that address impairments under the National Water Quality Initiative. The MACD deployed field staff to work with Westport River watershed farmers to voluntarily develop and build Ag BMPs to reduce runoff and help to improve water quality.



The Town’s Targeted Integrated Water Management Plan contained the following estimate of nitrogen load coming from agriculture into the Westport River: 66,122 kgs/year. The estimated N reduction from these six projects, of 20,945 kgs/year, is equal to 32% or nearly one-third of the Targeted Integrated Water Plan estimated load. Even if this estimate is on the high side, it still signifies a major potential reduction that will contribute to sustaining the ecological health of the River. There is certainly more to be done in reducing nitrogen coming from farms, lawns and septic systems, but these data indicate that progress is being made.


A similar project in Rehoboth’s Palmer River watershed was completed before the Westport project. This video describes the work with farmers in Palmer River watershed: https://vimeo.com/485216167/26c4533f1e


BMP Project Descriptions and Nitrogen Reduction Calculations

Farm 1

Waste Storage

Nitrogen reduction = 8,100 lbs/year

Farm 2

Heavy Use Area Protection

Nitrogen reduction = 3,600 lbs/year

Farm 3

Milk House Waste Transfer and Collection System

Nitrogen reduction = 21,240 lbs/year

Farm 4

Waste Storage

Nitrogen reduction = 10,800 lbs/year

Farm 5

Shading Equipment and Fencing


Nitrogen reduction = 12,300 lbs/year

Farm 6

Heavy Use Area and Livestock Management

Nitrogen reduction = 5,400 lbs/year

TOTAL

61,440 lbs/year

Results: (Pollutant load removal achieved) Annual Nitrogen reduction: Raw total = 61,440 lbs/year Assuming 75% efficiency for the “Animal Waste Management Livestock” system (NRCS Scenario Builder of BMPs). Total estimated N reduction = 46,080 lbs/year


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