Clear Water Farms Program
The Clear Water Farms Program
Farmer-led water stewardship for a clear water future.
River Alliance of Wisconsin and the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) are working with Wisconsin farmers to ensure that agricultural production and processing facilities go above and beyond to protect our water.
The Clear Water Farms program guides farms and processing facilities through a rigorous certification of their on-site and supply chain water management using the AWS International Water Stewardship Standard—the world’s only comprehensive industry water use standard. Meeting the standard can reduce a farm’s costs, resource and regulatory risks, and demonstrates commitment to consumers who value sustainable food production.
Clear Water Farms produced the first certification of a farm in North America in the fall of 2019, and is currently scaling the project with the aim of including more than 10 farms within a watershed.
Each producer’s needs are unique, but Clear Water Farms offers farms of all sizes a flexible and effective path toward a shared clean water future.
The Challenge for Agricultural Water Stewardship
It’s no secret that farmers are facing serious economic challenges. Low commodity prices, trade tensions, and climate conditions are taking a toll on their ability to make a living, let alone adopt new conservation practices. And yet, those practices are desperately needed. Nutrient pollution and pathogens, resulting from fertilizer runoff and manure, create substantial environmental and health costs downstream. Farms are at risk here as well. Everyone’s drinking water is someone else’s wastewater.
Farms need to know that water stewardship improves their financial stability, and Wisconsinites need to know that farm water stewardship practices are making a meaningful difference. Clear Water Farms offers a solution to this historical deadlock by helping farmers get value from their water stewardship investments and by providing everyone with assurance that the high, independently-audited AWS Standards are being met.
Water stewardship is not free—so why become a Clear Water Farm and why now?
- Producers and processors, like other businesses, benefit from certification by gaining assurance that their operations meet and exceed all relevant regulatory standards.
- Certification identifies water-input liabilities and water-related supply chain risks, helping producers reduce their costs.
- Some changes, including cover cropping, no till agriculture, reducing water use, changing inputs, and converting underperforming land for ecosystem services, can generate income.
- Certification provides tangible and verifiable documentation of stewardship; which producers can use to gain a competitive advantage with processors and consumers.
Sustainable water management requires some financial and time commitment. Clear Water Farms jump starts the process by guiding farms that are ready to take the next steps toward stewardship through the entire certification process.
Contact us today to learn more.
In the fall of 2019, Miltrim Farms near Athens, Wisconsin, became the first farm in North America to be AWS Certified. Miltrim is a large dairy and made a number of important changes including:
- Adoption of cover cropping and minimum-to-no-tillage practices to hold nutrients in place and prevent soil erosion.
- Converting marginal land back to wetlands and pollinator habitat to increase infiltration, recharge groundwater, and prevent surface runoff.
- Reducing wastewater production by 6 million gallons/year and building a new sand cleaning facility to capture and reuse wash water and recycle bedding.
- Engaging community members and employees to ensure accountability, and building a new education center which will highlight water stewardship in farming practices.
River Alliance of Wisconsin worked with Miltrim via our Clear Water Farms program to produce management plans, engage stakeholders, and facilitate the independent auditing required to pass the AWS Standard.
Interested in learning more about the Clear Water Farms program?
Contact Michael Tiboris, Clear Water Farms Director at
608-257-2424 x125 or email Michael.