COLUMBUS -- State Conservationist Terry Cosby announced additional funding for an initiative to improve water quality in selected Ohio watersheds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) allocated $350,000 in assistance this year to help farmers and forestland owners install conservation practices that manage nutrients, pathogens, and sediments. Funding comes through the agency's National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

Selected applicants will receive assistance for installing conservation systems that may include practices such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.

NRCS worked closely with partners to select the priority watersheds. State agencies, key partners, and technical experts chose the following three watersheds where on-farm conservation investments have the best chance to improve water quality.

Brandywine Creek-Broken Sword Creek Watershed (Crawford County)

Fivemile Creek-East Fork Little Miami River Watershed (Clermont and Brown counties)

East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek Watershed (Tuscarawas and Holmes counties)

This water quality initiative offers an opportunity to pilot a new Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff. Data collected and analyzed using this tool provides science-based information to help landowners determine the effectiveness of alternative conservation systems at achieving water quality improvement. Additionally, State water quality agencies and other partners will monitor water quality in-stream and at the watershed-level to track water quality improvements in many of the project watersheds.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. NRCS will select applications submitted by June 21 for the NWQI this year.

For information about NRCS' programs, initiatives, and services in Ohio, visit them online at www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov.