Approximately 45% of the land that drains into the Nanticoke River is in agricultural production!
That’s a rural watershed!
While these lands do a great job at acting like a sponge during rainstorms, sometimes the rainwater washes off soil and fertilizers into nearby ditches and waterways. For years, farmers have been trying several ways to keep their soil and fertilizers on the field where and when it is needed most.
The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance forms partnerships with local farmers to help keep our waterways clean while supporting our farming community!
NWA helps implement best management practices (BMP) — like vegetative buffers and bioreactors — to reduce the runoff going into local waterways. Several of our board members and partners are soil conservation districts, which help farmers use cover crops and other BMPs. In the past, the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance has worked with the Dorchester County Soil Conservation District to implement a flexible buffers program.
Joe Layton, farmer and former NWA board member, grows poultry feed on a 120-acre property in Dorchester County near Route 50. We partnered with additional organizations like Ridge to Reefs to install a bioreactor on his farm to filter out excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus before they run off into the local waterways: in this case, the Transquaking River.
The Nanticoke Watershed Alliance’s Creekwatchers program monitored the Transquaking for over ten years. While we saw slight improvements, this waterway still only received a D+ grade overall when looking at nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved oxygen.
Buffers are strips of vegetation along drainage ditches that help to capture nutrients before they “run-off” into the ditches after a rainfall. Without any buffer system to filter runoff, agricultural ditches are capable of transporting high amounts of excess nutrients into local creeks and rivers that feed local groundwater, as well as lead into the Chesapeake Bay. Ditches are on lands with prime agricultural soils, making them difficult choices for planting wide buffer strips that could take up large amounts of productive cropland.