Less than 2% of the Earths surface has the topsoil and growing conditions necessary to grow food - that is, all the food needed to sustain the ever-growing population of the planet!
We all know we need "topsoil" to grow our lawns and gardens, but too few of us have an appreciation for its true value as a natural resource. It takes over 100 years and lots of weathering and natural "additives" to produce one inch of topsoil. Yet, this much can be washed away in a single rain storm if not protected from erosion. When this happens, the soil pollutes our streams and clogs drainage systems...costing taxpayers millions of dollars each year in dredging and other damage repair work.
In Washington County, the average depth of topsoil is only 6-12 inches. For the sake of future generations, land management practices should ensure that the soil is not being blown or washed away faster than nature can replenish it.
We all want our lakes and streams to be clean. When they are not, we expect "someone" to do something about it. But that someone is you!
Most water pollution today comes from our lawns, streets, parking lots, construction sites and farmland. It is called runoff or "nonpoint" pollution. Runoff is rain or melting snow that does not soak into the ground, but instead "runs off" the land...with the help of paved surfaces and roofs, storm sewers, ditches and other man-made drainage systems. Along the way this runoff water picks up all kinds of pollution from the urban and rural landscape such as: litter, motor oil, road salt, eroded soil, fertilizer, pet or livestock wastes and pesticides, then carries it to the nearest lake, stream or wetland. Runoff pollution can make our water unsafe for swimming and degrade conditions for fishing...often, so gradually it goes unnoticed.
What We Do...
To stop runoff pollution we must all help by making changes in the way we do everyday things...one step at a time.
The Washington County Land and Water Conservation Division (LWCD) relies on partnerships with local farmers, landowners, government officials, teachers and youth group leaders, community businesses, civic organizations and concerned residents.
LWCD technical staff are experts on controlling soil erosion and water pollution. It is our job to find solutions to land and water resource problems.
Through a variety of local programs, technical staff will:
- Conduct resource inventories, including soils, drainage, topography, water resources, land use and vegetation through on-site visits or map interpretations.
- Develop resource management recommendations and plans.
- Complete engineering and design activities for construction projects, including site surveys, soil profile analysis, runoff and flow calculations and the preparation of construction drawings.
- Supervise the construction of conservation practices such as grass waterways, retention ponds, terraces and livestock waste management systems.
- Administer local regulations aimed to prevent water pollution from construction site erosion, urban stormwater runoff and manure storage facilities.
Some conservation practices can be costly. Since clean water and sustained soil productivity benefit everyone, public financial assistance is often available. LWCD staff will help determine what programs you may be eligible for and can assist in obtaining available funds.
Funding opportunities for conservation work include:
- Cost sharing the installation of a wide variety of conservation practices.
- Tax credits or other program benefits for meeting certain conservation criteria.
- Incentive payments to stop farming environmentally sensitive lands such as stream corridors or highly erodible slopes.
Information and Education...
The LWCD conducts a wide variety of information and education programs aimed at urban and rural audiences of all ages. With a theme of "Clean Ways for Waterways" the objective is to raise awareness and encourage citizens to take action to preserve our soil and water resources.
Summary of Land Conservation Services...
Under the policy direction of the Public Works Committee (PWC), the LWCD carries out its land and water conservation mission by offering five major categories of services, as described below:
A. Technical and Engineering Assistance: Provide local landowners, managers and units of government technical assistance to find solutions to land and water resource management problems. This includes activities such as: resource inventories, site surveys, soil profile analysis, hydrologic calculations, and the planning, design and installation of soil and water conservation practices. The LWCD also contracts for technical assistance related to wildlife damage to agricultural crops.
B. Conservation Education: Conduct a wide variety of conservation education programs in partnership with other agencies and organizations. Target audiences range from urban to rural residents of all ages. The message is always to encourage individual action to reduce water pollution and to protect our soil and other natural resources.
C. Automation/GIS Services: Emphasize efficiency and quality in all LWCD services by integrating computer technology into daily activities where appropriate. Computer enhanced activities and services currently include: surveying, drafting, conservation planning, designing/engineering, mapping, aerial photography, educational mailings, tree sales, program tracking, word processing, publication development and the maintenance of county-wide natural resource inventory data. Also, offer resource data and planning information to our clients in a digital format whenever practical.
D. Financial Assistance: Determine what financial assistance may be available to local landowners, managers and organizations to help offset the costs of conservation work and assist them in obtaining those funds. Financial assistance can be in the form of tax credits, cost sharing, conservation easements or other incentive payments. The LWCD administers several state financial assistance programs (Priority Watersheds, NR-243, etc.) and assists with several federal programs (EQIP, CRP, etc.).
E. Regulatory Activities: Administer local ordinances and program compliance requirements with a common sense approach. This currently includes County Code provisions for participation in the Farmland Preservation Program (Chapter 15), the construction of new manure storage facilities (Chapter 16), erosion control and stormwater management for new developments in unincorporated areas (Chapter 17) and nonmetallic mining reclamation (Chapter 18). Also includes helping landowners meet the conservation requirements for participation in a variety of state and federal programs.
Location: 333 E. Washington Street, Suite 2300 in West Bend, WI
Business Hours: 8:00am - 4:30pm Monday thru Friday
Phone: (262) 335-4800