The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a new online water quality app to assess runoff from agricultural lands. Called the Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, or WQIag, the application integrates multiple land use, soil, and nutrient characteristics to produce a single number that reflects how much farming activity will impact nearby waterways.
The tool uses a simple ten point scale to enable users to understand how changing farming practices impact water quality. For example, users can adjust tillage, nutrients, or pesticides and quickly assess the impacts on water. It is hoped that the tool will be used by farmers to improve water quality by using better practices. The app is available free online. A smartphone app is being tested.
Image: Water flows off a farm in Tennessee following a storm (Credit: Tim McCabe/NRCS)