The National Network on water quality trading, a coalition of government officials and environmental and industry organizations, launched Jan. 14. The goal of the network is to establish a national dialogue and to “provide options and recommendations to improve consistency, innovation and integrity in water quality trading.” Currently, state and local trading programs exist across the country, but they all vary in nature and scope.

Just two days before the network launched, the Electric Power Research Institute, a network participant, released “Case Studies of Water Quality Trading Being Used for Compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Limits.” The report shows how water quality trading is used in 18 NPDES permits.

One goal of the network is to consolidate successful principles and practices as well as lessons learned. Further it will help officials reach out to regulated sectors. Look for further news on two white papers, expected this spring. One paper will cover trading options along with a discussion of advantages, disadvantages and challenges of various approaches. The other will focus on best water quality trading practices and establishing a common set of principles. Read more about the network’s goal and partners.

Earlier this year, the group, under the name of the National Water Quality Trading Alliance, provided comments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed changes to its water quality standards program. Created in 2003, EPA’s water quality trading policy creates a voluntary framework.  In the comments, the group recommends that EPA authorize states to use these programs as a regulatory tool for restoring impaired waters.

In other water quality trading news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Conservation Innovation Grant, has been helping water quality trading schemes to thrive in the Chesapeake Bay area. The trading program benefits farmers, ranchers and forest landowners by allowing them to generate water quality credits, which they can then sell to regulated entities.

With USDA funding, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is creating tools to create credits on forested land. Tools created under the alliance’s Forests for the Bay program include: LandServer, the Bay Bank, and the Bay Bank Ecosystem Crediting Platform. Read more in USDA’s Jan. 9 blog.