Water quality trading is generating considerable interest in Illinois because it has the potential to
provide point source dischargers with flexible, low-cost alternatives for achieving numeric nutrient criteria, if and when they are developed. However, as demonstrated by the relatively small number of active trading programs across the country, the challenges of successfully developing and implementing a program are complex.
To address some of these challenges, the country's experts in water quality markets gathered in Lincoln, Nebraska from September 15th through the 17th to discuss how markets have evolved in the 10 years since the group first met and understand what the future holds for water quality markets going forward. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water for Food, and The Conservation Fund sponsored the intense, three-day event for participants to share insights into how water quality trading can be used more effectively to achieve the originally intended end goal of water quality improvement. Discussions varied greatly from "trading" of stormwater detention and compensatory storage requirements, to wetland mitigation banking, to actual nutrient and other pollutant trading markets. There are currently 27 active water quality trading programs in a number of states nationwide, including in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana. Other states such as Delaware, Minnesota, Missouri, and Florida have programs under development. More than 70 groups have tried to implement water quality trading programs.
While a handful of Illinois representatives attended the conference, water quality agencies within the state can learn much by way of example. Key examples and case studies from across the country will be presented to help illuminate progress that has been made, lessons learned, and provide further insight on what we can accomplish within Illinois. Themes that were prominent across case studies including the need for demand, transparency, the importance of stakeholders and the new meaning of TMDLs – Trade More, Delay Less – will be emphasized throughout.
Geosyntec Consultants is currently assisting in the development of a state water quality trading program for the state of Missouri. As part of this presentation, we will discuss some of the specific challenges that, in our experience, must addressed to understand if nutrient trading would be a workable and effective program in Illinois.