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What We Do Home>Environmental Planning>Watersheds, Water Quality & Wetlands>Paw Paw River Watershed>Cleaner Water on Tap for Paw Paw River Through Grant Funded Efforts

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Cleaner Water on Tap for the Paw Paw River Through Grant Funded Efforts

Cleaner Water on Tap for the Paw Paw River Through Grant Funded Efforts

Having clean water is not only essential for our health and well-being, but also for our economy. We are fortunate to have an abundance of water in southwest Michigan: hundreds of miles of streams and rivers, hundreds of inland lakes and of course Lake Michigan.



According to the Paw Paw and Black River Watershed Management Plans, sediment is the number one pollutant impairing streams and lakes. Sediment comes from many places in the watershed such as construction sites, eroding streambanks and farmland. Sediment can cover up important fish spawning areas and also clog our harbors costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in dredging of the South Haven and St. Joseph harbors.


One solution to reduce sediment reaching local water bodies is to work with farmers to implement better conservation practices such as filter strips, cover crops, and reduced or no-till.

With grant funding from the Great Lakes Commission, the Van Buren Conservation District (VBCD) offered a new and exciting program to increase the use of conservation practices and reduce the amount of sediment reaching local water bodies. Farmers with land in the Pine, Mill or Mud Lake Drain Watersheds participated in this new program.


The exciting twist of this program is that the farmer can decide how much money is needed to try new conservation or best management practices (BMPs). The practices must be newly implemented and cannot be funded by other federal programs. Once bids are received, the Conservation District uses a sediment calculator developed by Michigan State University to determine the amount of erosion reduction on the field with the new practice. Then the bids will be ranked based on the cost per ton of sediment reduced. The bids with the lowest cost per ton will be selected for funding. That is, the more critical the location and the more reasonable the bid, the better chances of getting accepted.


The goal of this program is to increase practices that reduce soil erosion in the Paw Paw River Watershed (PPRW).  Here are the results….


Total BMPs Installed:

514.5 acres No Till; 
183.5 acres Mulch Till;
1,367 acres Cover Crops;
8 acres Filter Strips; 
5.5 acres Grassed Waterway

2,078.5 Total Acres of BMPs installed*

*It is important to note that many of the no or mulch till acres are on the same land as cover crops.  There is an increased sediment reduction when there is a combination of the tillage and cover crop practices.  The most effective practice in reducing sediment is usually no-till combined with cover crops. 

150.5 acres No Till only

9 acres Mulch Till only

828.5 acres Cover Crop only

364 acres No Till and Cover Crop

174.5 acres Mulch Till and Cover Crop

13.5 acres Filter Strip/Grassed Waterway

1,540 acres of land with BMPs installed


Total Tons Soil Savings: 6,950  tons (calculated by the MSU sediment calculator for the Paw Paw River Watershed). The goal was 6,576 tons.  The goal was surpassed by 374 tons.

7,714 Pounds Phosphorus savings

1,352 Tons Sediment savings


$168,700 in cost share to producers  (This equates to about $24/ton of soil saved; $22/pound of P saved; $124/ton of sediment saved and $81/acre of BMP installed.)


This page last updated on 4/13/2015.
Southwest Michigan Planning Commission  
376 West Main Street  Suite 130  Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651
Phone: 269.925.1137  Fax: 269.925.0288  

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