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Assessment of site-specific agricultural Best Management Practices in the Upper East River watershed, Wisconsin, using a field-scale SWAT model

June 1, 2019

The Great Lakes “Priority Watershed” effort targeted the Upper East River watershed, a 116.5 km2 tributary watershed to Green Bay in Wisconsin, to reduce sediment and nutrients entering Green Bay. A Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was created to determine the effectiveness of Best Management Practices (BMPs) derived from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service National Conservation Planning (NCP) Database. The model was calibrated at the monthly timestep for flow, sediment, dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP), total phosphorus (TP), and total nitrogen (TN). Field- and watershed-scale sediment and nutrient reductions were calculated due to the implementation of 74 BMP combinations on dairy and cash grain rotations. Modeling results indicated that when multiple BMPs are placed on a field, especially those that included filter strips and grassed waterways, generally reduced sediment and nutrient loads more than a single BMP implementation. The most effective in-field practice at reducing DRP and TP on dairy fields was a combination of 5 different BMPs: cover crops, crop rotation, nutrient management plan, reduced tillage, and a filter strip. Conservation cover was the most effective practice at reducing sediment and nutrient yields. Sediment and nutrient loads decreased at the watershed scale as the quantity and coverage of BMPs increased. When all contracted NCP BMPs were simulated at the watershed scale, sediment loads were reduced 2%, while TP, DRP, TN and nitrate loads were reduced 20%, 9%, 24%, and 17%, respectively. Modeling scenarios indicated that as the number and area of BMPs were increased, sediment and nutrient load reductions were also increased.