In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) implemented the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) aimed at reducing nutrients and sediment in the nation’s rivers and streams. The goal of the NWQI program is for the NRCS and its partners to work with landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality in high-priority watersheds while maintaining agricultural productivity. While high-priority watersheds have been selected around the country, typically watershed-scale evaluations identifying specific pollution sources and the conservation practices needed to improve water quality are not available to field office staff responsible for working with landowners. Therefore, a comprehensive planning effort aimed at prioritizing specific landscapes, crop types, and the conservation practices available is needed to help NRCS field staff implement the NWQI program where it will be the most effective considering limited available resources.

The Missouri State Office of the NRCS contracted the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute (OEWRI) at Missouri State University (MSU) to perform a watershed assessment study for the Headwaters Petite Saline Creek watershed located in Cooper, Moniteau, and Morgan Counties in central Missouri. The project area is a 12-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC-12 #103001020401) watershed that is within the Lower Missouri-Moreau River watershed. Agricultural land use, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), sedimentation, stream bank erosion, and poor riparian corridors have been identified as potential water quality threats in the Lower Missouri-Moreau River watershed (MDNR 2014). Petite Saline Creek is mainly an agricultural watershed with little or no influence of industry or urban runoff and has been identified as a reference stream in developing both biological and nutrient criteria for streams in the region (Sarver et al. 2002, MDNR 2005). Furthermore, portions of Petite Saline Creek downstream of the study watershed have been listed on the 303(d) list of impaired waters in 2018 for low dissolved oxygen from an unknown source (MDNR 2018). The purpose of this assessment is to provide NRCS field staff with the necessary information to identify locations within the Headwaters Petite Saline Creek HUC-12 watershed where soil, slope, and land use practices have the highest pollution potential and to describe conservation practices that can be the most beneficial to improve water quality. The specific objectives of this assessment are to: (1) Complete a comprehensive inventory of existing data in the watershed including information related to geology, soils, hydrology, climate, land use, and any existing biological or chemical monitoring data available;
(2) Perform a resource assessment of the watershed that includes analysis of the data gathered in the watershed inventory that includes identification of nonpoint source pollutants, water quality impairments, rainfall-runoff characteristics, and a field-based stream bank conditions assessment;
(3) Provide NRCS staff with information on the resource concerns within the watershed, specific field conditions that contribute that most to the water quality impairment, and what conservation practices should be implemented for the existing conditions to get the most water quality benefit.

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Completed for Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture

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