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The Muddy Creek watershed in Rockingham County, Virginia is in an intensive agricultural area, that is also home to a culturally unique segment of the population, the old order Mennonite community. Within the 20, 023 acre watershed, 3134 beef cattle, 6533 dairy cows, 1311 sheep, 558,423 chickens, and 351,336 turkeys are raised, with a large majority raised on old order Mennonite farms. The intense agriculture in this watershed in combination with common agricultural practices led to a fecal coliform impairment on Muddy Creek. From 1991 to 1999, fecal coliform concentrations measured in Muddy Creek exceeded Virginia's water quality criterion of 1000 cfu/100ml 73% of the time, with individual samples often exceeding the measureable range of the measurement technique (16,000 cfu/100ml).

In 1999, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) developed a bacterial TMDL for Muddy Creek. DCR then developed a TMDL Implementation Plan (IP) for this waterbody, which was one of three initial TMDL IP pilot projects in the State. As a result, federal assistance through the Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Grants is available in the watershed. While these funds are actively being allocated through the Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District with great success, the old order Mennonite community will not participate in such assistance programs administered through the government because of their strongly held religious beliefs. Despite their lack of involvement in formal implementation programs, the Mennonite community has been a large part of implementation efforts in the watershed. When addressed with information about the water quality issues in Muddy Creek and best management practices necessary to correct the impairment, many Mennonite farmers have voluntarily installed or implemented practices to improve water quality with no governmental assistance. In a 2003 survey of voluntary practices in the watershed, over 5-miles of stream exclusion fencing, nearly a mile of grassed waterways, 31 animal waste storage systems, and nearly 900 acres of cover crops were reported as voluntarily installed in the watershed. These improvements have been reflected in ambient water quality monitoring as well. Rates of exceedance of the 1000 cfu/100ml fecal coliform criterion have dropped from 73% in 1991–1999 to 49% in 2000–2004. Water quality standards are not yet consistently attained, however, incremental success is measurable, thanks to the efforts of local landowners that were made aware of a water quality problem and took action based on a strongly held land ethic.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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