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Nonpoint Source Program, EPA Section 319

Free Flowing StreamToday, nonpoint source pollution (NPS) is the nation's largest source of water quality problems. It is the main reason that about 40 percent of our surveyed rivers, lakes, and estuaries are not clean enough to meet basic uses such as fishing or swimming.  NPS pollution occurs when water runs over land or through the ground, picking up pollutants, and depositing them into rivers, lakes, and coastal waters or introducing them into ground water.  NPS pollution is widespread because it can occur any time activities disturb the land or water. Agriculture, forestry, grazing, septic systems, recreational boating, urban runoff, construction, physical changes to stream channels, and habitat degradation are potential sources of NPS pollution. Careless or uninformed household management also contributes to NPS pollution.

To address this diffuse type of pollution, Congress established the Nonpoint Source Program, funded by the US-EPA through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.   The Tennessee Department of Agriculture administers the Nonpoint Source Program in Tennessee on behalf of US-EPA.  This program, created in 1987, provides funds to states, territories and Indian tribes for installing Best Management Practices (BMPs) to stop NPS pollution; providing training, education, and demonstrations; and monitoring water quality.

The TDA-NPS Program is non-regulatory, promoting voluntary, incentive-based solutions.  It is a cost-share program, paying for 60% of the cost of a project.  It is up to the grantee to come up with the remaining 40%, usually in cash and “in-kind” services.  It primarily funds three types of programs:

  • BMP Implementation Projects improve an impaired waterbody, or prevent a non-impaired water from becoming placed on the 303(d) List.  Projects of this type receive highest priority for funding. All projects involving BMPs must be based on an approved “Watershed Based Plan”.  Small projects can be funded to write these plans.
  • Monitoring Projects.  Up to 20% of the available grant funds assist water quality monitoring efforts in Tennessee streams, both in the state's 5-year watershed monitoring program, and also in performing before-and-after BMP installation, so that water quality improvements can be verified.
  • Educational Projects funded through TDA-NPS raise public awareness of practical steps that can be taken to eliminate NPS pollution.

Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, local governments, state agencies, soil conservation districts, and universities.

Program Resources