The Watertown Waterways Improvement Program (WWIP), a clean water initiative and collaboration among Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department, Rock River Coalition, and the City of Watertown, was launched in 2023. WWIP utilizes a practice called water quality trading, a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for municipalities that need to improve water quality and meet water quality regulations set by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The City of Watertown is implementing a local water quality trading program as an innovative way to achieve clean water goals and reduce the amount of phosphorus entering local waterways. Water quality trading gives municipalities the ability to partner with area landowners on implementing conservation practices that will achieve pollutant reductions.

Watertown’s water quality trading will be facilitated by the Watertown Waterways Improvement Program (WWIP), a partnership between Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD), Rock River Coalition and the City of Watertown. This local program will involve area landowners to reduce phosphorus in a way that is more effective and less expensive than the City working individually.

To help meet water quality requirements, the City of Watertown will reimburse private landowners for installing voluntary conservation practices through WWIP.  These conservation practices will help decrease the amount of phosphorus runoff  and soil erosion leading to  improved water quality in the watershed at large. Eligible landowners who participate in this program will sign 10-year contracts, will be paid a fixed rate upon installation, and in some cases will receive annual payments for the length of the contract (see rates table below). After the initial 10-year contract is complete, landowners have the opportunity to contract for another 10 so long as the practice is still properly functioning.


Landowner Benefits

  • Receive economic incentives offered through the City of Watertown.
  • Reduce soil erosion on your property.
  • Improve your local water quality.
  • Improve your farm’s sustainability.

Water Quality Trading 

Water quality trading is “a compliance option that provides point sources with the flexibility to acquire pollutant reductions from other sources in the watershed to offset their point source load to comply with a permit limit”. Wisconsin DNR Water Quality Trading FactSheet

“In Wisconsin, legislative action in 1997 created three pilot areas for water quality trading to occur. These pilot areas were the Red Cedar River Watershed, the Fox and Wolf River Basin and Rock River Basin. […] Additional legislative action occurred in 2011 to expand water quality trading throughout the state, and to provide the backbone of the water quality trading program currently available. See s. 283.84, Wis. Stats., for more details on Wisconsin’s regulatory framework for water quality trading. There are several other active and historic trading projects that have occurred throughout the nation; mainly occurring in watersheds with U.S. EPA-approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).” WDNR Wisconsin’s Water Quality Trading (Website)


More information on water quality trading: EPA Water Quality Trading Overview (Website)


Conservation Practices

Harvestable Vegetated Filter Strips

Strip of grasses and forbs along the edge of a cropped field and/or adjacent to a waterway. The strips can be harvested as forage throughout the growing season.



Vegetated Filter Strips

Strips of vegetation (native species optional*) along the edge of a cropped field and/or adjacent to a waterway that reduce suspended solids and contaminants.



Grassed Waterways

Graded channels with vegetation suitable to transport surface water to a less erodible site, which allows fields to shed water and reduces further erosion.




Additional Practices

  • Roof runoff structure (gutters, downspouts, outlets)
  • Other acceptable best management practices may be eligible if it limits phosphorus into local waterways.

*Using native species

There are additional benefits to using native species in conservation plantings. They are well-adapted to challenging weather conditions, require less management after installation, provide greater erosion control, offer habitat for native pollinators, and increase ecosystem resilience. Native species may be used in WWIP conservation practices. The WWIP program does not cover the cost of native seed, however alternative funding may be available. Rock River Coalition is available to help identify opportunities. Contact Rock River Coalition to find out more (   

Payment Rate Table

Eligible Project Areas

Map of reachshed 28 & 29 in Jefferson County showing the eligible project areas.

Participation Process

1. Site Visit:
The landowner and LWCD meet and determine which conservation practice(s) works best for the land and landowner.

2. Design of Practice:
LWCD prepares a proposed conservation practice plan.

3. Modeling & Paperwork:
LWCD models phosphorus reduction based on the proposed plan.

4. Plan Approval:
The Department of Natural Resources approves the modeling and practice plan.

5. Practice Approval:
The City of Watertown approves the conservation practice plan for funding.

6. Contracting:
The landowner signs a conservation practice contract.

7. Practice Installation:
The landowner or contractor installs the conservation practice (with oversight by LWCD if applicable).

8. Practice Certification & Payment:
Once installed, LWCD visits the property to certify practice. The City of Watertown pays the landowner the contracted initial payment.

9. Recording of Practice:
The City of Watertown records the conservation practice on the property deed.

10. Annual Visits:
LWCD conducts yearly site visits. If applicable, the City of Watertown pays the landowner an annual payment.

11. Termination:
   Upon completion of contract, the City of Watertown files termination of agreement on property deed (unless the contract is renewed).


Watertown Waterways Improvement Program FAQ

Yes, so long as you are working with the County on proper nutrient management. No phosphorus can be used.

In order to claim all practice payments, a practice must be proven to work correctly and capture sediment as intended. Payments will not be given to practices that do not work properly. No reimbursement for failed practice will be necessary, however, annual payment may be withheld if deemed not working properly. Each practice will be inspected annually to determine annual payments. Landowners are expected to call county staff if they notice any part of the practice failing at any point, at which point the county will work with the landowner to resolve the issues promptly and make sure landowners receive full compensation for their practice.


Contract renewal is dependent on the available budget and pool of applicants. If there is another more qualified applicant (a contract that provides greater conservation benefit to the watershed) at the time of renewal, that contract will be preferentially selected.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions you are eligible and encouraged to contact LWCD.*

  • Do you own or rent land inside the approved watershed (see map)?
  • Do you live on or near a stream, river, ag ditch?
  • Do you have erosion issues on cropland?
  • Do you own livestock or provide forage to a livestock operation?
  • Do you have areas of farmland that are always wet?
  • Are you a landowner interested in conservation and improving water quality?

*Not all eligible landowners will qualify. Contracts are selected based on maximum watershed benefit and phosphorous reduction.  

Yes. There are opportunities to use native species and additional funding may be available. Contact Rock River Coalition (

Program Contact 

David Hoffman
Jefferson County Land and Water Conservation Department



Watertown WIP Partner logos