SWAT Literature Database for Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Title:The Conservation Effects Assessment Project benchmark watersheds: Synthesis of preliminary findings 
Authors:Richardson, C.W., D.A. Bucks and E.J. Sadler 
Journal:Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 
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Broad Application Category:review/history 
Primary Application Category:BMP assessment 
Secondary Application Category:none 
Watershed Description:5130 ha Walnut Creek watershed in central Iowa; 708km^2 Cedar Creek subwatershed of the St. Joseph River watershed in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; 6600 km^2 Mark Twain Lake/Salt River Basin in northeastern Missouri; 160 km^2 Cannonsville Reservoir northwest of New York City; 2057 km^2 watershed in Delaware and Maryland; Little River watershed in the coastal plain region of southern Georgia; Fort Cobb Reservoir watershed in west central Oklahoma; 6000 km^2 Leon River watershed in central Texas; 6300 km^2 Upper Snake River/Rock Creek watershed in southern Idaho 
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Abstract:The Conservation Effects Assessment Project was established to quantify the environmental impacts of USDA conservation programs. The Conservation Effects Assessment Project involves multiple watershed assessment studies designed to provide a scientific basis for a national assessment. The USDA Agricultural Research Service established 14 research sites—benchmark watersheds—to measure regionally specific environmental quality effects of conservation practices and to improve and validate models used by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for their national assessment. Within each watershed, data were collected and continue to be collected to provide insight into the effects of specific conservation practices implemented under programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Program. A data storage and management system, Sustaining the Earth’s Watersheds–Agricultural Research Data System (STEWARDS), was developed to provide easy accessibility to these data for analysis. Models were validated using data from many of the watersheds and were shown to be valuable tools for extrapolating the results for a national assessment. The physical process models were also combined with economic models to optimize tradeoffs among environmental and economic objectives of conservation practices. The benchmark watershed studies have begun to identify the effects of selected conservation practices, although additional data are required to provide definitive results. A prototype of a new modular modeling system has been developed that will provide a more powerful tool for future analyses. The initial Conservation Effects Assessment Project findings and products demonstrate progress toward the overall goals of quantifying conservation practice effects and providing tools to transfer the knowledge to points where they are applied under future conservation policy. 
Keywords:Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP); conservation practices; economics; environmental quality; models; water quality