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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Water Quality - NutrientTrading

Water Quality

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Tar-Pamlico Nutrient Trading

EPA recognizes that nutrient trading can be a useful tool to allow for cost-effective pollution reduction measures while meeting water quality obligations. In the Tar-Pamlico Basin, the State currently provides for two different forms of trading to help meet pollutant reduction goals for the estuary:

First, the State, the Tar-Pamlico Basin Association, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation signed an agreement in 1989 for an innovative nutrient trading program between point and nonpoint sources of pollution. The agreement, which is currently in its thrid phase, calls for the Association that includes over 98% of the waste water dischargers in the basin to either reduce their nutrient loading to the estuary or, if they exceeded an annual collective loading cap, to fund agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) through the state’s existing Agriculture Cost Share Program.

This agreement allows the Association’s dischargers to find more cost-effective ways to collectively meet their loading cap by allowing facilities that were better able to remove nutrients at a given time to complete the changes needed to make reductions toward the collective limit. The agreement also provides a more cost-effective nutrient reduction alternative if the Association is unable to meet its cap - payments for agricultural BMPs that are documented to be more cost effective than retrofits or treatment modifications during expansion.

To date, due to the success of the Association at meeting their nutrient caps, the point-to-non-point source nutrient trading provisions provided under the Tar-Pam Nutrient Strategy have not been needed. They have, however, resulted in Association funding for BMP implementation and the provisions remain in place to allow for cost-effective nutrient reductions.

A second form of trading in the Tar-Pamlico occurs between nonpoint sources through the purchase of off-site nutrient offset credits by developers from third-party providers to achieve stormwater runoff loading requirements on their development projects. The option of purchasing these nutrient credits allows developers more flexibility in meeting the runoff requirements of their project while insuring that nutrient loads to the estuary do not increase. Please see the Nutrient Offset page for more information on this form of nutrient trading.

Frequently Asked Questions Tar-Pam Trading

Point Source Trading Overview

EPA Water Quality Trading Homepage

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