On a small Maiden Creek tributary, the 105-acre Adams farm provides leased pasture to a neighbor’s livestock. To protect the water resources from bacterial and nutrient pollution, Berks Nature (formerly Berks County Conservancy) used Schuylkill Watershed Initiative Grant funds to fence off ten acres of wetland and riparian buffer from livestock, and plant hundreds of native plants that will help filter runoff before it reaches the stream. Work was completed in the spring of 2007 and included the restoration of approximately 1,000’ of the streambank that was re-graded and seeded to help reduce the effects of sedimentation during future flooding. Over 9,000’ of fencing was installed along the stream corridor and five cattle crossing’s were constructed to restrict farm animal access and damage.
High in nutrients and bacteria, manure in stormwater runoff contributes to excessive plant growth and algae blooms in the waterways, depleting the water of dissolved oxygen as the plants die. Fish and other aquatic creatures cannot survive if dissolved oxygen levels are too low. The presence of pathogens in source water may increase the cost of downstream drinking water treatment. Agriculture runoff can introduce cryptosporidium, which may persist through water treatment and cause illness among immunocompromised individuals.
The Adams farm is in the Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) Program implemented by the Berks County Department of Agriculture (formerly Agricultural Land Preservation Board). ACE farms require a Conservation Plan which calls for or recommends implementation of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs). Given that the farmland is protected in perpetuity, there is little chance of future residential or commercial development. Preserved in clusters, ACE farmlands help ensure the continuation of agriculture (the county’s top industry), while maintaining the rural landscape of Berks County. These large land areas provide for stormwater infiltration that could otherwise become runoff from paved, developed surfaces.