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West Virginia's
Potomac Headwaters

Water Quality Project

The Potomac Headwaters area has seen a 100% increase in the poultry industry between 1993 and 1996. Currently 870 poultry houses are in operation producing 90 million birds a year for the industry.  The area also produces beef cattle, corn, apples and forages. The rapid growth of the poultry industry has raised water quality concerns due to the annual generation of 140,000 tons of poultry litter.  A USGS surface water study found that numbers of feedlots and poultry houses per mile had a positive correlation with concentrations of fecal bacteria in surface streams. The watershed's topography, which consists of 75% forestland, 5% crop/hayland, 15% pastureland, 2% urban and 3% other land uses, demonstrates that the availability of land for spreading the poultry litter that is generated is limited.   


In 1993, this area became a component of the USDA Water Quality Initiative.  It is a cooperative effort of state and federal agencies, the W.Va. Poultry Water Quality Advisory Committee, the Potomac Valley Soil Conservation District, and  the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District.

The goal of the project is to protect and improve water quality in the Potomac River. This is being accomplished with voluntary producer implementation of recommended practices and systems through extensive and focused educational, technical, and financial assistance programs.  With the high concentration of poultry operations in this region and concentrated livestock feeding areas, an emphasis has been placed on nutrient management and animal waste management.  Improved pesticide management and reduction of bacterial contamination are also objectives of this project.

A cooperative effort was designed to address water quality concerns in the eight counties of West Virginia that drain to the Potomac River and beyond to the Chesapeake Bay.

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