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.