The New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Watershed Agricultural Council on Aug. 5 announced a $92 million contract to continue protecting water quality and promoting working landscapes in the NYC watershed through 2025.

The New York City watershed, which serves nearly half the population of the state, is partly made up of the Catskill and Delaware watersheds in Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster and portions of Putnam and Westchester counties east of the Hudson River, according to the DEC's website. These watersheds provide about 90% of New York City's daily water consumption.

The DEP funding will allow the WAC to continue and expand its agriculture, forestry and economic viability programs in the watershed, said Heather Magnan, WAC communications director. The contract is the largest since the WAC was established in 1993, according to a media release by the DEP and WAC.

"It shows our commitment to producers in the region," Magnan said.

DEP's collaboration with WAC is considered a worldwide model for protecting water quality while enhancing the viability of working lands, according to the release. Adam Bosch, director of public affairs at DEP, told The Daily Star on Wednesday there have been remarkable improvements in water quality of the watershed through these programs.

For example, phosphorus levels in the Cannonsville Reservoir in Delaware County dropped by more than 95 percent since the mid-1990s, Bosch said. Phosphorus helps algae grow, which can result in harmful algal blooms, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's website. Common sources of it are manure and fertilizer on farms and organic waste from sewage.

"It shows when you focus sound science and investment on an area, you can actually turn around the fate of a water body," Bosch said.

The contract, among other things, allows additional funding to accelerate implementation of best management practices on farms; expansion of the Nutrient Management Credit Program, which gives financial incentives to farmers who follow a plan for the spreading of manure and/or fertilizer on their fields to minimize nutrient runoff into nearby streams; and the development of a pilot program to preserve buffer lands along streams, creeks and rivers.

Money was also set aside for micro-grants, farm-transition planning and business planning. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.