WQIag addresses this problem with two features that set it apart from previous measures of water quality: simplicity and accessibility. First, the WQIag simplifies the result into a 10-point rating everyone can understand; second, it’s available to anyone with an internet connection.
Before the WQIag, there was no simple way to rate water quality. Experts installed monitoring stations that tested water as it flowed off fields. These stations provide actual measurements, but they’re expensive and interpreting the measurements requires a scientific background.
“Our solution was inspired by the Dow Jones Index,” said NRCS environmental engineer Harbans Lal, referring to the well-known system that tracks investments like mutual funds and stocks. “We wanted to represent something very complex with a single, easy-to-understand number.”
The calculator is a continuous project with additions of crop data and indicators. Current projects in process include a biodiversity metric and inclusion of alfalfa. The addition of WQIag builds upon the innovative private-public relationship between Field to Market and NRCS, which also partnered, along with technology consultant ZedX, Inc., to build soil erosion tools into the calculator.