The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a plan that would allow industrial and municipal facilities, as well as U.S. farmers, to swap federal credits awarded for improving water quality beyond what the law requires. According to EPA officials, industrial and municipal facilities would have to meet certain requirements, after which they could use pollution-reduction credits to make further water-quality improvements. By reducing pollution loads beyond required levels, an entity can then create a pollution-reduction "credit" that it could trade.

For example, a landowner or a farmer could create credits by changing cropping practices and planting shrubs and trees next to a stream. A municipal wastewater treatment plant then could trade for those credits to meet water quality limits in its permit.

EPA expects program details to be finalized later this summer. You can access further information about the proposal through EPA’s Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/trading.htm