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Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program

The goals of the Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program are to control pollution from nonpoint sources to the waters of the state and to protect, maintain and restore waters of the state that are vulnerable to, or are impaired by nonpoint source pollution.

New York's 2014 Nonpoint Source Program has been approved by EPA, and is posted here (386 kb, pdf)

What is nonpoint source pollution?

Traditional images of pollution are often of a pipe dumping contaminated water into a river or stream. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many sources and is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground that picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.

Watershed Plans

Numerous watershed plans have been developed throughout New York to characterize and identify watershed impairments and to provide recommendations and strategies to address water quality concerns. The most comprehensive watershed plans are consistent with EPA's nine key elements (Nine Element Plans). These plans are similar to total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans to improve water quality, both plans: identify and quantify pollution sources, estimate pollutant reductions needed to achieve water quality targets and recommend best management practices (BMP) to be implemented. Nine Element Watershed Plans are approved by NYSDEC.

Examples of NPS pollution that is picked up and moved by rainfall and snowmelt:

  • Excess fertilizer nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) from agricultural lands and residential areas
  • Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream banks
  • Sediment from physical alterations of stream banks and channels, for example, straightening streams, constructing/removing dams or levees
  • Pathogens and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems
  • Oil, grease, toxic chemicals, and salts from urban runoff
  • Pesticides from agricultural lands and residential areas
  • Atmospheric deposition

Nonpoint Source Program Objectives

The NPS Program has six objectives to control nonpoint sources of pollution from impacting waterbodies.

  • Develop watershed plans
  • Implement watershed projects
  • Monitor water quality
  • Protect and restore waters
  • Integrate NPS management into other state and local programs
  • Provide guidance and technical assistance

NPS program success stories highlighted by EPA

Water quality problems caused by nonpoint sources of pollution have decreased significantly in may watersheds across the state, including:

  • Chittenango Creek
  • West Branch, Delaware River
  • DeRuyter Reservoir
  • Hempstead Harbor
  • Niagara River
  • Oneida Lake
  • Rudd Pond
  • Tonawanda Creek

To learn about these projects visit EPA's Section 319 Nonpoint Source Success Stories web page (

Program Partnerships

The NPS Program includes coordinated activities and contributions from many federal, state, regional, and local agency partners

  • Department of Agriculture and Markets
  • NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee
  • Department of Health
  • Department of State
  • Department of Transportation
  • New York Environmental Facilities Corporation
  • Cornell University
    • Cornell Cooperative Extension
    • NYS Water Resources Institute
    • Cornell PRO DAIRY
  • New York State Association of Regional Councils
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • United States Geological Survey
  • United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service

Communications among the partners is coordinated through the New York Nonpoint Source Committee (NPSC). The NPSC has the following objectives:

  • Facilitate communications
  • Identify cooperative activities
  • Evaluate and promote guidance to agencies
  • Coordinate programs of federal, state, regional and local agencies and organizations
  • Assist state, regional and local water quality and watershed committees

More about Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program: