TMDL implementation in agricultural landscapes: A communicative and systemic approach

Nicholas R. Jordan, Carissa Schively Slotterback, Kirsten Valentine Cadieux, David J. Mulla, David G. Pitt, Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Jin Oh Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Increasingly, total maximum daily load (TMDL) limits are being defined for agricultural watersheds. Reductions in non-point source pollution are often needed to meet TMDL limits, and improvements in management of annual crops appear insufficient to achieve the necessary reductions. Increased adoption of perennial crops and other changes in agricultural land use also appear necessary, but face major barriers. We outline a novel strategy that aims to create new economic opportunities for land-owners and other stakeholders and thereby to attract their voluntary participation in land-use change needed to meet TMDLs. Our strategy has two key elements. First, focused efforts are needed to create new economic enterprises that capitalize on the productive potential of multifunctional agriculture (MFA). MFA seeks to produce a wide range of goods and ecosystem services by well-designed deployment of annual and perennial crops across agricultural landscapes and watersheds; new revenue from MFA may substantially finance land-use change needed to meet TMDLs. Second, efforts to capitalize on MFA should use a novel methodology, the Communicative/Systemic Approach (C/SA). C/SA uses an integrative GIS-based spatial modeling framework for systematically assessing tradeoffs and synergies in design and evaluation of multifunctional agricultural landscapes, closely linked to deliberation and design processes by which multiple stakeholders can collaboratively create appropriate and acceptable MFA landscape designs. We anticipate that application of C/SA will strongly accelerate TMDL implementation, by aligning the interests of multiple stakeholders whose active support is needed to change agricultural land use and thereby meet TMDL goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Collaborative
  • Decision support
  • IWRM
  • Landscape design
  • Multifunctional agriculture
  • Spatial modeling


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