Conserving Our Watersheds (COW) Program

The Marin RCD coordinates several environmental projects annually via the Conserving Our Watersheds (COW) Program to promote and support the advancement of water quality improvements within the district. The program is founded upon a watershed wide strategy. In 2000 a 24-member Tomales Bay Watershed Council was formed, drawn from local stakeholder groups and agencies, to develop comprehensive watershed stewardship plans, including the 2007 Tomales Bay Watershed Integrated Watershed Management Plan. The planning document identifies the MRCD in providing assistance to ranchers to improve water quality on working lands draining into the Bay. The COW program follows up on this planning effort and has since expanded to nearby watersheds.

The COW program has assisted the following watersheds: Tomales Bay, Lagunitas, and Walker Creek Watersheds, and the program will expand into the Stemple (Estero de San Antonio) watershed in 2021.

Marin RCD has operated this program since 2007 through a statewide competitive grant, successfully receiving funding 7 times over 13 years. The program has resulted in the implementation of 156 best management practices affecting over 17,700 acres of the 77,439 acres (~23%) of the Tomales Bay Watershed in agricultural production.

Current phases of the COW program:

    • Conserving Our Watersheds: Phase VI – Upgrading Dairies & Ranches Sustainably* (COW-UDRS) assists dairies in the Tomales Bay implement conservation projects to reduce potential pathogen concentrations. This program will also help ranchers and dairies in Sonoma Creek through the Sonoma RCD. 
    • Conserving Our Watersheds: Phase VII – Collaborative Conservation Actions by Farmers* (COW-CCAF) focuses on helping confined animal facilities, and ranches in the Tomales Bay and Estero de San Antonio watershed implement conservation projects to reduce potential non-point source pollutants from entering the watershed.  

*Funding for this program has been provided in full or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Clean Water Act Section 319). 

Example Projects:

If you would like to participate in the COW program please contact the Marin RCD at (415) 787-7452, or send us an email.

Want to see more COW projects? Click below for the Marin RCD Project Tracker and search for Conserving Our Watersheds!

Over the past 15 years, the COW program has been successful due to our close partnerships with the farmers and ranchers of Marin and local agricultural technical service providers: