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Nutrient Loss Reduction

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy 2023 Biennial Report: Part 1

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In response to the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force and the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and the University of Illinois collaborated to develop the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) in 2015. This strategy, aimed at reducing nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loss in Illinois, received input and involved a diverse group of stakeholders, including agriculture, wastewater treatment plants, conservation groups, environmental organizations, state and federal agencies, and industry. Within the NLRS, goals for nutrient loss were outlined and the biennial reports are one way in which we can report on the state’s progress toward reaching our goals.

University of Illinois Extension’s outreach for the NLRS includes the Nutrient Loss Reduction Podcast. In episode 58, we hear from the three different sectors outlined within the NLRS on how each sector is addressing nutrient loss and some key points from 2021 and 2022 that are captured in the 2023 Biennial Report. In this blog post, we will cover the point source and urban stormwater sectors hearing from Trevor Sample, Illinois EPA, and Eliana Brown, University of Illinois Extension.

Point source sector

Point source pollution is defined in the Clean Water Act as any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft. The primary source of point source pollution addressed within the NLRS is wastewater treatment facilities.

Point source 2023 highlights

Sample reveals one key achievement highlighted in the latest report is a statewide reduction of 6.2 million pounds of phosphorus from 2011 to 2022, a 34% reduction, exceeding the 25% reduction goal set for 2025. It is believed that by the end of the decade, the point source sector is expected to achieve the long-term goal of reducing phosphorus by 45% and possibly exceeding that goal. He also noted that an 11.6% reduction was made in total nitrogen state-wide from 2011 to 2022.

Point source requirements

The point source sector is a little different from the other sectors and is highly regulated by the IEPA. Sample explains that point sources, primarily wastewater treatment plants, are mandated by the Clean Water Act to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Illinois EPA. These permits dictate the type and amount of pollutants that can be discharged into wastewater. Currently, the limit for discharge is 1 mg/L of phosphorus discharge, but eventually, it will be 0.5 mg/L in phosphorus discharge. The enhancements made to wastewater treatment facilities often incur significant costs, which could explain the recent uptick in your wastewater treatment bill.

Urban stormwater sector

Brown defines stormwater as rainfall or melted snow that doesn’t penetrate the soil because it hits a hard, impermeable surface like roads, roofs, sidewalks, and parking lots. Stormwater is a significant contributor to urban water pollution by carrying nitrogen and phosphorus (and other pollutants) to nearby waterbodies through storm drains. Urban stormwater is a relatively minor contributor of nutrient loss compared to the other sectors, but still poses a threat to local water quality and is an important part of the NLRS.

Urban stormwater 2023 highlights

During 2021-2022, 121 stormwater management events were held that engaged more than 8,900 participants, which underscored community involvement. Brown also highlighted the amount of money that was invested into various green infrastructure projects, including $1.45 million from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to support green infrastructure program projects. These projects help increase the retention of stormwater while providing a pathway for water to filter through the soil.

Green infrastructure

Green infrastructure is used to capture stormwater that would otherwise run off and allows a pathway(s) to infiltrate the soil allowing it to act more like the natural water cycle. These nature-based systems are designed to manage water, provide environmental benefits, and promote environmental resiliency using natural processes like vegetation, soil, and permeable surfaces, that address water quality issues at the source. Practices include rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, green roofs, cisterns, and constructed stormwater wetlands.


Green infrastructure can be adopted on a variety of scales. The most important thing that you can do is to educate yourself. This can be done by visiting the Illinois Extension rainfall management website, the Illinois Groundwork website, or attending a workshop or event on rainscaping. Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension have also collaborated on a rainscaping program that may be hosted at your local Extension office. Brown also encourages people to lead by example and to be a role model within their communities by adopting green infrastructure practices around their homes and within their community.

To listen to the complete interviews with Trevor and Eliana as well as interviews with Brian Rennecker, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and Jim Isermann, farmer and soil health specialist with the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership, check out Episode 58.


About the authors

Rachel Curry is an Agriculture and Agribusiness Educator focusing on agriculture and watershed education and is a part of the Illinois Extension's Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy implementation team. Rachel earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Knox College and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Soil Science from Iowa State University with an emphasis on soil fertility. Her work focuses on education and outreach regarding the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and agricultural conservation practices to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality and soil health throughout Illinois.

Nicole Haverback is a Watershed Outreach Associate and is a part of the Illinois Extension's Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy implementation team. Nicole earned a BS in Agriculture and Rural Policy Studies from Iowa State University. She coordinates watershed and planning activities to reduce nutrient losses from priority watersheds, provides expertise on best management practices for nutrient loss, and conducts outreach on agricultural conservation practices outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. 

About the blog

At Illinois Extension, we’re working to improve water quality at home and downstream. Every month, our Watershed Outreach Associates will bring you stories highlighting agricultural conservation practices, current research projects and results, and from the field farmer interviews. The Nutrient Loss Reduction blog covers conservation practices recommended by the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, timely updates, farm safety, and new decision tools to help farmers and producers reduce the nutrients leaving their field. Want to get notified when new blog posts are available? Subscribe at