State Strategy

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is a blueprint for improving water quality at home and in the Gulf of Mexico by reducing nitrogen and phosphorus losses from farm fields, city streets, and wastewater treatment plants. Released in 2015, the strategy outlines a suite of voluntary and mandatory practices that are expected to ultimately cut nutrient loading to rivers and streams by 45 percent.

Practices build on existing state and industry programs and align with the results of a University of Illinois-led assessment of current nutrient loads and cost-effective reduction strategies. Initial funding, outreach, and implementation programs focus on 13 watersheds where nutrients pose the greatest risk to local water quality. These regions, which include the Big Muddy, Vermilion and upper Fox rivers, are also some of the largest contributors to the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.”

The strategy marks the most comprehensive and collaborative approach to nutrient loss reduction in the state’s history. It was developed by a policy working group facilitated by the Illinois Water Resources Center for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Department of Agriculture. Group members included representatives from state agencies, agriculture, non-profit organizations, universities, and sanitation districts.

With the strategy complete, these and other organizations have set their sights on implementation. Working groups have been established to coordinate reduction efforts and monitoring progress. The Illinois Water Resources Center facilitates group meetings and ensures that members have the resources and tools needed to achieve strategy goals.

Measuring Success

The Illinois Water Resources Center has partnered with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the National Great Rivers Research & Education Center, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to develop the Great Lakes to Gulf Virtual Observatory. This cutting-edge web application allows agency officials to measure progress on nutrient reduction goals by making it easy to view and analyze decades of nutrient and water characteristic data from the Mississippi River and select watersheds in the basin.

The virtual observatory displays water quality monitoring and land use data from a variety of federal, state, local, and private sources, including several U.S. Geological Survey super stations located in Illinois nutrient reduction priority watersheds. Combined with a user-friendly interface, this high-quality, continuous data allows agencies officials, researchers, and land use managers to see basin-wide trends and compare monitoring results across sites, monitoring seasons, and years.

Public Engagement

“Water Is” Photo Contest

Images from the 2015 “Water Is” photo contest were featured in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and related public outreach materials. Winners were selected by an expert panel of judges from the Illinois Water Resources Center, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices.


These videos were developed to educate farmers, municipalities, and the public on the science behind the nutrient loss reduction strategy and raise awareness of cost-effective practices for cubing nitrogen and phosphorus loading.

Additional Resources

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy official website

Nutrient loss reduction: Using science to find the right practices for your field

Point and non-point source reduction efforts

Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Roadshow presentations