AWS Certification & Clear Water Farms Program
Farmer & producer-led water stewardship.
River Alliance of Wisconsin and the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) are working with Wisconsin farmers to support and recognize water stewardship practices.
Like LEED Certification for buildings, the AWS International Standard is a voluntary, but transparent, proven, and independently accredited certification awarded to businesses achieving a high level of environmental stewardship.
Being awarded an AWS certification verifies that a farm is implementing a plan to manage and continually improve its water stewardship. Among the purposes of helping farms in Wisconsin achieve this certification is to create a cohort of leading conventional farmer voices in the state who can attest to the fact that advanced water stewardship and farm profitability are not just compatible but mutually reinforcing.
Each producer’s needs are unique. River Alliance works with farms of all sizes to find a flexible and effective path toward improved water stewardship.
In 2019, we assisted Miltrim Farms in Athens, Wisconsin, in becoming the first farm in North America to achieve AWS certification through our Clear Water Farms program. Miltrim developed a comprehensive water stewardship plan using the AWS Standard’s 98 elements, and have implemented major changes to both their field practice and the way their barns use and recycle water. This has resulted in sizable reductions to their wastewater production, and more efficient water use, reducing their demands on the soil and water.
They’ve also become outspoken voices in farm water stewardship, encouraging other farmers and cheese processors to take sustainability seriously and advocating for policy changes at the state level.
River Alliance of Wisconsin worked with Miltrim via our Clear Water Farms program to create management plans, engage stakeholders, and facilitate the independent auditing required to pass the AWS Standard. Watch the 3-minute video to learn more.
Our Clear Water Farms program is currently expanding the number of producers—and processors—achieving the AWS International Standard. Building on Miltrim’s success, we’re working to make AWS certification a well understood and trusted tool that farms, municipalities, and state agencies can use to move stewardship beyond regulatory baselines.
Why become a Clear Water Farm and why now?
- Producers and processors, like other businesses, benefit from certification by gaining assurance that their operations meet and exceed all relevant regulatory standards.
- Certification identifies water-input liabilities and water-related supply chain risks, helping producers reduce their costs.
- Some changes, including cover cropping, no till agriculture, reducing water use, changing inputs, and converting underperforming land for ecosystem services, can generate income.
- Certification provides tangible and verifiable documentation of stewardship; which producers can use to gain a competitive advantage with processors and consumers.
Sustainable water management requires some financial and time commitment. Clear Water Farms jump starts the process by guiding farms that are ready to take the next steps toward stewardship through the entire certification process.
Interested in learning more about the Clear Water Farms program?
Contact Michael Tiboris, Clear Water Farms Director at
608-257-2424 x125 or email Michael.