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Composted Manure Incentive Project

A project in the North Bosque and Leon River watersheds that gives incentives for using manure from dairy farms as roadside compost.


In September 2000, the TCEQ and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board initiated an innovative project to reduce phosphorus levels in the North Bosque and Leon River watersheds. Stormwater runoff containing manure from dairy farms has been a significant source of phosphorus in the two watersheds.

In November 2000, the TSSWCB’s Dairy Manure Export Support (DMES) project created incentives for the transport of manure from dairies in the North Bosque and Leon River watersheds to composting facilities, where it is turned from waste into a beneficial product. The composting process reduces the volume of manure by roughly half. The composted manure can then be hauled to other watersheds for use as a soil amendment.

Between November 1, 2000, and August 31, 2006, the TCEQ’s Composted Manure Incentive Project (CMIP) issued rebates to governmental entities for purchases of composted manure. The TCEQ also gave technical and marketing assistance to participating manure composters.

Both the DMES and CMIP projects received their primary financial support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Clean Water Act Section 319(h).

The compost program grew significantly from the time it became operational in November, 2000, through August, 2006, when the CMIP ended.

Since the programs’ primary focus has been addressing the impairment of the North Bosque River, the removal of manure from that watershed was documented thoroughly. Through August 31, 2006, the DMES had delivered more than 650,000 tons of dairy manure from the North Bosque watershed to participating compost facilities. As of the same date, the CMIP had supported the export of more than 329,000 tons of dairy manure from the watershed in the form of compost, thus removing more than 1.48 million pounds of phosphorus from the watershed.

Manure hauling chart

1 One ton of dairy manure as delivered, at approx. 50% moisture, yields approx. one cubic yard of compost.
2 Solid manure excludes manure flushed to lagoons.

The line in the figure representing 50 percent of manure generated in the watershed shows an upward trend in fiscal 2006 because the number of cattle in the watershed increased during that period. The bars representing total sales and exports of composted manure also show an upward trend in fiscal 2006, due in part to intensive TCEQ marketing and promotion efforts in the final year. These efforts included a supplemental rebate program, available on a limited basis to large-scale non-governmental compost users, as well as demonstration of compost erosion control and reclamation practices at Fort Hood and in rock quarries in Texas.

The CMIP rebate and technical assistance program ended on August 31, 2006. Compost sales and export totals are not available to extend this chart beyond fiscal 2006. The CMIP met its goal of removing at least 50 percent of solid cattle manure from CAFOs in fiscal 2003, 2004, and 2006, with a slight shortfall in fiscal 2005 (see figure).

As of the end of August, 2007—a full year after the end of the CMIP rebate program and six months after the end of the DMES manure hauling reimbursement—the five compost facilities that participated in the final years of the program were still in operation, actively composting and exporting composted manure from the watershed.

The Texas Department of Transportation uses the compost throughout the state to promote roadside vegetation, thus helping prevent NPS pollution from highway runoff—another benefit from the project. TxDOT participated in the CMIP by creating a special specification for the composted manure from the CMIP watersheds, by instituting an internal promotion and tracking system for roadside uses of this material, and by conducting workshops, trainings, demonstrations, and research trials involving its use. Other state and local government markets for the composted manure were also explored and developed.

The TCEQ and its Clean Rivers Program partner, the Brazos River Authority, are monitoring water quality in the North Bosque and Leon Rivers to assess the impact of runoff from dairies and to verify whether composting and export of manure result in improved water quality.

Other project management and implementation partners include Texas Cooperative Extension, the University of Texas, the Texas Transportation Institute, and the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research. Partial funding came from federal nonpoint source grants from the EPA.

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Removing the Manure

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Commission’s portion of the project, the Dairy Manure Export Support project, handled the first part of the process—removing the manure. The DMES project gives incentives for the transporting of surplus manure from dairy farms in portions of the North Bosque and Leon River watersheds to compost facilities.

The export of the composted manure and the nutrients contained in it helped address concerns in the region about nonpoint source impacts associated with land application of manure. The project also aided in achieving the target for nutrient-load reduction established in the Implementation Plan for North Bosque River Total Maximum Daily Loads.

The initial amount of manure targeted for transport from dairy farms in the area was 300,000 tons. Hauling under the DMES project grew much faster than originally anticipated. As of August 31, 2006, more than 907,000 tons had been hauled to commercial composting facilities from both watersheds. This prevented the land application of an estimated 4 million pounds of phosphorus in the project area. These results are indicative of the popularity of the program with the dairy industry in the area.

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Making the Compost

The CMIP ensured that manure at the composting facilities was properly processed and contained, and that it did not worsen existing water quality problems.

During the early stages of the project, the TCEQ NPS Program developed guidance, site criteria, and reporting forms for participating compost operators. Six composting facilities were approved under provisional guidelines and began receiving shipments of manure from local dairies. TCEQ personnel gave technical assistance on compost-production techniques to the facility operators, none of whom had previous experience with large-scale composting.

In addition to technical assistance, the TCEQ  enforced CMIP program requirements through permits. The TCEQ made site visits to participating compost facilities to verify that they followed appropriate practices and that stormwater controls, like lagoons and berms, were properly installed and maintained.

Compost facilities were required to participate in the CMIP to qualify for the compost rebate and so that manure deliveries they received were eligible for the DMES hauling reimbursement.

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Permits for Manure Compost Facilities

All existing and proposed composting facilities in Texas that compost manure from registered or permitted livestock facilities must receive authorization under a wastewater permit before releasing wastewater from the compost site. “Wastewater” includes any stormwater that comes within the composting area and that could come in contact with raw or composted manure.

The general permit authorizes the disposal of wastewater from manure composting facilities only through irrigation or by evaporation. These facilities are not authorized to discharge a flow of wastewater into a waterway. They are required to supply design documentation, certified by an engineer, that their use of the wastewater in irrigation will not allow pollutants to reach waterways and that their wastewater ponds are capable of retaining the expected site wastewater without overflowing.

If all stormwater that falls in the composting area is captured and stored securely on site for use only in composting, there is no need for a wastewater permit. However, composting facilities that participated in this grant project were required to supply certified design documentation establishing that they would prevent any discharges of wastewater, even if their designs made irrigation unnecessary and would therefore make them exempt from the permitting requirement.

TCEQ staff developed the statewide Manure Composting General Permit WQG200000 to streamline the authorization of facilities that agree to operate under the stringent restrictions required in this grant project. Qualifying facilities operated under the requirements of this general permit, without the expense and delay required to receive approval for an individual wastewater permit.

The TCEQ adopted the general permit in October 2002; it is due for renewal or revision in October 2007. The forms for applying to operate under the permit and an explanation of the process are available from the Storm Water & Pretreatment Team via e-mail and on the Web page about applying for the general permit.

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Building Markets and Support

Under the CMIP program, the TCEQ funded activities that helped assure the continued export of manure from the Bosque and Leon River watersheds beyond the end of the project. The TCEQ has worked to promote awareness of composted manure as a soil amendment and to stimulate markets among government agencies.

Rebate Program

To encourage the use of composted manure, the CMIP offered a $5 rebate for every cubic yard of eligible compost purchased by Texas state agencies, local governments, and other eligible users until August 31, 2005. The TCEQ continued this rebate at a reduced rate of $4 per cubic yard until August 31, 2006.

A program offered under the CMIP beginning in 2004 gave a rebate to agricultural producers, compost retailers, and some other private users who bought composted manure from participating facilities.

The Texas Department of Transportation continues to spread the word about the benefits of using compost in highway projects to its district personnel, contractors, and other interested parties. Information about TxDOT’s demonstration and use of compost appears at the TxDOT Web site Exit the TCEQ.

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Education and Marketing

For more than 10 years, the TCEQ’s Small Business and Environmental Assistance (SBEA) program has reached out and supplied technical assistance in the use of compost. Even before the CMIP began, SBEA was offering TxDOT and other agencies workshops, demonstrations of the use of compost, and technical assistance.

Under the CMIP, expanded SBEA outreach included workshops, demonstrations, and technical assistance specifically addressing the benefits, opportunities, and incentives for using composted manure through the CMIP.

The CMIP also funded a major Texas Cooperative Extension education and marketing campaign for composted manure, surveying existing and potential markets for composted manure in the region, focusing the campaign on those markets, and conducting field trials and demonstrations to document and publicize the effectiveness of the appropriate uses of composted manure in a wide array of landscaping, horticultural, and agricultural applications. 

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Measuring Success

The CMIP began in November 2000. As of August 31, 2006, it had recorded sales of over 575,000 cubic yards of manure compost. Approximately 78 percent (over 468,000 cubic yards) went to beneficial uses outside the North Bosque and Leon watersheds, which equates to more than 2 million lbs of phosphorus exported from the two watersheds.

Export of more than 329,000 tons of manure from the North Bosque watershed alone removed more than 1.48 million lbs of phosphorus from the area and came close to meeting the TMDL I-Plan goal for 2003–2006 (see figure).

The CMIP documented the sale and export of composted manure specifically from North Bosque watershed dairies at or near 50% of the total solid CAFO manure generated in the watershed from fiscal 2003 through 2006.

Read the final report for the project.

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Using the Compost to Prevent NPS Pollution

TxDOT, as expected, proved to be the largest governmental purchaser of compost by far over the course of the project. As of August 31, 2006, TxDOT had purchased and used more than 240,000 cubic yards of composted manure from the facilities participating in the CMIP, exceeding its original goal. TxDOT continues to incorporate composted manure its into new projects. TxDOT uses compost for erosion control and establishing vegetation in both construction and maintenance activities.

TxDOT specifications for use of compost by its districts cover proper application and use of compost for controlling erosion and sedimentation, and for establishing vegetation on roadsides after construction and maintenance. Copies of the specifications for furnishing and placing compost and for compost-mulch filter berms Exit the TCEQ, along with other information about TxDOT’s use of compost Exit the TCEQ, is available on their website.

TxDOT has adopted new specifications for compost products which require routine product testing and certification of products through the U.S. Composting Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance program.

The TCEQ has developed a set of resources and regulatory guidance on the use of compost and mulch to prevent erosion, control sediment, and promote re-vegetation.

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Monitoring for Success

The TCEQ and the Brazos River Authority developed a water quality monitoring strategy for the North Bosque and Leon watersheds to measure short-term improvements in water quality attributable to the removal and composting of manure. The results of these and other activities are described in an annual status report on water quality in the North Bosque watershed.

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Water Quality Status Report

The TCEQ produces an annual “Status Report on Water Quality in the North Bosque River.” The status report includes a map of the watershed and graphs that show annual average concentrations of key water quality constituents over time.

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For More Information

Contact the NPS Program by e-mail at, or call 512-239-6682.

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