Advancing Water Management for a Sustainable Future

As seen in the Tried & True Fall 2023 issue

Water is a precious resource vital for agricultural production and the overall health of our environment. As the demand for food grows and concerns about water quality and sustainability increase, it becomes crucial to find innovative solutions for responsible water management. In this pursuit, the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) emerges as a leading advocate for advancing America’s water management practices. Since its inception in 2004, ADMC has been at the forefront of fostering partnerships and driving initiatives to improve agricultural production efficiency, enhance water quality and achieve sustainable intensification goals.


ADMC stands out as an innovator in the domain of agricultural water management in the United States. Through the dedication of its volunteer board of industry leaders and a small but knowledgeable staff, ADMC has been instrumental in shaping the development of critical water management practices.  ADMC’s advocacy, research and partnerships have not only improved crop production but have also addressed environmental challenges, leading to positive outcomes for both agriculture and sustainability.

About ADMC

At its core, ADMC is an industry-led organization, working towards the mutual benefit of enhancing agricultural production while improving water quality. Over the years, ADMC has championed the development of three water management NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) conservation practice standards and provided extensive training for technical service providers and connected the drainage practitioners with the latest information from the research community. As an influential force in the field, ADMC plays a pivotal role in advancing water management practice adoption throughout the country, bolstering the nation’s agricultural productivity while ensuring environmental sustainability.

ADMC’s achievements are a testament to its effectiveness and impact. Through research funded by NRCS and FSA (Farm Service Agency), ADMC has contributed to the development of practices that have the potential to be installed on more than 30 million acres for drainage water management and over 200,000 saturated buffer sites. The coalition’s dedication to innovation and collaboration has resulted in a remarkable increase in adoption rates of these practices accompanied by substantial cost savings for the landowners and a business opportunity for contractors. Moreover, ADMC has actively engaged with thousands of stakeholders, including Fratco, through conferences, webinars and its weekly newsletter, making water quality practices accessible and understandable to a wide and influential audience. 

Why Water Management is So Important

Water management is critical to the future of sustainable agriculture. Installing saturated buffers is just one of many water management techniques. The future of ag depends on smart ag practices, soil health and water management–the latter being often overlooked. ADMC brings water management to the forefront. Installing saturated buffers with the Batch & Build process is just one practice that they focus on. Others include denitrifying bioreactors, controlled drainage, wetlands and drainage water recycling. 

What is a Saturated Buffer?

A saturated buffer refers to a zone of enduring vegetation situated between agricultural fields and waterways, serving as an intermediary for drainage from pipe outlets. In this system, drainage lines are linked to a control structure that facilitates the horizontal dispersion of water throughout the buffer area. As water flows into the buffer, the roots of the perennial vegetation play a crucial role in absorbing both water and essential nutrients, such as nitrate-nitrogen. A saturated buffer has the potential to remove 50% of nitrate-nitrogen from water that is diverted through the buffer.

Batch & Build

While the benefits of saturated buffers are excellent for the environment, historically, they have been very costly and time-consuming to install without a lot of monetary return for farmers and property owners. Over a 5-year span, only 49 saturated buffers and bioreactors had been installed nationwide using NRCS programs. We spoke with Keegan Kult, the Executive Director at ADMC, who explained to us how the innovation of the “Batch & Build” process has led to

an exponential increase in saturated buffer installations. ADMC was part of a team that developed the Batch & Build idea to pilot in Polk County, Iowa. The new approach was needed as the county had a watershed plan to install 100 of these structures, but only had six put in the ground the previous five years. 

Kult, Polk County officials, local NCRS agents and the state of Iowa joined forces to hatch a plan where a special project manager, called a fiscal agent, would be appointed. Farmers and landowners would give permission and assign payments to a fiscal agent who would then coordinate with the contractors to schedule batches of the installations. This way, ten to fifteen saturated buffers would be installed over a few weeks, which makes for a much more profitable and alluring agreement for the contractor. They could start at the top of a stream and just work their way down two to three miles and easily pop each practice into place. Even the engineers who were surveying the land saved time and money, since they could survey ten sites in a day as opposed to one or two. With the implementation of the new “Batch & Build” method, they have been able to install 135 sites over the past three years in Polk and Story County.

Fratco’s Role

Fratco is a Diamond Member of ADMC. Our Sales Manager, Craig Douglass, serves on ADMC’s board and helps weigh in on strategic decision-making. Partnering with ADMC as a member is one of the greatest ways that you can support them as their membership accounts for 50% of their funding. They have seven different levels of membership that you can choose from, making it affordable for all organizations and businesses. 

The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) has proven itself to be a driving force in the advancement of sustainable water management practices in American agriculture–a mission all of us in the industry can support. Through their unwavering commitment to driving implementation, communicating and educating, continuous innovation and promoting safety and responsibility, ADMC has significantly contributed to enhancing water quality, agricultural productivity and environmental conservation. As the world faces increasing challenges related to food security and environmental sustainability, ADMC’s vision and mission remain pivotal in shaping a future where responsible water management is at the heart of sustainable agriculture.

Join ADMC today and learn how you can make a difference.