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SWEEP Report #SUP3

An Evaluation of the
Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program

J. White, J. Arnold, and B. McCorquodale, InfoResults Ltd, Brampton, ON
Executive Summary

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Completed: June, 1993

Executive Summary


The Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP), a federal-provincial program designed to reduce the volume of phosphorus being transported to Lake Erie, consisted of seven sub-programs. The federal programs included: the Pilot Watershed Studies; the Technology Assessment Panel; the Conservation Information Bureau; and the Socio-economic Evaluation. Each sub-program was managed by a private sector contractor except the Socio-Economic Evaluation.

The province of Ontario was responsible for: Local Demonstrations; Technical Assistance; and Soil Conservation Incentives. The two levels of government were jointly responsible for the Administration, Monitoring and Public Information subprogram.

SWEEP operated with the support and participation of four government ministries: Agriculture Canada; Environment Canada; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food; and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

The SWEEP objectives were:

  1. To reduce phosphorus loading in the Lake Erie basin by 200 tonnes per year by 1990 from non-point agricultural cropland sources.

  2. To maintain or improve the productivity of Southwestern Ontario agriculture by reducing or arresting erosion and other forms of soil degradation.

Evaluation Procedures

The evaluation was conducted using an evaluation framework consistent with procedures specified by the Office of the Comptroller General, Treasury Board of Canada. The data used to conduct the evaluation come from program reports and interviews with 10 program staff, 25 key respondents, 5 contractors and a survey of 427 farmers. A sample of 800 farmers from the SWEEP area selected by Statistics Canada were mailed a questionnaire In addition to 327 who returned questionnaires, 100 were interviewed on the telephone by Statistics Canada staff.

Research Findings

The two major objectives were investigated utilizing 13 evaluation issues for which various research questions were developed. The major evaluation issues and conclusions are outlined below.

Phosphorus Loading

The issue of whether or not the target of reducing phosphorus loading in the SWEEP study area by 200 tonnes per year by 1990 was achievable with existing and technologies developed by SWEEP could not be resolved. The question was not answered because the Overview Model has yet to provide the necessary data and a decrease of that amount on over 400,000 hectares was next to impossible to achieve through conservation technologies alone.

It was found that while the phosphorus loading has been reduced in the SWEEP area, the 200 tonne per year objective was not met. Major measurement problems were experienced due to the lack of adequate rainfall events and the unavailability of the results of a farm survey.

Effects of Conservation Practices

The conservation practices promoted by SWEEP had a positive input on the agricultural productivity of the area. The measurement of the overall impact on the area was dependent upon measures of the adoption of various tillage practices. These data are not yet available.

Economic Impact

The Farm Level Economic Analysis data demonstrated that conservation tillage is less risky, provides a larger net income and reduces the cost of soil erosion when compared to conventional tillage on individual farms.

Information Creation

The SWEEP research activities, plus activities of the Conservation Information Bureau and extension personnel, have both created and disseminated a substantial volume of conservation information to farmers. The levels of awareness of and knowledge about conservation practices by farmers have increased since 1986.


The attitudes of farmers to soil and water conservation are believed to have become more positive.

Impact of SWEEP

While it is difficult to demonstrate causality, it is believed that the program both increased knowledge and the adoption of conservation practices. Much of the information received by farmers comes from non-SWEEP sources who may be disseminating SWEEP generated research and other activities.

Research and Expertise

The program increased research activity and the capability of the private sector. Many consultants acquired or updated their research skills, new equipment was developed and farmers became much more active in conducting research on their own farms.

Unintended Effects

Few negative program effects were observed. There were unanticipated delays and difficulties in conducting the Pilot Watershed Studies. Several staff and key respondents commented that more information and greater cooperation occurred than anticipated.

Organization and Management

The organizational structure which consisted of several committees did not provide adequate information flow or control. The lack of a single individual who had overall authority for the program and who could provide timely decisions was discussed. The contracting out procedures proved controversial and some difficulties arose. Suggestions for improved management systems were made.

Cost Effectiveness and Changes

The program was found to be relatively cost effective given its innovative nature. A tighter management system and better communication might have increased efficiency. Concern was expressed regarding the opportunity to continue research in the Pilot Demonstration Watersheds and to utilize research skills developed during the program.

Conservation Information Bureau

The CIB component was evaluated in greater detail than the other program components at the request of the client. Flaws in and difficulties developing from the organizational structure and management procedures were identified. The control of the CIB was considered relatively weak due partly to the organizational structure and control procedures. It was determined that the CIB had created and disseminated a substantial volume of useful information. The adequacy of funding was discussed in view of a budget overrun.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 10:31:09 PM