What do Soil and Water Conservation Districts Do for You?

There are 97 soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) serving the entire State of Illinois.  The SWCDs were first organized to address the agricultural problems of soil erosion. Since their initial creation in 1938, their role has expanded to include water quality improvement, air quality improvement, plant health maintenance and wildlife habitat development. Their role has also expanded to include urban soil erosion control and water quality improvement.


Soil and Water Conservation Districts work with the Illinois EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers to monitor, inspect and assist with permits in urban and development areas. Since the districts do not have enforcement authority, they serve an educational function to help developers meet their permit requirements.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts developed the Illinois Urban Manual (IUM) to assist developers and county and municipal zoning administrators. The IUM contains standards for installing and maintaining soil erosion control and water quality protection practices on development sites. Many county and municipal zoning and planning offices require developers to adhere to the recommended practices contained in the IUM.


Soil and Water Conservation Districts install practices that protect groundwater recharge areas and help reduce flooding in both rural and urban areas.


Soil and Water Conservation District programs are capable of adding more than $205 million to the State’s economy every year.


Soil and Water Conservation Districts have no taxing power and must therefore rely on General Revenue Source funds appropriated by the General Assembly. In fact, the SWCDs are the only unit of government in Illinois that does not have the capability to raise an operating tax.