Results of modelling studies for the evaluation of water quality impacts of agricultural conservation practices depend heavily on the numerical procedure used to represent the practices. Herein, a method for the representation of several agricultural conservation practices with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is developed and evaluated. The representation procedure entails identifying hydrologic and water quality processes that are affected by practice implementation, selecting SWAT parameters that represent the affected processes, performing a sensitivity analysis to ascertain the sensitivity of model outputs to selected parameters, adjusting the selected parameters based on the function of conservation practices, and verifying the reasonableness of the SWAT results. This representation procedure is demonstrated for a case study of a small agricultural watershed in Indiana in the Midwestern USA. The methods developed in the present work can be applied with other watershed models that employ similar underlying equations to represent hydrologic and water quality processes. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.