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Bay Delta Initiative

Bay Delta Initiative
 
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  Regional Conservationists Office
  (202) 690-2196

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The Bay Delta Initiative

Through the Bay Delta Initiative (BDI) the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its local partners aim to address the critical water quantity, water quality and habitat restoration needs of the Bay Delta region by implementing voluntary conservation practices on private lands.

The Bay Delta region, located in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds of California, encompasses over 38 million acres and is one of the most important estuary systems in the nation. This region provides drinking water for more than 23 million people and irrigation water to four million acres of farmland. Over $400 billion in economic activities occur in the region.

America's stewardship of the Bay Delta is critical. Increased demand for limited water resources and declining water quality threaten the continued economic and environmental well-being of the region.

For over 75 years, USDA and NRCS have partnered with agricultural producers, forest landowners, urban and suburban residents and other conservation partners to restore wetlands and enhance aquatic and other wildlife habitat on working agricultural land and private non-industrial forest land in the Bay watershed.

How does BDI Work?

NRCS, in consultation with local conservation partners, has identified three resource conservation priorities in the BDI region:

  • Water conservation on irrigated cropland with emphasis on increasing water use efficiency within federal and state Water Project Areas.
  • Water quality improvements on irrigated cropland and dairies with emphasis on improved nutrient management and reduced soil erosion.
  • Ecosystem restoration for increased habitat and improved water supply.

NRCS provides agricultural producers technical and financial assistance in the Bay Delta region to implement conservation practices that improve water quality and quantity, and restore and protect wetland, riparian and wet meadow habitat. Farm Bill conservation programs available to producers include Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers and ranchers in the area have separate funding sources.

How does BDI Benefit Producers?

Agricultural producers will experience immediate benefits from participating in BDI through improved irrigation efficiency. More specifically, benefits include:

  • Improvements in irrigation water management help maintain the long-term viability of the irrigated agricultural sector.
  • Water savings at the farm level help offset the effect of rising water costs and restricted water supplies on producer income.
  • Improved water management reduce expenditures for energy, chemicals and labor inputs, while enhancing revenues through higher crop yields and improved crop quality.

How does BDI Benefit the Public?

Water Quality & Wildlife Protection - Voluntary wetland restoration has proved an effective tool for trapping this sediment and benefiting both water quality and migratory birds.

For example, through the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) landowners have voluntarily worked with NRCS and conservation partners to successfully enroll and restore more than 10,000 acres of habitat along 20 contiguous miles in Colusa County, Cali. Although this land is still subject to flooding and inundation, it now serves to trap and filter sediment.

The $22 million invested in WRP through BDI in 2011 resulted in 48 landowners restoring 21,000 acres of wetlands. These projects are expected to improve in water quality and habitat similar to that of Colusa County, but on twice as much acreage throughout the Bay-Delta Watershed.

Water Conservation -  NRCS and the Bureau of Reclamation each contributed funding to a joint pilot effort to simultaneously improve irrigation infrastructure and on-farm irrigation efficiencies. This is a unique opportunity to approach water efficiency in a comprehensive way, knitting together the needs of the water system and the individual users in five water storage and irrigation districts throughout the Central Valley.

Partnership Opportunities

BDI offers partners an avenue to tackle challenging issues from the ground-up, using the NRCS voluntary conservation approach, employing both technical and financial assistance. While partners continue to work with the agency to define areas of opportunity to jointly leverage their efforts for maximum effectiveness, the Initiative has already seen promising results.

NRCS is building a foundation of partners from non-profit and private organizations, local, state, and federal governments and individuals across the nation. Whether these partnerships augment funding sources, increase return on investment, or provide boots-on-the-ground support, NRCS and its partners are committed to helping people help the land.