Ag producers in El Paso County, Texas, interested in conservation practices to manage soil moisture, improve irrigation efficiency, or otherwise conserve ground and surface water resources are encouraged to apply for assistance through EQIP WaterSMART Initiative by Jan. 26, 2024.
Agricultural producers in El Paso County, Texas, interested in conservation practices to manage soil moisture, improve irrigation efficiency, or otherwise conserve ground and surface water resources are encouraged to apply for assistance through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs. While the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepts conservation program applications year-round, producers and landowners should apply by Jan. 26, 2024, to be considered for fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding for this WaterSMART Initiative (WSI).
Texas has one priority area for the WaterSMART Initiative (WSI), a joint effort between Bureau of Reclamation and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to coordinate investments in the western US to help farmers conserve water and become more resilient to drought impacts.
“The WaterSMART Initiative provides additional funding for producers looking for help with practices to improve irrigation and conserve water,” said Kristy Oates, NRCS State Conservationist in Texas. “We encourage producers in El Paso County, Texas, to contact their local office to learn about the WaterSMART Initiative as well as our many other programs. We’re glad that Texas is now part of this initiative.”
NRCS and the Bureau of Reclamation have identified nine new priority areas for fiscal year 2024. In total, $29.7 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding is available through the initiative in 45 priority areas in 16 states including Texas.
Priority areas in Texas include: El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, which is new to the initiative this year.
The collaboration between NRCS and the Bureau of Reclamation is a priority of the National Drought Resilience Partnership. NRCS makes funding for WSI available to producers in priority areas in the American West through its EQIP. The funding helps producers apply conservation practices to complement projects funded by the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART programs. Reclamation’s WaterSMART investments help states, tribes, and local entities plan for and implement projects that increase water supply by providing funds to modernize existing infrastructure and otherwise build drought resilience.
Common practices to save water in irrigated agriculture include:
• Irrigation water management to build drought resilience;
• Irrigation ditch lining, converting earthen ditches to concrete lined ditches to reduce seepage and increase irrigation efficiency;
• Irrigation pipeline to replace open canals;
• Land leveling to increase irrigation efficiency;
• Structures for water control (high volume turnouts) to increase irrigation efficiency;
The El Paso Water Improvement District No. 1 priority area is located within the furthest western portion of El Paso County and the state of Texas. The El Paso Water Improvement District No. 1 delivers water to approximately 49,000 acres of irrigated cropland using concrete lined, unlined, and enclosed canals. Water conservation is extremely important in this area due to frequent, extreme drought conditions and an increasing population. These efforts will further increase water savings by implementing practices that improve irrigation efficiency, increase naturally available soil moisture, and decrease surface water depletion.
To learn more about NRCS programs, producers can contact their local USDA Service Center. Producers can also apply for NRCS programs, manage conservation plans and contracts, and view and print conservation maps by logging into their farmers.gov account. If you don’t have an account, sign up today.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.