Through NRCS’s EQIP WaterSMART Initiative, we collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation to coordinate investments in priority areas for improving our cumulative impact in water conservation and drought resilience.
Managing water resources in the American West can be challenging. Drought, aging infrastructure, and environmental requirements can strain existing resources. Through NRCS’s EQIP WaterSMART Initiative (WSI), we collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation to coordinate investments in priority areas for improving our cumulative impact in water conservation and drought resilience.
NRCS and Reclamation have been coordinating EQIP and WaterSMART investments since a pilot by California NRCS in 2011.
For Fiscal Year 2024, NRCS selected 9 new priority areas and is continuing to offer funding in 36 prior approved areas, making $29.7 million in EQIP funding available through the WSI across 16 states.
Read about the funded projects in WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas.
How Does the WaterSMART Initiative Work?
Reclamation makes their WaterSMART programs available across the Western US and other areas to 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.
NRCS uses EQIP WaterSmart funds to complement Reclamation WaterSMART funded projects by helping eligible farmers and ranchers make improvements that align with the paired Reclamation WaterSMART project.
Eligible farmers and ranchers with operations in a selected priority area will be automatically ranked in the EQIP-WSI targeted fund pool when they apply for EQIP funding.
How does WSI benefit producers?
Through this initiative NRCS provides eligible EQIP applicants with the additional resources and tools needed to manage soil moisture, improve irrigation water use efficiency in crop and pasture lands, and protect irrigation water sources from depletion.
In addition, EQIP funding also helps farmers and ranchers improve soil health; reduce soil erosion, sediment, nutrient, and pathogen loss in fields; protect crop health and productivity; and make using equipment, facilities, and agricultural operations more efficient.
How does WSI benefit the public?
By coordinating NRCS’s EQIP and Reclamation’s WaterSMART investments, this federal collaboration works to ensure that water users conserve this vital resource for use during droughts or use by others in the community needing it for clean drinking water or energy, industry, management of wetlands, streams, rivers, and lakes, and other uses. This collaboration is a priority of the National Drought Resilience Partnership.
With the success of the pilot effort in California from 2011 to 2015, multi-state coordination followed. Between 2016 and 2020, NRCS and Reclamation coordinated to fund complementary investments in 10 different states. The agencies worked together to document and publicize the successes of their collaborative results and coordinated efforts.
NRCS continues to work with partners and producers to address unique challenges faced by agriculture and communities across the West through implementing multi-year funding projects for achieving specific goals. EQIP-WSI activities are planned for each targeted priority area based on how well they complement the activities of a specific Reclamation funded project.
Read more about the Initiatives' outcomes and impacts in our progress report:
Successful Project Highlights
- Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART
- National Drought Resilience Partnership
- Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience
- USDA Drought Programs and Assistance on Farmers.gov
Contact: Dan Dostie, Conservation Initiatives Coordinator, WaterSMART Initiative
(202) 720 6558
Oregon's WaterSMART Initiative
Middle Fork Irrigation District
County: Hood River
Through NRCS’s EQIP WaterSMART Initiative, we collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation to coordinate investments in priority areas for improving our cumulative impact in water conservation and drought resilience. The Middle Fork Irrigation District WaterSMART project is to assist local orchardists and pasture operators with irrigation infrastructure improvements. This project complements a Bureau of Reclamation project to pipe the Middle Fork Irrigation District’s diversion from Coe Creek to an existing settling pond.
Primary Resource Concern Addressed
- Source Water Depletion – Surface Water Depletion
- Source Water Depletion – Inefficient Irrigation Water Use and Surface Water Depletion
- Weather Resilience – Naturally Available Moisture Use
Conservation Practices Offered
- Irrigation Pipeline (430)
- Irrigation System, Microirrigation (441)
- Sprinkler System (442)
- Irrigation Water Management (449)
- Structure for Water Control (587)
NRCS uses these questions to evaluate applications for this initiative and to prioritize applications for potential funding. State and national ranking questions also apply. See more information on the EQIP program page.
- Has the applicant previously done any irrigation system upgrades to property within the MFID boundary on their own funding?
- Will the irrigation efficiency improvement gained by the proposed project show a 20% or more gain using the NRCS Irrigation Water Savings Estimator?
- Is the applicant willing to work with the SWCD and OSU to adopt a higher than “basic” level of Irrigation Water Management?
- Will the contract be no longer than 3 years in length?
- Is this proposed project for Irrigation Water Management only, with no upgrades to the irrigation system?
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.