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NRCS Announces 31 WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas

Contacts: Jolene Lau 530-792-5690 C: (530) 601-1595

DAVIS, Calif., Nov. 5, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has selected 31 priority areas to receive $13 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding as part of the WaterSMART Initiative (WSI). These investments will help producers on private working lands better conserve water resources in coordination with investments made by water suppliers.

“NRCS is always searching for innovative ways to help farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners to conserve our water supply,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist in California. “Working with the WaterSMART Initiative in conjunction with our EQIP, will allow us to make a bigger impact in critical areas.”

The priority areas are part of a collaborative effort between NRCS and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to modernize existing infrastructure and otherwise build drought resilience. The bureau’s WaterSMART programs, available in the Western U.S., work with states, tribes, and local entities to increase water supply. NRCS helps farmers and ranchers voluntarily address water quantity resource concerns and agricultural drought stress. By aligning investments through WSI, NRCS aims to improve water conservation and drought resilience.

The 31 WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas for FY2021 are in 10 different western states, including California.

"Reclamation works cooperatively with states, tribes and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure through the WaterSMART Program," said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. "This partnership with NRCS maximizes the impact of each agency's program in conserving water and being resilient to drought."

With this additional NRCS assistance, farmers are able to improve irrigation systems and are expected to double irrigation water use efficiency, reduce water use, extend water supply during drought, and benefit downstream water users. In addition to the water-saving benefits, the EQIP funding will help them improve soil health, reduce erosion, and improve the amount and availability of crops. Here's the California listing of priority areas in Kern, Kings, and Tulare Counties:

·        Pixley Irrigation District Area:   $240,000

·        Tulare Irrigation District Area:   $200,000

·        Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District Area: $240,000

·        Ivanhoe Irrigation District Area: $200,000    

·        Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District Area: $800,000

·        North Kern Water Storage District Area: $75,000    

·        Buena Vista Water Storage District Area: $120,000

·        Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District Area: $75,000

This collaboration is a priority highlighted in the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a federal partnership to enhance the Nation’s drought resilience. NRCS and Reclamation have been coordinating alignment of EQIP and WaterSMART investments since a pilot by California NRCS in 2011. This partnership is a priority action identified in the President’s Memorandum Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience and accompanying the Federal Drought Action Plan. USDA, as permanent co-chair, is working with DOI and other members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to better coordinate drought-related programs and policies, help communities reduce the impact of current drought events, and prepare for future droughts.

For information on USDA’s drought mitigation efforts, visit USDA Drought Programs and Assistance. To learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners adapt to changing climate conditions including drought, visit NRCS’ drought resources.