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News Release

USDA Announces Funding of 31 WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas


WASHINGTON, 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.

“Our farmers and ranchers are stepping up to the plate to partner with communities to gain efficiencies to better conserve our water supply,” said Kevin Norton, Acting Chief of NRCS. “Working with the WaterSMART Initiative allows us to make a bigger impact where it’s most needed.”

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.

"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."

An example priority area is the Arch Hurley Conservancy District in Quay County, N.M. The district used Reclamation WaterSMART funds to line earthen ditches with sodium bentonite to save 13,000 acre‐feet of water. With the additional NRCS assistance, farmers were able to improve irrigation systems and are expected to double irrigation water use efficiency, reduce water use by an estimated 200 to 300 acre‐feet of water, 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.

A full listing of the priority areas is available on the NRCS website.

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.




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