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WaterSMART Initiative

Managing water resources in the American West can be challenging. Drought, aging infrastructure, and environmental requirements can strain existing resources. Through NRCS’s WaterSMART Initiative (WSI), we collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to coordinate investments in priority areas for improving our cumulative impact in water conservation and drought resilience.

WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas in FY21

Arizona - Apache, Yavapai, and Maricopa Counties

  • Grover Hills Irrigation District Area: $500,000
  • Upper Verde Watershed and Prescott Active Management Area: $1,000,000  
  • Roosevelt Irrigation Water Supply District Area: $750,000

California - 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

Colorado - La Plata County

  • Florida Ditch Company Area: $250,000            

Kansas - Jewel, Phillips, Republic, and Smith Counties

  • Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District Area: $150,000     
  • Kirwin & Webster Irrigation District Area: $100,000  

Nebraska - Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Hayes, Hitchcock, Lincoln, Perkins, and Red Willow Counties

  • Middle Republican Natural Resources District Area    $523,215    
  • Upper Republican Natural Resources District Area     $250,000

New Mexico - Dona Ana, Eddy, Guadalupe, Quay, San Juan, Sierra, and Socorro Counties

  • Carlsbad Irrigation District Area   $500,000    
  • Navajo Ag Products Industry Area    $500,000    
  • Arch Hurley Conservancy District    $1,000,000    
  • Guadalupe Soil and Water Conservation District    $350,000
  • Elephant Butte Irrigation District    $1,000,000    
  • Animas Watershed     $100,000    
  • Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District    $500,000


  • Walker River Irrigation District:    $600,000

Texas - Cameron and Hidalgo Counties

  • Hidalgo, Cameron county Irrigation Districts: $500,000

Utah - Cache, Morgan, Summit Counties

  • West Cache Canal Company, Hansen and Ezola: $600,000
  • West Cache Canal Company, South Fields: $450,000
  • West Porterville: $20,000
  • West Cache Canal, Newton: $750,000
  • Peoa South Bench Irrigation Company:   $75,000    

Wyoming - Washakie County

  • Hanover Irrigation District: $500,000

NRCS and BOR have been coordinating EQIP and WaterSMART investments since a pilot by California NRCS in 2011.

What’s New?

NRCS has selected 31 priority areas in 10 states to receive $13 million in EQIP funding through the WSI in FY 21. Learn more about each area and the priorities for funding.

How Does the WaterSMART Initiative Work?

The BOR makes their WaterSMART programs available across the Western US 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 WSI 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 found 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.

Beginning in 2020, NRCS refocused on outcomes, acknowledging that each priority area could have its own unique goals. EQIP-WSI activities are now planned for each targeted priority area based on how well they complement Reclamation activities. Activities are implemented over a multi-year project period to achieve the specific goals. Here are results of the current year’s efforts:

EQIP waterSMART Initiative fy20 scorecard thumbnail

EQIP WaterSMART Initiative ScoreCard  (PDF, 2.4MB)

To Learn More About EQIP

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county in which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation. 

Visit the USDA Service Center Locator to find the NRCS representative for your county.

Restored wetland in central Washington.



For more information:

Dan Dostie

Conservation Initiatives Coordinator, WaterSMART Initiative

(202) 720 6558



Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART

National Drought Resilience Partnership

Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience

USDA Drought Programs and Assistance

NRCS’ drought resources.