USDA Invests $21 Million in Effort to Help Producers Build #Drought Resilience: NRCS Names 15 New Priority Areas in WaterSMART Initiative

A bumble bee does its thing with a flower on Pennsylvania Mountain. Photo/Christine Carlson

Here’s the release from the USDA:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $21 million as part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) collaboration with the Department of Interior’s (DOI) WaterSMART Initiative to help farmers and ranchers conserve water and build drought resilience in their communities. These investments complement projects by irrigation districts, water suppliers and other organizations receiving WaterSMART Program funds from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. NRCS works with Reclamation to coordinate investments in the same community for accelerating water conservation and drought resilience and making a bigger impact where it is most needed.

“The consequences of drought have continued to impact farms, ranches and communities across much of the West and other parts of the country,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “Drought is a complex challenge, and our collaboration on WaterSMART is part of our strategic approach to help producers conserve water and build resilience while also bringing important partners to the table. Bringing as many like-minded individuals and groups as possible to innovate together is our best solution for water management in the West.”

“Reclamation’s collaboration with NRCS maximizes each agency’s investment in tackling conservation and building drought resiliency in the West,” said DOI Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “Earlier this year, Reclamation awarded $42.4 million to 55 WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Projects to support on-the-ground improvements to conserve water and build resilience to drought. Many of the projects announced by NRCS today will complement existing WaterSMART projects, maximizing the benefits of each agency’s conservation programs.”

In fiscal year 2022, NRCS will invest in 15 new priority areas and 25 existing priority areas with continued need, assisting producers and communities in 13 states across the West. NRCS is providing the funding through Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

New WaterSmart Priority Areas

The 15 new priority areas include:

California (Funding amount: $1,160,000)

  • Eastern Municipal Water District Area (Riverside)
  • McMullen Area (Fresno)
  • Idaho (Funding amount: $3,417,000)

  • King Hill Irrigation District (Elmore)
  • Preston East Lateral Area (Franklin)
  • St. John East Lateral Area (Oneida)
  • Twin Falls Service Area (Twin Falls)
  • Nevada (Funding amount: $500,000)

  • Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (Churchill)
  • New Mexico (Funding amount: $470,000)

  • Bloomfield Irrigation District (San Juan)
  • Fort Sumner Irrigation District (De Baca)
  • Oklahoma (Funding amount: $100,000)

  • Blue River Watershed District (Johnston)
  • Utah (Funding amount: $1,500,000)

  • North & South Litz Lateral (Cache)
  • Washington (Funding amount: $1,900,000)

  • Kittitas Reclamation District (Kittitas)
  • Whitestone Reclamation District (Okanogan)
  • Wyoming (Funding amount: $780,000)

  • Heart Mountain Irrigation District (Park)
  • Lovell Irrigation District (Big Horn)
  • In total, there are 46 active projects for delivering WaterSMART assistance. Visit the WaterSMART webpage to learn more.

    How WaterSMART Works
    Private land managers such as farmers and ranchers can leverage money and resources of irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water delivery authority in their community by coordinating their efforts to conserve and use water more efficiently; increasing the production of renewable energy; mitigating future water conflict in areas at a high risk; and other activities that contribute to water supply sustainability in the Western United States.

    Through the WaterSMART Initiative, funds are allocated to targeted areas for eligible participants to enter contracts. Each WaterSMART Initiative project area is carrying out different phases of program delivery at the same time— funding, implementation and evaluation.

    NRCS and Reclamation, the nation’s largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power, have been coordinating EQIP and WaterSMART investments since 2011, the effort began as a pilot in California .

    This federal collaboration works to provide states, Tribes, local water management entities, and water users alike with coordinated resources to plan and implement actions which balance water supply and demand through modernizing existing infrastructure, improving agricultural landscapes to conserve water resources and bringing attention to local water conflicts.

    More Information 

    In addition to helping producers build resilience, USDA is also helping drought-impacted producers recover. Other recent actions include:

  • Investing $41.8 million through a four-state pilot of the Conservation Incentive Contracts focused on drought practices.
  • Expanding the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program to cover feed transportation costs.
  • Extending deadlines for crop insurance premium and administrative fees, and deferring interest accrual.
  • Streamlining and accelerating losses and issuance of indemnity payments for crop insurance.
  • Investing $15 million through a block grant to the Klamath Drought Response Agency to provide payments to producers to reduce irrigation demand.
  • Drought Coordination

    USDA is coordinating with federal agencies, state governments, Tribes, and others to address the impacts of drought. This includes a new interagency working group created in April by the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Climate Task Force to address the worsening drought conditions in the West and support farmers. USDA co-chairs the task force with the Department of Interior.

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