California initiative offers grants for water efficiency
RED BLUFF, Calif. — Farmers here and in other selected areas of California are being offered about $18 million for projects that conserve water and preserve habitat for wildlife.
The federal Bay Delta Conservation Initiative is offering money through 15 water districts throughout the Central Valley, including newly added districts in Tehama, Kern and Stanislaus counties and in the Lower Colusa Drain, according to a news release.
The program picks up a share of the cost to improve irrigation systems and deal with water quality issues associated with cropland, said Larry Branham, a district conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office here.
“I would think it would be a good opportunity where a farmer has the wherewithal to improve his system and make it more efficient,” Branham said, noting that conservation is all the more important as the drought is causing limits to be placed on surface water and aquifers are under pressure.
Farmers have until Feb. 21 to apply for the latest round of assistance, which includes help with structural systems as well as water management techniques and monitoring of soil moisture, according to Branham.
Since 2012, the initiative has provided $48 million in farmland conservation infrastructure and management improvements and another $32.5 million for easements to protect historic wetlands, according to the release. Funding is through the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program as well as the Bureau of Reclamation.
The programs aim to protect the Bay-Delta watershed, which encompasses more than 38 million acres and provides water for an estimated $400 billion in annual economic activity, including $28 billion in agriculture, the release explains.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service California page: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/ca/home/