Agriculture Secretary (DOA) Tom Vilsack and Interior Dept. Bureau of Land Reclamation (BLR) Commissioner Estevan López on June 23 announced $47 million in funding for 76 local projects to conserve and enhance water and energy efficiency, as well as improve federal response to drought in 13 western states.
The bulk of the federal funding – $32.6 million to fund 53 sustainable water projects in 11 states – comes from Interior’s WaterSMART program. Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing $5.2 million of EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) funds to assist farmers to carry out previously funded SmartWATER projects and another $10 million to support some of the projects announced June 23 aimed at improving on-farm water delivery systems.
BLR, the largest wholesale provider of water in the U.S., supplies irrigation water to 1 in 5 western farmers cultivating 10 million acres, as well as potable water for more than 31 million people across 17 western states, the agencies highlight in a news release.
Smarter water and energy use
Secretary Vilsack and Commissioner Lopez were joined by a local water authority and landowner when they announced the funding awards in in southeastern Brighton, Colorado.
“By working with communities and producers to more wisely manage the water they have, we help ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, agriculture, economic activities, recreation, and ecosystem health,” Vilsack said. “As drought continues across the west, our farmers and ranchers are stepping up to the plate to partner with communities and strengthen efficiency to better conserve our water supply.”
“Water and energy efficiency are intricately linked,” Commissioner López added. “When we conserve water, we also conserve the energy it takes to move it. One way we can achieve these efficiencies is to bring federal resources to the table for local projects that focus on saving water. This program represents one more way we’re focusing resources on projects to provide resiliency in the face of drought.”
Interior’s SmartWATER funding comes via competitive Water and Energy Efficiency grants managed by BLR. The shared-cost grants are awarded for projects that conserve or use water or energy more efficiently, install renewable energy capacity, ¨benefit endangered and threatened species, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water, or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict,¨ the federal agencies explain.
Adding in investment by local and other funding sources for the 53 new projects announced should result in more than $128 million in efficiency improvements, including the monetary value of water savings of an anticipated 123,000 acre-feet.
BLR also awarded $4.9 million in 23 cost-share WaterSMART Drought Response Program grants. Local partners’ investments will bring the total to $23.5 million. The recently introduced program follows through on a Presidential Memorandum that identifies enhancing the resilience of water supplies and infrastructure to drought and climate change as a federal government priority. Managed by BLR, the program provides assistance to end-users for drought contingency planning, including consideration of climate change information in taking actions to build long-term resiliency to drought.
*Image credits: 1) USDA; 2) USGS Water Science School