Agriculture and Interior Departments announce $5.3 million for agricultural water use projects

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2012 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes today announced that collaboration between the agencies to improve the efficiency of agricultural water use throughout the State of California.

Agencies of the Department of the Interior (Bureau of Reclamation) and Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service), are working together to leverage funds for water delivery agencies and agricultural producers for a second consecutive year, and will provide $5.3 million in funding to five water districts and associated growers to save water and improve water management.

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"By working in partnership, USDA and Interior better ensure that water management efforts enhance water supplies and sustain our natural resources," said Merrigan.

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the cooperative pilot program to fund water conservation and water use efficiency projects last year. Reclamation and NRCS partnered again this year.

With NRCS support, Reclamation selected five projects for funding, totaling $2.3 million under its Agricultural Conservation and Efficiency Grants program. According to a USDA statement, the selected projects will increase district-level efficiencies and facilitate farm water conservation and water use efficiency. NRCS will provide up to an additional $3 million in funding, and technical assistance to growers in the selected districts, for eligible on-farm conservation practices.

The five recipients of the funding are the Henry Miller Reclamation District 2131, Firebaugh Canal Water District, Tulare Irrigation District, Rancho California Water District and Central California Irrigation District.

The following provides details on the selected projects (all reported water savings are estimated district-level savings and do not include estimated on-farm savings):

Tulare Irrigation District
Canal Modernization Project, Phase II
Reclamation Funding: $467,200, Total Project Cost: $934,400
The district will install flow measurement and automated delivery devices at the headworks of Packwood Creek, Evans Canal and regulating basins within the district. The project will improve water management capabilities within the district's canal system and facilitate flexibility to meet grower irrigation demands. The project will reduce system spills and is expected to save 1,355 acre-feet of water annually.

Rancho California Water District
Enhanced Agricultural Efficiency Program
Reclamation Funding: $174,355, Total Project Cost: $350,382
The district will implement remote sensing technologies that include weather stations for localized evapotranspiration data and probes for generating soil moisture data. The project will provide more accurate data for estimating crop water requirements, improve irrigation scheduling and efficiency, optimize crop yields, and reduce soil erosion and deposition of fertilizer-borne pollutants into local surface and ground waters. The project is expected to conserve 276 acre-feet of water annually.

Firebaugh Canal Water District
Second Lift Canal Lining Project, Phase III
Reclamation Funding: $500,000, Total Project Cost: $2,150,000
The project will allow concrete lining of 2.2 miles of earthen canal to prevent seepage, as well as eliminate high sediment loads in delivered water. By decreasing suspended silts, growers can reduce the back flushing and filtering needed for efficient farm irrigation systems such as drip, or sub-surface, drip irrigation. Through reductions in seepage, the project is expected to conserve 485 acre-feet of water annually.

Central California Irrigation District
East Ditch Reservoir and Santa Rita Canal Reservoir Project
Reclamation Funding: $1,000,000, Total Project Cost: $3,700,000
The proposed project will construct two regulating reservoirs to capture operational spills and drain water from canals. The reservoirs will provide mid-stream storage to hold the captured water and release it back into the irrigation system as needed, improving delivery flexibility and providing more precise control of irrigation flows. The project is expected to conserve 12,000 acre-feet of water annually.

Henry Miller Reclamation District
Lower Arroyo Canal Modernization Project
Reclamation Funding: $117,532, Total Project Cost: $239,350
The project will install five long crested weirs on the Lower Arroyo Canal. The weirs precisely control canal water levels and help prevent system spills. Installing the weirs will reduce water level fluctuations, providing more constant deliveries to improve reliability and flexibility of deliveries to growers. It will also promote accurate measuring and water accounting. The project is expected to conserve 4,750 acre-feet of water annually.


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