Water Bond Funds to Support Irrigation Training, Soil-Water Demonstrations, and SWEEP Technical Assistance

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Efficient irrigation at Full Belly Farm. (Photo: Adam Kotin)

Nearly two years after California voters approved the state water bond (Proposition 1), some much-needed funds are headed out the door to support water use efficiency efforts on our farms and ranches.

Training, technical assistance, and demonstration projects are a focus of the proposed grants from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which were announced last week.

Highly-qualified, ground-level partners, including several Resource Conservation Districts, will use their grants to work directly with growers – thereby filling a huge gap in on-farm outreach that persists even as California pours money into win-win agricultural activities to conserve water and energy resources.

We hope that these projects will help bring more equitable access to programs like the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Without technical assistance and training, many small- and medium-scale operations have found it difficult to submit competitive applications to receive grants through this cap-and-trade funded effort. (Read more in our SWEEP Progress Report, released earlier this year.)

DWR has proposed over $5 million in grants for ‘Section B’ projects, which include ‘R&D, Feasibilities, Pilots, and Demonstration Projects’ as well as ‘Technical Assistance, Training, Education, and Outreach’. Importantly, nearly 15% of the total program funds will go to disadvantaged communities and economically-distressed areas.

CalCAN and our coalition partner, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), are proud to have played a role in this development. In 2014, we worked to include $100 million for water use efficiency in the legislation that became Proposition 1. $30 million of those funds were slated for agricultural projects in particular.

We then submitted detailed comments and feedback to DWR as it crafted the program guidelines, successfully encouraging criteria that did several important things:

  • acknowledged the water efficiency and climate benefits of healthy soils management practices;
  • underscored the importance of and gave adequate consideration to training and technical assistance efforts; and
  • created a direct linkage to the SWEEP program and the need for complementary outreach efforts to support that program’s applicants and grantees.

In the end, the projects selected by DWR reflect each of these criteria and, once implemented, will begin to address a number of the deficiencies we have highlighted in the state’s efforts to promote on-farm water efficiency activities that benefit growers, their communities, and the climate.

Below is a sampling of the projects that we are excited to see get off the ground in the near future. A full list of projects proposed for funding can be found by clicking here.

California Association of Resource Conservation Districts is proposed to receive $293,500 for its project to provide ‘Outreach Workshops, Technical Assistance and Irrigation Evaluations to the SWEEP Assistance Program’.

Tehama County Resource Conservation District is proposed to receive $250,000 to support its ‘NSV Mobile Irrigation Lab’.

Resource Conservation District of Monterey County is proposed to receive $296,368 for ‘On-farm Spanish-language Irrigator Certification Training in Water Use Efficiency’.

Alameda County Resource Conservation District’s proposed award of $127,631 would support its ‘Carbon Farm Planning, Feasibility and Pilot Project’.

Sonoma Ecology Center would be awarded $263,123 to support its demonstration project on ‘Using Biochar to Save Water in California Agriculture’.

Napa Resource Conservation District’s proposed award of $137,682 would help with ‘Building Improved Agricultural Water Use Efficiency in Napa County’.

The Vineyard Team is proposed to get $299,935 for its project ‘Improving Ag Water BMP Adoption and Creating a Culture of Conservation through Technical Assistance, Belief Modification, and Attitude Creation’.

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