Improving on-farm water conservation and water use efficiency has multiple co-benefits for farmers and the environment. Farmers can save money by cutting energy bills associated with pumping water, which also reduces GHG emissions and increases farm resilience.
CalCAN has advocated for and influenced the design of the following programs that provide funding for farmers to improve water conservation and reduce GHG emissions.
State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program
In 2014, under an emergency drought declaration, Governor Brown authorized a new program called the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). The money comes from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, raised from cap-and-trade allowance revenue. SWEEP is run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to provide financial assistance to growers for on-farm improvements that both reduce GHG emissions and save water.
Eligible projects currently include:
- Weather, soil or plant based sensors for irrigation scheduling
- Micro-irrigation or drip systems
- Conversion of a fossil fuel pumps to solar, wind, electric, or natural gas
- Improved energy efficiency (e.g., retrofitting or replacing pumps)
- Low pressure irrigation systems
- Variable frequency drives to reduce energy use and match pump flow to load requirements.
- Reduced pumping (e.g., improved irrigation scheduling)
- Other management practices that save water and reduce GHG emissions (e.g., soil management practices such as cover cropping and compost addition that increase water-holding capacity
For more information on current grant cycles and application procedures, click here.
Approved by voters in the November 2014 election (Proposition 1), the water bond includes $100 million for water use efficiency projects in agricultural and urban areas. CalCAN advocated for the inclusion of funding to support on-farm water use efficiency projects, which past bonds had failed to adequately include.
At a time of severe drought, the water bond provides an important infusion of funding for conservation, water recycling, groundwater and safe drinking water projects. The $7.45 billion water bond is not without controversial elements, including $2.7 billion for new dams and reservoirs.
An analysis of past state water bonds conducted by our coalition partner, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), found that few dollars went toward supporting farmers in improving water use efficiency on their land. For example, of the $37 million from Proposition 50 that funded agricultural water use efficiency since 2005, nearly three-quarters of the funding has gone to infrastructure and engineering projects such as pipelines, canals and pumps. Only 8% of those funds have helped farmers implement proven, inexpensive on-farm water conservation practices such as irrigation scheduling, soil moisture monitoring, or keyline design.
That story is changing with Proposition 1 funding, thanks in part to the advocacy of CalCAN and CAFF.
We submitted detailed comments and feedback to the Department of Water Resources (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 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.
The projects selected by DWR in 2016 reflect each of the criteria above. $30 million was made available in 2016 for on-farm water conservation measures, $5 million of which went to technical assistance, training, and demonstration projects. We hope that these projects will improve farmer access to programs like the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), as many small- and medium-scale operations have found it difficult to submit competitive applications without such technical assistance.
A sampling of the projects that we are excited to see get off the ground can be found here.