Water-Saving Climate Program Awards $16 million

Sprinkler irrigation in an pear orchard in California. (NRCS)
Sprinkler irrigation in a pear orchard in California.

Yesterday, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that it had awarded 129 water-saving, greenhouse gas-reducing on-farm efficiency projects with a total of $16 million in funding.

This new set of projects comes on top of a previous 233 projects receiving grants through CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). SWEEP, which is funded by cap-and-trade auction revenues, requires that these on-farm projects both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water. The program has now completed four full funding rounds, and has led to the installation of soil moisture monitoring equipment, upgraded pumps, solar PV arrays, and numerous other on-farm activities that reduce the significant energy requirements associated with irrigation water usage.

The benefits of this program are real: we estimate that projects funded in the first three rounds will save an estimated 37,490 acre-feet of water per year and an estimated 11,278 Tonnes CO2e per year, over the length projects’ 10-15 year lifetimes. That’s the equivalent of saving 12.2 billion gallons and taking 2,374 passenger vehicles off the road each and every year.

SWEEP has so far received the most funding out of all of California’s climate-smart agriculture programs, with a total of $60 million allocated to the program so far. Due to the ongoing drought, it has taken on a particular significance and importance to the Governor’s administration, the legislature, and the agricultural community.

It is therefore critical that as the program continues, it continues to evolve to meet the needs of the diversity of California growers who are not only suffering from extreme drought but who also have real climate solutions to offer through innovative water stewardship practices.

To address this need, CalCAN has been working since last fall to complete a comprehensive ‘progress report’ on the SWEEP program, using data from previous funding rounds, as well as information gleaned from project solicitations and numerous conversations with CDFA and stakeholders. The final progress report, to be released in early May, contains a set of findings and recommendations for improving SWEEP’s efficacy, results, and reach.

We look forward to sharing those insights with you – and with the decision-makers in Sacramento – when our final report is released in a couple of weeks. This report is one more way that CalCAN and our partners seek to forward the conversation about how to best unlock the incredible potential of California agriculture to offer practical, multi-benefit, climate change solutions.

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