CDFA Requests Public Comment on $2 Million Pilot Grant Program for Irrigation Efficiency Projects in the Southern Desert Region

Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 by Brian Shobe
The area outlined in red is the region to be served by a newly established $2 million SWEEP Pilot Program. The region consists of both Riverside and Imperial counties and is east of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains.

CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) is accepting public comments for its draft Request for Grant Applications (RGA) for a State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) Pilot Program for the Southern Desert Region of California. Of the $50 million appropriated to SWEEP in the Budget Act of 2021, CDFA is allocating $2 million for the Southern California desert region. Comments are due by March 18, 2022, 5 p.m. PT to

The map screenshots above, taken from CARB’s California Climate Investments map of SWEEP projects, illustrate SWEEP’s regional program inequity visually. Compare the density of projects (each water drop represents one project) in the Central Valley and Central Coast with the small handful of projects in the southern California counties of San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial (zoomed in on second image).


SWEEP was established in 2014 through emergency drought legislation to provide incentives to California farmers who are reducing on-farm water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from irrigation and water pumping systems. Since its development, SWEEP has awarded over 1,000 projects, but very few have been awarded in the southern desert region due to limitations in SWEEP’s GHG and water savings calculators and the region’s specific irrigation and energy circumstances (e.g. the use of gravity-fed surface water and/or portable irrigation pumps). For example, Imperial County — the 10th largest ag-producing county in the state — had only received two SWEEP grants as of 2021.

CalCAN first advocated for CDFA to explore the barriers and opportunities for farmers in southern California to participate in SWEEP in a 2018 Policy Brief, and later sponsored legislation to update SWEEP in 2019 (AB 1086, Bauer-Kahan) and 2020 (AB 2482, Stone). While neither bill was signed into law, the bills resulted in CDFA convening an ad hoc advisory group of 40 farmers and irrigation experts in 2021 to review the program. To improve participation by farmers in the desert region and other regions where farmers face similar barriers, the advisory group recommended in its May 2021 report that CDFA divide SWEEP funding into two categories – ‘Water-focused’ and ‘Water- and GHG-focused’ – and potentially set aside a specific funding amount for each category of project. The advisory group ranked this recommendation 6th out of 48 recommendations, demonstrating its high level of consensus and support. CDFA initially rejected the recommendation, citing funding requirements and staff capacity. To address these concerns, CalCAN proposed piloting the advisory group’s recommendation in southern California in a September 2021 comment letter.

CalCAN applauds CDFA’s decision to establish a water-focused SWEEP pilot for farmers in the southern desert region. We encourage farmers and irrigation experts in the southern desert region to share their comments on the draft RGA with CDFA. Send comments to by 5 p.m. PT on March 18, 2022.

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