New Water Efficiency Technical Assistance (WETA) Program to Support Irrigation Water Efficiency and Nutrient Management

Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2021 by Anna Larson
Sprinkler irrigation in an pear orchard in California. (NRCS)

New Water Efficiency Technical Assistance Program Announced

UPDATE November 23: Accepting Applications until 5pm PST, January 19, 2022

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced this month that it is developing a new program to support technical assistance to farmers and ranchers for on-farm water and energy use efficiency and nutrient management and has released draft guidance with final details subject to change. The draft program requires that grant recipients prioritize assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and farms and ranches that are 500 acres or less.

Funds will support 1) on-farm, one-on-one technical assistance to help farmers evaluate irrigation system efficiency, 2) the coordination or provision of irrigation pump efficiency testing , and 3) farmer training on water use efficiency and nutrient management practices and technology. 

The technical assistance will be provided at no cost to farmers and ranchers. Notably, the new program can pay for pump efficiency testing, which is a requirement in order for farmers and ranchers to apply to the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program (SWEEP), though funds cannot be used to help farmers apply to or implement SWEEP or other CDFA Climate Smart Agriculture programs. 

Draft Program Details

The draft guidance, subject to change in the final guidance, states that grants will be awarded through a competitive grant application process to eligible technical assistance providers, which includes Resource Conservation Districts; University of California, California Community Colleges, or California State Universities; non-profits; and federally and California-recognized Native American Indian Tribes. 

Applicants must have demonstrated expertise in on-farm irrigation water and energy use efficiency standards, evaluation and implementation of efficient practices and/or on-farm nutrient management, and are encouraged to partner with groundwater sustainability agencies, irrigation districts, and/or water quality coalitions.

“The technical assistance offered through this new program is coming at a critical time as California farmers are facing severe drought,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “Fortunately, agricultural partner organizations have the expertise to help farmers strengthen the drought resiliency and water efficiency of their farms. We are pleased to offer funding to support technical assistance and look forward to the feedback of stakeholders as we develop this important program.”

CalCAN is excited to see the new technical assistance program advance as it supports a number of the recommendations made as part of the SWEEP ad hoc advisory group, summarized in a previous blog post

Eligible organizations may request up to $500,000 for a grant term of 36 months out of a total of $5 million allocated to the program. CDFA released a draft Request for Grant Applications and received public comments to inform the to-be-announced final Request for Grant Applications. The program is not yet accepting applications and the solicitation process timeline has yet to be announced. Updates are available at CDFA’s technical assistance page here.  CalCAN will also post updates to the program as we have them.  

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