SWEEP Grants Available – Technical Assistance and Scoring Clarity

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016 by

Up to $200,000 per agricultural operation is available; applications due August 5, 2016

Last week the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) opened another round of funding for on-farm projects that provide water savings and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. $18 million is available for grants through the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), which is funded by proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program. Eligible project activities include:

  • upgrades to more efficient pumps
  • conversion from furrow or flood irrigation to drip or micro irrigation
  • installation of solar panels to offset irrigation-related energy usage
  • improved water storage and/or recycling (e.g. filters, irrigation pond liners)
  • soil moisture monitoring and irrigation scheduling
Drip irrigation on grapes in CA (Source: NRCS)
Source: NRCS

CalCAN has advocated for on-going funding, technical support, and continual improvements to SWEEP since the program’s inception in 2014. Last month, we presented our SWEEP Progress Report to California’s Environmental Farming Act Science Advisory Panel (EFA SAP), highlighting SWEEP’s successes to-date and identifying opportunities for program improvement.

We encourage growers to apply for SWEEP funding to support their on-farm water-energy efficiency projects. Below we highlight some features of this funding round to keep in mind.

Technical Assistance

Growers interested in applying for SWEEP can attend technical assistance workshops and receive follow-up support during the application period. Resource Conservation Districts, U.C. Cooperative Extension, and Farm Bureau chapters up and down the state are facilitating 23 workshops over the coming weeks. Computer access and an irrigation expert will be on hand at the workshops and for the duration of the application period. These services can help you develop a strong application and lessen the burden of calculating the water savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions from your proposed project.

View the list of workshops by clicking here.

 Additional Project Points

The current SWEEP solicitation lists a few criteria that may give your application a leg up, including:

  • The applicant completes irrigation management training
  • The proposed project is located within a Critically Overdrafted Groundwater Basin and/or is located within a disadvantaged community
  • The project includes the use of beneficial soil management practices
  • The applicant offers matching funds
  • The applicant has not received a SWEEP grant in previous rounds

While SWEEP funds cannot directly pay for these additional project activities, such as irrigation training or soil management practices, they are allowable within your project and may give your project a boost.

CDFA has provided some information about technical reviewer scoring criteria (for 2014 and 2015 rounds only). But there is still ambiguity as to how much weight these additional considerations carry for your application’s success, especially since the list of considerations has significantly expanded in the 2016 rounds.

Applications are scored on a 4-point scale, with 4 being the highest and most likely to be awarded a grant. Grants will likely score well if they have strong per-acre water savings and GHG emission reductions, which are to be calculated using the spreadsheet calculators included with the application. Because applications are ranked based on their estimated per-acre water and GHG benefits, and not on total project benefits, size of project does not impact its evaluation.

The program’s technical reviewers are looking for accurate water and emissions calculations, taking into account excellent supporting documentation and a sound project design. Specifically, a #4 ranking is classified by CDFA as: “overall, project is excellent and will result in water savings and GHG emission reductions” (definition based on 2014/2015 rounds). Projects ranked as 4’s will be the first in line for funding.

Pursuing a project design that will give you the highest per-acre water savings and GHG reductions from the quantification calculators, as well as completing the application correctly with all supporting documentation, is your best bet for success—but including these “additional consideration” criteria may prove helpful within the evaluation process.

CDFA Info Sessions 

CDFA is also offering four grant application workshops in Yolo, Imperial, San Luis Obispo, and Fresno Counties. CDFA staff will be on hand to answer any questions. View the list of info sessions by clicking here.

For a helpful overview of the application resources available on the SWEEP webpage, watch this short video.

For a step-by-step description of the application and evaluation process, click here.

For more information about SWEEP, click here.

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