Federal Agencies Pledge $34 Million for Agriculture Conservation Efforts in Drought-Stricken California

California is in its worst drought in the state’s 160 years of recordkeeping, and Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a Drought State of Emergency on Jan. 17. In response, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced funding for water delivery agencies and agricultural producers in early February. The agencies will provide up to $14 million in funding for water districts and associated growers to conserve water and improve water management. The projects funded through this partnership will help communities build resilience to drought by modernizing their water infrastructure to more efficiently use scarce water resources.

This funding opportunity builds upon a Feb. 4 announcement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that funding will be available through NRCS for agricultural water conservation efforts throughout California. Affected landowners have until March 3, 2014 to apply for $20 million in available funds.

The funding is part of broader Obama Administration efforts to help those affected by the drought. Through the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with state, local government, agriculture and other partners on a coordinated response.

Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce are working with the State of California to accelerate water transfers and exchanges, provide operational flexibility to store and convey water, expedite environmental review and compliance actions, and pursue new or fast-track existing projects that might help stretch California’s water supplies. The agencies are seeking maximum flexibility in carrying out water supply operations, investing in conservation measures and coordinating with the California State Water Resources Control Board to implement any new operational standards.

Further, on Jan. 27, California’s Natural Resources Agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture released the California Water Action Plan, defining the state’s goals and vision through 2019 with a focus on sustaining water supplies for people, the environment, industry and agriculture. The governor’s proposed 2014–2015 budget recommends $618.7 million in funding for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control and integrated water management.

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