Colorado Project named a priority area in USDA WaterSMART Initiative |

Colorado Project named a priority area in USDA WaterSMART Initiative


DENVER — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service has selected 31 priority areas to receive $13 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding as part of the WaterSMART Initiative (WSI). These investments will help producers on private working lands better conserve water resources in coordination with investments made by water suppliers.

“Our farmers and ranchers are stepping up to the plate to partner with communities to gain efficiencies to better conserve our water supply,” said Clint Evans, NRCS state conservationist in Colorado. “Working with the WaterSMART Initiative allows us to make a bigger impact where it’s most needed.”

The priority areas are part of a collaborative effort between NRCS and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to modernize existing infrastructure and otherwise build drought resilience. The bureau’s WaterSMART programs, available in the Western U.S., work with states, tribes, and local entities to increase water supply. NRCS helps farmers and ranchers voluntarily address water quantity resource concerns and agricultural drought stress. By aligning investments through WSI, NRCS aims to improve water conservation and drought resilience.

The 31 WaterSMART Initiative Priority Areas for FY2021 are in 10 different western states, including Colorado.

“Reclamation works cooperatively with states, tribes and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure through the WaterSMART Program,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “This partnership with NRCS maximizes the impact of each agency’s program in conserving water and being resilient to drought.”

Colorado’s project, called the Florida Ditch Company, is in the Southwestern part of the state, located in La Plata County. It will address two main resource concerns, insufficient water (inefficient use of irrigation water) and water quality degradation (excessive salts in surface and groundwater).

Funding will be used for both off farm and on farm installation of irrigation pipelines, structures for water control, sprinklers, gated pipe and irrigation water management.

A full listing of the priority areas is available on the NRCS website.

This collaboration is a priority highlighted in the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a federal partnership to enhance the nation’s drought resilience. NRCS and Reclamation have been coordinating alignment of EQIP and WaterSMART investments since a pilot by California NRCS in 2011.

This partnership is a priority action identified in the President’s Memorandum Building National Capabilities for Long-Term Drought Resilience and accompanying the Federal Drought Action Plan. USDA, as permanent co-chair, is working with DOI and other members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership to better coordinate drought-related programs and policies, help communities reduce the impact of current drought events, and prepare for future droughts.

For information on USDA’s drought mitigation efforts, visit USDA Drought Programs and Assistance. To learn more about how NRCS is helping private landowners adapt to changing climate conditions including drought, visit NRCS’ drought resources.