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Agricultural water efficiency program to provide $6 million in funding
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The California Department of Water Resources and California Department of Food and Agriculture have partnered together to provide $6 million in grant funding to help enhance the agricultural water efficiency of water suppliers and operations throughout the state.


On Tuesday, the two programs released a Request for Proposals for joint applications involving funding for both agricultural water suppliers and agricultural operations. The pilot program will combine $3 million in funding from DWR’s Proposition 1 fund for agricultural water suppliers to pressurize the delivery of water directly to growers, which modernizes water deliveries to match technological upgrades by growers to create more efficient irrigation system, and $3 million from CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program for growers to receive that water and utilize it through technologies such as drip, subsurface drip and micro-sprinkler irrigation systems.


“This is the one of many partnerships that break down silos between the agencies and use our respective authorities to find solutions designed to reduce greenhouse gases and save water,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.


Agricultural water suppliers such as irrigation districts will be the lead applicants for the joint program and will work with agricultural operations within their service areas to prepare a proposal for funding.


DWR and CDFA intend to demonstrate the multiple benefits of water conveyance enhancements combined with on-farm water-use efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas reductions. The agencies also anticipate that the projects funded through this program will improve water and air quality, groundwater security, surface water conservation, nutrient management and crop health.


A local example of an agricultural operation that aims to enhance agricultural water efficiency is the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District near Denair. As the first pressurized improvement district in Turlock Irrigation District’s service area — which at the time of its inception nearly five years ago was described as nothing less than “historic” — the district remains a viable option for growers looking to improve the efficiency of their agricultural water use.


“From TID’s perspective, it works fine,” said spokesman Calvin Curtin, who said that TID is only responsible for delivering water to the improvement district. “We’ve had no issues or concerns with the improvement district. We haven’t experienced any difficulties with it."


In December 2012, the TID Board of Directors voted to authorize the formation of the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District, which has since remained as the “only one of its kind in TID.” The district converted nearly 200 acres of land near Denair from flood irrigation to micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation, although it has retained their flood irrigation capability. The formation of the district dates back to August 2010 when growers met in garages to build support among neighbors for the improvement district’s formation.


Rather than run low-pressure water through 80-year-old concrete pipelines, the new system uses PVC pipes. The water comes from TID canals, is pressurized, then can be used to run water-efficient micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation systems for longer durations, at lower flows.


“TID is always exploring ways to improve the efficient delivery of water and potentially pressurized systems could be part of that scenario,” added Curtin.


Pressurized improvement districts like the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District could be eligible for funding through the joint program. Curtin said that TID could also potentially apply for some funding to help offset the costs of projects that the irrigation district has been considering, including putting in infrastructure to deliver water to farmers or helping to better deliver pressurized water to growers.


DWR and CDFA will hold an informational webinar at 10:30 a.m. Monday to provide information on program objectives, eligibility, and application process. To register for the application webinar and to find out more on the joint program, visit Grant applications will be due on April 21.