USDA Water Funds Available Until Aug. 14

Nebraska has five areas approved.

Published on: Aug 4, 2009
Microsoft Word - KS Edited Final Version, Risher, 4-28-09 Five Nebraska projects that promote surface and groundwater conservation and improve water quality have been approved, according to USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The projects fall under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.

The five projects total nearly $9.85 million in federal funds and will be coupled with $7.4 million in local and state funds and in-kind services. Only land located in the project areas can apply for funds.

Applications can be made at local NRCS offices until Aug. 14.

"These projects are a sub-component of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program called the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program and are a partnership effort between NRCS and local sponsors," says Steve Chick, NRCS state conservationist.

The program works best for the producer who wants only to make water conservation or water quality improvements. Landowners who have these same water goals, but who also have additional natural resources objectives for their farms such as animal manure systems, wildlife habitat or grazing systems, should apply for general EQIP funds, Chick says.

Each project is a three- or five-year effort and includes ways to reduce water use. A project summary follows:

The Middle Republican Natural Resources District for the next five years will offer to have a temporary and permanent retirement of irrigated lands to dryland cropping or other land uses. In addition, funds will be used to increase the irrigation efficiency of current irrigation systems, especially gravity systems. A total of $3.1 million in federal funds will be received. About $600,000 of state and local funds are committed to this project. This project area is the entire NRD.

The Lower Platte North NRD has a five-year project to convert irrigated land to dryland production or further reduce water usage by increased irrigation management or using flow meters or other scheduling equipment. About $1.8 million federal funds will be matched by individuals that apply for project practices.

The Little Blue NRD has a three-year effort to improve irrigation water usage in the Hastings wellhead area and another area between Chester and Fairbury. Actions would involve converting gravity to sprinkler irrigation systems, converting some acres from irrigation to dryland, improving efficiency to sprinkler systems and better water management. About $3 million in federal funds will be received with additional NRD, state and landowner funds as well.

The Lower Big Blue NRD has received $400,000 in federal funds, with no local dollars added directly, for a five-year project. The project has two goals: 1. reduce water usage in the Beatrice, Wilber and DeWitt wellfield areas and provide the NRD's groundwater management Phase 2 area with improved irrigation management practices; and 2. reduce soil loss in concentrated flow areas with the installation of small dams.

The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, based in Holdrege, will receive $1.55 million in federal funds that will be combined with $3.55 million of district, the Tri-Basin NRD and local farmer funds. Over the five-year project, the goal is to install 50 new center pivots and 400 acres of sub-surface irrigation. Producers agree to farm pivot corners no-till for four years and take on some record keeping requirements. Targeted areas are lands along the CNPPID supply canal southeast of North Platte and acres in Gosper, Phelps, and Kearney Counties.

Nebraska had five of the 63 projects approved in 21 states. Landowners can get more program details at any NRCS field office or by visiting