The Freshwater Trust receives grant to help farmers & conservationists in CaliforniaJune 30, 2017
PORTLAND, OR — The Freshwater Trust (TFT) was awarded $779,000 through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program for a new initiative in California.
Drought has spurred the enacting of regulations requiring farmers and ranchers to sustainably manage and ultimately improve water quality and quantity in the state. To comply with these programs, agricultural producers will need to make management decisions that affect ecosystems, their land and livelihoods.
With this grant, TFT will build a data-driven system to identify what actions within a watershed or groundwater basin will be most effective at meeting the goals implemented through recent regulations.
It will allow producers to explore and evaluate the economic and production impacts of their options for meeting compliance. And it will streamline strict reporting requirements the regulations have set forth.
“We’re building a tool to help the conservation community and producers work more collaboratively to evaluate their options under these new regulations and then comply more efficiently and cost-effectively,” said David Primozich, conservation director with TFT.
The CIG program awards funds to public and private grantees to “develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges,” according to NRCS, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. Since 2004, nearly $287 million has been invested in 711 different projects.
Three recent regulations with pressing requirements for farmers and ranchers include the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP), the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and Senate Bill 88 (SB88).
ILRP was formed to regulate discharges from agriculture in order to prevent those discharges from impairing waterways. It protects the quality of both surface and groundwater from nitrates. SGMA mandates the formation of regional Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) responsible for developing and implementing plans to achieve sustainable groundwater management. SB88 added measurement and reporting requirements for a majority of water diverters.
According to TFT, while the new programs have been introduced with the intention of fostering better tracking, monitoring, and sustainable management of freshwater resources, they do not integrate with one another in a basin-wide context. Tools do not currently exist to evaluate the economic implications of certain actions over others nor are there ways for the reporting required under these regulations to be seamless.
“Consequently, without a system like what we’re creating, these regulations may not be as effective at making a difference for California’s water resources,” said Primozich. “There is a clear need for a comprehensive framework to help navigate the regulatory process from start to finish – from planning a potential conservation action to reporting on progress. “
The system will first be built specifically for Sacramento Valley’s Solano County. There are approximately 860 farms producing 80 different commodities including fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, seed, nursery stock and livestock there. The region’s producers will be required to comply with ILRP, SGMA and SB88.
“While we are using Solano as a case study, we want what we develop to have broad applicability,” said Primozich. “We’ll be sharing our process with the public as we want these kinds of solutions are made accessible for others.”
TFT received its grant through CIG’s “Data Analytics” category. Other categories include “Conservation Finance,” “Water Management” and “Historically Underserved.” Approximately $22 million was awarded to 33 projects this year.
In 2011, TFT received a three-year national CIG of nearly $1 million to complete the framework for water quality trading in Oregon. This support led to the launch of TFT’s award-winning natural infrastructure program with the city of Medford. TFT planted thousands of trees along the Rogue and its tributaries to create shade and offset the impacts of warm water being discharged by the plant after treatment.
“Conservation Innovations Grants are competitive,” said Primozich. “It’s an honor to be supported by a program like this. We’re ready to put together an innovative solution that yields real results for people and freshwater in the state.”
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