Protection Funding Available
by Joy Eldredge
The USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) assisted O’Neal Ranch owner William O'Neal Jamison with a cost share of three new, photovoltaic
panels that produce electricity and power the electric well pumps to draw water from below ground in Madera County, California. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
DID YOU KNOW WATER PROVIDERS WILL BE ABLE TO TAP INTO UP TO $4 BILLION IN FUNDS
available nationwide over the next decade to protect water at the source?
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the Farm Bill, requires 10 percent of all U.S. Department of
Agriculture conservation programs to be dedicated to source water protection.
It’s the first time that funds have been directed toward source water protection in this way, and it reflects the efforts of AWWA and
others to educate lawmakers about how source protection may reduce treatment costs and also improve drinking water quality.
Addressing Seasonal Changes to Water Quality
This funding may help water providers meet challenges to
surface water treatment plants brought on by seasonal changes in
The dry months and sunny weather that make the West
attractive for living and growing food are often followed by
relatively short spurts of intense rains. This cycle impacts water
supply, as the dust and dirt that naturally build up during
dry times are flushed into waterways by the first rainstorms.
Depending on the location and the nature of the soils and the
land use, those fluctuations not only affect the cost to treat the
water to drinking water standards, but also the quality of the final
drinking water. The challenge is to balance the intensification
of land use for urban and agricultural benefits, while ensuring
water that runs off lands and is the source of runoff for drinking
water reservoirs is not adversely impacted by the use of the land.
Most drinking water providers use a multi-pronged
approach to ensure clean, safe and reasonably priced high-quality
drinking water. Drinking water treatment processes are
effective, but often come at significant up-front capital and long-term
operating costs. Over the long haul, source water protection
is the least costly and most effective and efficient means of long-term
protection of water resources.
A summary of the programs that benefit source water
protection available through the USDA National Resources
Conservation Service are as follows on the next page.
Opportunity to Engage
The potential to assist drinking water protection is real.
NRCS offices are regional and staff are field-oriented, often
partnering with private landowners and local farmers to work
together to provide expertise and implement best manage-