USDA National Water Quality Initiative Funding Now Available for Landowners

Funding is now available through the USDA’s National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices in selected watersheds throughout the U.S.  The NWQI directs states to use at least five percent of their Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds to help eligible producers install conservation systems such as nutrient management, cover crops, conservation cropping systems, filter strips, terraces, and in some cases, edge-of-field water quality monitoring.  This is the second year of funding for this program — $35 million is being provided this year and $34 million was provided last year.   The deadline for funding applications this year is on a fast track and must be received by Friday, July 12, 2013, though some states may have earlier deadlines (please check via the NRCS link below).

While the new FY ’13 NWQI guidelines for selecting watersheds now includes drinking water considerations, and drinking water is mentioned as a public benefit in the announcement, only a small number of additional watersheds were added this year (there are 165 in total).  We also do not expect that many watersheds will be added in the next few years.  However, the current list of watersheds do provide an opportunity for state drinking water programs and source water coordinators to encourage conservation practices that protect drinking water sources.  Please consult with your state 319 Program Coordinator and reach out to your USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist to discuss how you might help engage and encourage producers in the most sensitive source water areas of the selected watersheds to participate in this voluntary program.

Please remember that there are many good resources in the Source Water Collaborative toolkit for contacting and working with your NRCS State Conservationist and participating in the state technical committee meetings.  For more information about the NWQI, to view the announcement, and to find the list of selected watersheds, please visit the NRCS web site.