2016 USDA Water Conservation Funding and Two New Focus Areas for Ogallala Aquifer Initiative

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced $8 million in funding and two new focus areas for the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) in Fiscal Year 2016.  The OAI supports targeted, local efforts to help farmers and ranchers conserve the quality and quantity of water.  This funding is now available for two new focus areas in Oklahoma and the Middle Republican Natural Resource District in Nebraska, in addition to the seven current and ongoing focus areas in five states (Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas).

The Ogallala Aquifer has suffered in recent years from increased periods of drought and declining water resources.  It is the largest aquifer in the US and the primary water source for the High Plains region.  Covering nearly 174,000 square miles, it supports the production of nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the US and supplies 30 percent of all water used for irrigation in the US.  NRCS analysis of Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) conservation projects in the region, including those implemented through OAI, estimated reduced water withdrawals of at least 1.5 million acre-feet, or 489 billion gallons of water, from 2009 through 2013 and an energy savings equivalent of almost 33 million gallons of diesel fuel due to reduced irrigation.   For more information on the 2016 OAI, view the press release.