Agricultural Water Conservation Grants March 2012

Agriculture is the largest water use sector in Texas.  The estimated six million irrigated acres soak up around nine million acre-feet of water each year.  Irrigation improves productivity and profitability, further contributing to the overall $100 billion economic impact that the food and fiber industries have on the Texas economy (Texas Ag Stats).

In recognition of the large footprint of agriculture on the state and its water resources, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) annually publishes a request for grant applications for agricultural water conservation projects.  Through these grants, the TWDB has funded two long-term demonstration projects worth $10 million and 46 other projects worth over $4 million since 2004.  The goal of these projects is to demonstrate best management practices that may save water or improve water use efficiency.  Individual projects focus on ways to reduce irrigation water use, educate agricultural producers and the general public to increase awareness of the importance of water conservation, and research and develop new technologies that improve irrigation water management.

Two great examples of projects funded through grants from the TWDB were completed by the Texas AgriLife Extension and the Cameron County Irrigation District No. 2.

The multi-agency, multi-discipline Texas AgriLife Extension Irrigation Training Program (ITP) used a $250,000 grant from the TWDB to create two separate editions of an inclusive, 500-plus page ITP manual that addresses both fundamental information and region-specific needs.  Both the North and South Texas editions of the ITP manual are state-wide tools for transferring water conservation information and related crop management technologies.  This project also resulted in the successful completion of six irrigation conferences throughout the state.  Through these region-specific conferences, the ITP was able to provide locally applicable irrigation water management training to irrigation farmers, consultants, educators, and agency personnel in Texas while relying on the core and fundamental information provided in the ITP manual.  Based on attendance and the survey responses, the project's contractor estimated that the ITP saved a total of 93,848 acre-feet of water during the project.

The Cameron County Irrigation District was awarded a $50,000 grant in 2004 to fund improvements to an irrigation canal management system.  The District provided $250,000 in matching funds for the project.  A supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system was installed on the District's canal systems and pumping plant and with a monitoring system in the District's office.  The SCADA system has allowed the District to automate the control of the gates and better manage the flow of water in the canals.  According to the District, implementation of this technology has resulted in 24,230 acre-feet of water savings between 2008 and 2010.

The TWDB is currently soliciting applications for projects from eligible political subdivisions.  Topics under consideration for funding this year are irrigation water use measurement, irrigation system audits, and educational projects to assist with meeting the irrigation water conservation strategies in the State Water Plan.

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