The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $1.6 million in funding through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) for three projects in high priority watersheds in California to help agricultural producers improve water quality.
“The NWQI allows us to address water quality problems at a watershed scale,” said NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “We can target the conservation measures that will be effective at reducing pollution and will work for local farms and ranches.”
Through NWQI, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance in these watersheds using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for implementing and planning conservation practices to address agricultural sources of water pollution, including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and pathogens related to agricultural production.
Clear Lake Project
The Clear Lake project has been selected for funding as a new Source Water Protection planning watershed, targeting conservation efforts through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). The development of a Source Water Protection watershed plan for Clear Lake will be supported with $50,000 in Conservation Technical Assistance funding during Fiscal Year 2022.
Partners in Lake County will develop a watershed plan to implement land-based conservation practices that will reduce phosphorus and sediment runoff into Clear Lake. Phosphorus and sediment contribute to the development of freshwater cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (FCHABs), which produce toxins and unpalatable odors. In addition to making recreation on the lake unpleasant, treatment costs are greatly increased for the 17 drinking water systems surrounding Clear Lake and the economically distressed communities that they serve. With the plan in place, Clear Lake would become eligible for additional implementation funding through NWQI in future years.
Salt River Project
The Salt River project has been selected for funding as a new implementation watershed, with $800,000 allocated through EQIP for Fiscal Year 2022 to support implementation of the Salt River Watershed Plan.
Salt River in Humboldt County suffers degradation from excess sediment and high temperatures, attributed to a variety of sources including agriculture and forestry operations and natural processes such as landslides. Nutrients and pathogens are water quality concerns, although these issues have not required regulation. The additional funding through NWQI will allow local partners to focus efforts for sediment reduction in steep forested areas of the watershed, promote stream-side reforestation in lower elevations to bring water temperatures down, and implement conservation measures on farms and ranches to prevent nutrients and pathogens from entering the river.
Calleguas Creek Project
The Calleguas Creek project has been selected for funding as a new implementation watershed, with $750,000 allocated through NRCS’s EQIP for Fiscal Year 2022 to support implementation of the Calleguas Creek Watershed Plan.
Calleguas Creek in Ventura County suffers from multiple water quality issues including excess salts, toxicity, nitrogen, trash, metals, and organochlorine and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pesticides. Additional funding through the NWQI will assist vegetable growers, berry and orchard operations in the Calleguas Creek watershed to implement sediment and nutrient management practices to improve water quality in the Creek and help meet water quality standards.
The NWQI supports the voluntary actions of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to improve water quality. Through water quality focused efforts, eligible producers can invest in voluntary conservation practices to help provide cleaner water for their neighbors and communities.