Interior Deputy Secretary Hayes and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan Announce $9.1 million to Fund Collaborative Projects for Bay-Delta Water Use Efficiencies

Last edited 09/05/2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that by working together to leverage monies for water delivery agencies and agricultural producers in California's Central Valley, agencies of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture will provide $9.1 million in funding to five water/power delivery districts to save water, improve water management and create new supplies for agricultural irrigation.

“This cooperative effort is a concrete step forward in coordinating and leveraging federal actions to meet water supply needs while alleviating the ecological decline of the California Bay-Delta,” Deputy Secretary Hayes said.

“USDA and Interior are working in tandem with partners in the Central Valley to ensure that water management and conservation efforts enhance water supplies for both rural and urban users,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “This announcement today exemplifies President Obama's call to find creative and innovative ways for government to work better together.”

As a result of the 2009 Interim Federal Action Plan for the Bay Delta, the Bureau of Reclamation – an agency of the Department of the Interior – and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – part of the Department of Agriculture – launched the cooperative pilot program to fund water use efficiency projects.

With support from NRCS, Reclamation has selected five projects for funding, totaling $4.1 million, under its WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow) program. The selected projects will increase district-level efficiencies and facilitate water conservation and/or water use efficiency on farms. NRCS will provide up to an additional $5 million in funding and technical assistance to growers in the selected districts for eligible on-farm conservation practices. (Adding $5 million from NRCS to Reclamation's $4.1 million in WaterSMART funding, a total of $9.1 million is being provided to enhance water conservation.) NRCS will work with each district to determine the appropriate sign-up/application periods for the district's eligible growers.

“NRCS is committed to partnering with private landowners to enhance water conservation in the Bay-Delta,” said NRCS Chief Dave White. “By working with Reclamation, we can provide a more comprehensive approach to water conservation that benefits the entire region.”

“Federal, state and local partnerships are the keys to addressing California's long-term water issues,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. “Multiple federal agencies are strategically aligning their resources under the action plan. There is no time to waste.”

The five recipients of the funding include the Buena Vista Water Storage District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, Semitropic Water Storage District, Henry Miller Reclamation District 2131, and the Firebaugh Canal Water District.

Through a WaterSMART Funding Opportunity Announcement, “Bay-Delta Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency Grants,” Reclamation invited Tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources with Reclamation on water conservation and water use efficiency projects. Following are the details on the projects selected to receive grants (please note that all reported water savings are estimated district-level savings and do not include estimated on-farm savings):

Buena Vista Water Storage District

The Water Use and Irrigation Efficiency Project

Reclamation Funding: $999,681, Total Project Cost: $2,081,648

The project will line 1 mile of earthen canal to reduce seepage losses, build new turnouts for more efficient water deliveries, install a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system and retrofit meters. The project is expected to conserve 4,000 acre-feet per year and will provide water supply sustainability to the district and contribute to wildlife enhancements. These system improvements will provide more precise water deliveries to growers, allowing them to implement such things as tailwater return systems, ditch lining and irrigation system evaluations and retrofits.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District

South San Joaquin Irrigation District, Division 9 Irrigation Enhancement Project

Reclamation Funding: $1,000,000, Total Project Cost: $12,996,280

The project will build a state-of-the-art, pressurized irrigation system, replacing an open channel system to irrigate approximately 3,800 acres, and will capture agricultural run-off for irrigation re-use. The project incorporates automated water delivery controls and updated metering technology, allowing for precise measurement and accounting of water use. The project will result in energy conservation, reduced air emissions and improved water quality, and it is expected to conserve 3,498 acre-feet of water per year. Fields currently flood-irrigated can convert to sprinkler or micro-drip irrigation systems that result in significantly less on-farm water use.

Semitropic Water Storage District

Water Use Efficiency and Energy Improvements for Semitropic Water Storage District and Growers

Reclamation Funding: $711,170, Total Project Cost: $1,474,640

The project will implement district-level improvements to increase the district's water and energy efficiencies by adding pumping capacity at two conveyance facilities and by adding a turbine to one of the district's pumping plants. Semitropic estimates that the turbine will produce 2.9 percent of the District's power needs. With the addition of this turbine, 16 percent of the District's power need will be met with renewable energy sources. The project is expected to conserve 2,560 acre-feet of water per year. Semitropic's improvements will enable growers to enhance their on-farm efficiency by reducing the on-farm energy required to provide groundwater and will enable growers to operate improved drip systems.

Henry Miller Reclamation District 2131

Arroyo Canal Modernization

Reclamation Funding: $434,975, Total Project Cost: $886,802
The project will install four long-crested weirs (LCW) on the main canal for the district. LCWs precisely control canal-water levels and help prevent system spills. Installing LCWs will reduce the water-level fluctuations in the canal, providing more constant water deliveries. This will improve the reliability and the flexibility of the water deliveries to growers and promote accurate measuring and water accounting. The district estimates the project will conserve 7,200 acre-feet of water per year and enable district growers to invest in more efficient irrigation systems such as pressurized drip systems.

Firebaugh Canal Water District

Firebaugh Canal Water District 1st Lift Canal Lining Project Phase 1-Terminus to Washoe Avenue

Reclamation Funding: $1,000,000 Total Project Cost: $2,814,000
The project will concrete-line 2.6 miles of earthen canal to prevent seepage and sediment in delivered surface water. By decreasing the suspended silts, growers can reduce the back-flushing and filtering needed for efficient on-farm irrigation systems. In addition to conserving 300 acre-feet of water per year, this project will encourage growers to install high-efficiency on-farm irrigation systems such as drip or sub-surface drip irrigation.

Beyond the Bay-Delta, the nation as a whole faces increasing water-resource challenges and issues that make it difficult to meet today's diverse water needs through traditional water management approaches. The Department of the Interior's WaterSMART program is working to achieve a sustainable water strategy throughout the nation. For more information on the WaterSMART program, please visit


Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at

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