New USDA bulletin refines priority source water areas for funding under 2018 Farm Bill

June 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on June 1 its guidance to state agricultural conservationists for funding of farm projects to protect source water, including activities to mitigate groundwater quality and depletion problems.

The 2018 Farm Bill added source water protection provisions for targeting conservation practices. State agricultural technical advisory committees will use the guidance to select farm projects submitted for consideration in 2019 for funding using criteria including aquifer depletion, sole source aquifer designation, and wellhead protection areas.

It is important to understand the two terms used in the bulletin:

  • Local priorities — these are the Source Water Protection areas that were developed in fiscal year 2019
  • High priority areas — these will be newly refined areas to be used beginning fiscal year 2021.

The high priority areas will be refined from the local priorities to create some national consistency using high priority SWP areas and groundwater protection areas representing no more than 20 percent of the total land area of the state. The National Resources Conservation Service will use these newly designated high priority areas to target increased payments and assistance to landowners for implementing agriculture and forestry conservation and best practices to protect drinking water sources, according to the 2018 Farm Bill requirements.

State drinking water programs are encouraged to reach out to their NRCS State Conservationist’s office and continue working with them to fulfill the goals of this new bulletin that is due to be completed by September 30, but will continue as these efforts move forward.

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