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Strategic Steps; CASNR part of massive $500k plains conservation project

Strategic Steps; CASNR part of massive $500k plains conservation project

A Texas Panhandle-High Plains conservation project has been awarded a federal grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Texas High Plains Initiative for Strategic and Innovative Irrigation Management and Conservation (the Initiative) will receive a $499,848 Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to show farmers how to save irrigation water and extend the economic viability of their operations.

The Initiative is designed to demonstrate strategic irrigation and crop system management technologies and practices, resulting in water savings across the region and best practices that are applicable nationwide in regions facing similar resource concerns.

The Initiative is a collaborative effort between the USDA-NRCS and North Plains Groundwater Conservation District, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) and Texas Tech University.

Until this joint application for funding, the member organizations of the Initiative were working on two separate irrigation efficiency demonstrations, the TAWC in Hale and Floyd counties in the south plains, and North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the in the northern panhandle counties.

“We are pleased to partner in this initiative to demonstrate the possibilities and importance of agricultural water conservation for the future of Texas,” said Bob Zimmer, president of the North Plains Board of Directors. “When we began talking about our individual projects, we saw that we were employing some different strategies and technologies, but the projects actually have the same basic objective,” Zimmer said.

“We decided there are advantages to joining forces to demonstrate irrigation water conservation methods,” he said. The grant will be split between the two projects, providing just under a quarter of a million dollars for each, over the next three years.

“The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District is pleased to be a partner in this initiative. Projects, such as this, have been a mainstay of the district during its 60-year history. It is important to continue research to develop best management practices to allow growers to use less water, maintain crop yields, and continue the economic viability of the Texas High Plains region,” said Robert Meyer of Canyon, High Plains Water District Board President. High Plains is a critical supporter of the TAWC project.

The TAWC has been conducting demonstrations since 2005 with the support of their funding agency, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The TWDB has also joined in the North Plains project in its second year by providing funding for three years beginning in 2011.

“The drought conditions this year have driven home the importance of conservation to our region and our state,” said Rick Kellison, Project Director for the TAWC. “Funding of programs like this will help us continue to address these pressing concerns.”

The grant is one of 52 awarded this year across the nation by the USDA-NRCS, the lead agency in conservation planning and assistance to address conservation of all natural resources. “These grants will help some of America’s top agricultural and conservation institutions, foundations and businesses develop unique approaches to enhancing and protecting natural resources on agricultural land. Their creativity and problem-solving will benefit conservation-minded farmers and ranchers, and everyone who relies upon our nation’s natural resources for food and fiber,” said NRCS Chief, Dave White.

Other important partners involved in the Initiative include: Texas AgriLife Extension and USDA, Agricultural Research Service.

Written by Kirk Welch

CONTACT: Justin Weinheimer, Research Associate, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-1921 ext 270

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