Program Aims to Retain Flood Irrigation

A grant aims to help producers in important wildlife areas in Idaho improve their flood-irrigaiton systems to benefit habitat.
A new USDA-funded water conservation program runs contrary to conventional wisdom, rewarding producers who retain flood-irrigation systems rather than installing modern, efficient pivots.

The Idaho Water Resource Board — the lead applicant on the grant — and its partners aim to preserve incidental aquifer recharge through seepage from flood irrigation, which is rapidly being phased out in favor of efficient sprinklers.

Other partners, including Ducks Unlimited and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, say flood irrigation provides critical habitat for water fowl in historic floodplains.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the applicants $1.1 million in Regional Conservation Partnership Program funds for water-conservation projects during the next two years. Roughly a third of the funds are available to increase the normal 50 percent Environmental Quality Incentives Program match to cover 65 percent of a producer’s costs of improving flood-irrigation systems. The sign-up period is Aug. 1 through Sept. 18.

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