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Cost sharing partnerships for municipal interbasin transfer and agricultural water conservation




Panella, Thomas, author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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The House Bill 1437 (HB 1437) Agriculture Water Conservation Program is an innovative way to meet rising municipal demands in a county adjacent to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)'s service area in central Texas, conserve river water used for irrigation, and maintain agriculture productivity. A cooperative program between municipal and agricultural water users, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service's Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provides grants to irrigation divisions and agriculture producers in Matagorda, Wharton, and Colorado counties to implement agricultural water conservation projects. Responding to requests for an interbasin transfer mechanism from utilities in Williamson County pressured with high population growth rates and limited water supplies, in 1999, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1437. HB 1437 authorized LCRA to transfer up to 25,000 acre-feet of water per year to Williamson County under certain conditions including "no net loss" of water to the lower Colorado River basin, and a conservation surcharge on the transferred water collected from customers in Williamson County dedicated to a specific fund to help pay for agricultural conservation projects. The grant program began in 2006 and from 2006-2008 has funded a 30% cost share to precision level 12,161 acres of farm land already participating in the 50% cost share federal EQIP program. A 3-year average of 3,597 acre-feet of water has been conserved as a result of these precision land leveling grants. LCRA has partnered with the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas to develop a sound statistical methodology for determining water savings from precision leveled fields. Preliminary results of this analysis indicate that there is a statistically significant difference in water use between leveled and non-leveled fields. More in-depth statistical analyses are to be completed by Spring 2010. The 5-yr program plan goal is to conserve 10,000 acre feet per year by 2014, using a combination of conservation projects including precision land leveling grants, on-farm volumetric measurement and billing, and automating existing canal check structures.


Presented at Upgrading technology and infrastructure in a finance-challenged economy: a USCID water management conference held on March 23-26, 2010 in Sacramento, California.

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