October 13, 2011
Written by Kelsey Fletcher
Texas Tech University researchers are part of a water conservation team that has received $500,000 from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) provides three years of funding to support a large-scale demonstration effort in the South Plains and northern Panhandle.
The project also includes experts from the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, Texas Alliance for Water Conservation and Texas AgriLife Extension.
Texas Tech’s role in the project lies with its seven-year relationship with the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, a group of farmers, researchers, and state and local agencies who collaborate to develop strategies for managing irrigation water use while increasing profitability.
“This is the first time Texas Tech has received this grant,” said Justin Weinheimer, a research associate with the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. “The funding success of this project really is due to the large size of the region we’re evaluating and the generous additional financial and technical support provided by both the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District.”
Phil Johnson, associate professor and director of Texas Tech’s Thornton Agricultural Finance Institute also is involved in the project.
The grant will be split evenly between the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District and Texas Tech. The funds for each group will go toward setting up field-level demonstration sites to evaluate new water conservation technologies across the Texas High Plains.
Texas Tech, in conjunction with the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation and the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District, is currently evaluating water conservation and production practices on about 30 fields in Hale and Floyd Counties under a project funded through the Texas Water Development Board.
“This grant provides us the ability to expand our efforts to evaluate and demonstrate water conservation technologies over the Texas High Plains,” said Rick Kellison, the project director for the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation. “Our partnership with the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and North Plains Groundwater Conservation Districts will allow us to evaluate water conservation technologies over a wider area and give producers in the region an opportunity to observe the results.”
Within the project, eight field-level sites in the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District and eight field-level sites in the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District will demonstrate these technologies. The grant funds will cover the costs of operating and evaluating the sites for three years. Other important partners involved in the initiative are the Texas Water Development Board and Texas AgriLife Extension.
“Farmers involved in the demonstration sites will utilize the latest water monitoring technology and we’ll evaluate how much water is being saved by using these new conservation and irrigation techniques,” Weinheimer said. “In the end, everyone’s goal is to conserve irrigation water and help sustain rural communities.”
In August, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the 52 winning proposals for this year’s Conservation Innovation Grants. Through the funding process, the NRCS is set to invest $22 million in conservation technologies and approaches that address an array of existing and emerging natural resource issues. Projects will be carried out in 40 states.
“Everyone who relies upon the sustainability of our nation’s natural resources for clean water, food and fiber, or their way of life, will benefit from these grants,” Vilsack said.
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CONTACT: Justin Weinheimer, research associate, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-1921 ext. 270, or firstname.lastname@example.org.