USDA grants $9.7M to 73,000 rural Californians affected by drought

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FARMERSVILLE, CA, July 30, 2014 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it is providing $9.7 million in emergency water assistance to 73,000 residents in 11 counties throughout the state of California, experiencing the driest year on record.

Extreme weather, such as the intense drought occurring in the western United States, is putting a strain on water supplies. As such, the Obama Administration is investing in the nation's water infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change and to ensure that Americans have adequate, safe and reliable water supplies. The National Climate Assessment released earlier this year illustrates the impact of climate change across the country.

This announcement is part of broader Obama Administration efforts to help those impacted by the drought. Through the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, local governments, agriculture, and other partners on a coordinated response.

The 25 rural California communities are being assisted by funding provided through USDA's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant (ECWAG) program. This program helps rural communities that have experienced a significant decline in the quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency. In January, USDA streamlined the program's application process to expedite emergency water assistance to communities in need, particularly in drought-impacted areas.

In addition to support from the ECWAG program, USDA is helping rural communities meet their water needs through water and waste disposal loans and grants and Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households (SEARCH) grants. USDA Rural Development has also approved grant funding to establish a revolving fund to provide low-interest loans to rural homeowners for household water wells.

The grants are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the grant agreement. Thus far, USDA Rural Development has invested more than $310 million to help 345,000 rural Californians receive improved water or wastewater services. As California suffers through this drought, the Administration has taken action to help those struggling to cope with the hardships it has caused, including:

  • Designated 57 counties as disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans
  • Targeted $25 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices to conserve water, protect fields from erosion and improve access to water for livestock
  • Invested $5 million in emergency watershed protection
  • Provided $7.6 million to livestock producers through the cost-sharing Emergency Conservation Program.
  • Invested $750,000 to reduce aquatic weeds clogging irrigation screens, pumps and canals in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River delta.
  • Set aside $3.3 million of a $30-million national investment to mitigate wildfire threats, protect water resources and provide habitat for at-risk species.
  • Made continuing research investments in water conservation and use efficiency, as well as capacity grants for the University of California's Institute for Water Resources.
  • Established a network of climate hubs, including a sub-hub in Davis, for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

See also:

"Drought-stricken West exhausting underground water resources, research shows"

"USDA to repair dams in 26 states through watershed rehabilitation funding"

"Rural Revenue: A Look at Small Water and Wastewater Utility Cost Challenges and Solutions"

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