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Water Optimization Program

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The Utah Conservation Commission (UCC) approved the FY 2022 ARPA Spring Water Optimization Grant applications that will be funded. The UCC decided to fund up to $500,000 per applicant; for those with more than one application, UDAF will reach out to the applicant to determine which application to fund. Click here to view the funded FY2022 UCC applications.

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American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Water Optimization Funding Criteria

The purpose of this grant is to effectuate the following goals:

  • Improve Water Optimization by reducing consumptive water use while maintaining or improving agriculture production and profitability, and providing increased operational flexibility for agriculture water users moving forward.
  • Improve Water Quantification by showing accurate, real-time measurement of diverted water to demonstrate actual water savings in CFS and acre foot.
  • Document the availability of water after implementation of a Water Optimization Project.
  • Improve and protect surface and ground water quality by reducing overwatering of crops.

General information:

  • $500,000 cap: an individual or entity may not receive more than $500,000 per application period.
  • 50/50 cost share: the Water Optimization Grant Program funds will be limited to 50% of the total cost of the project. We encourage seeking other funding sources for the remaining cost of the project. 
  • 10% cost: producers are required to contribute at least 10% of the cost of the project. This can include in-kind match (if there is a question on the value of in-kind match, it will be valued on NRCS EQIP cost list).
  • Multiple applications: the Water Optimization Grant Program discourages an individual or entity from submitting more than one application, and may combine or reject applications as directed by the ranking committee and supported by the Utah Conservation Commission. The $500,000 total will be applied to any individual or entity with multiple projects. Projects will be funded according to how they rank, however, depending on funding, may be only partially funded.
  • Cultural Resource (SHPO) review is required on all projects that are funded: The applicant will provide a SHPO report prior to beginning work on the project, and no payment reimbursement will be processed until UDAF has received the SHPO report. Any invoices with dates prior to the SHPO report date will not be paid.  
  • Ag Optimization Priority Areas: Applicants should give an in-depth description of what will be gained by funding the project in respect to its environmental benefit. 
    • Is the project in a DWQ Impaired Watershed? Impairments include: Ammonia, Dissolved Oxygen (DO), E.coli, Harmful Algal Blooms, Nutrients (Phosphorus, Nitrogen), Sediment, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
    • Is the project in a Drinking Water Source Protection area?
    • Is the project in a Watershed implementing a TMDL?
    • Is the project in a Water Right Groundwater Management Area?
    • Is the project within a mile of a priority water body for aquatic species, which may include Blue Ribbon Fisheries?
    • Click here to view the map showing priority areas
  • Water/Irrigation Management Plan: All funded projects are required to have a Water/Irrigation Management Plan. UDAF Conservation Staff may assist grantees in meeting this requirement.
  • 20% of the total grant funding will be withheld until: (1) the final project report has been submitted and reviewed (see requirements below for final project report requirements); (2) the project is determined to be complete by onsite inspection; and (3) all grant requirements have been met. 
  • End guns on pivots and big guns: Beginning July 1, 2022, The Water Optimization Grant Program will no longer fund placement of end guns on pivots or big guns, due to their inefficient water usage.
  • New materials required: All projects are required to use new equipment and/or materials. 
  • Financial Reporting: Grantees must agree to specific reporting requirements as outlined in the grant agreement for each funding cycle: Grantees must provide UDAF with an annual written description of project progress and an itemized report detailing the expenditure of Water Optimization Grant Program funds, as well as the intended expenditure of any program funds not yet spent. The report should include any other funding that has been made available for the project and the source of that funding, with the cost share amount for each funding source. The report is due by June 15th of each year until the project is completed. 
  • Final project reports must include the following:
    • A description of whether the project was implemented as planned?
    • If not, the final project report should include a list of changes made to the project and how they affected the project’s purpose.  
    • Pictures of the project site before, during, and after completion of the project. 
    • A description of the water made available after implementation of the project and how that water is being used. 
    • A brief description of the metering and water savings.
    • Estimated Water Quality Load Reductions (STEPL), tons of salt removed, Photo Point Monitoring, or other monitoring, depending on project type.
    • An itemized reporting of any funds received or expended on the project, including other funding sources and documentation of the 10% grantee cost share.
    • The final project report must be written so an auditor or the public can understand the purpose of the project, how the project functions, and its water optimization benefits.
  • UDAF staff may conduct on-site or virtual project “spot checks” at any time during the course of the project, and during the life of the project. UDAF staff will attempt to provide the Grantee with prior notice of a spot check whenever possible.
  • Projects will be ranked. All applications will be ranked and scored based on the criteria listed in the project application requirements and will be evaluated by a ranking committee to ensure that the project meets the stated program goals.  Projects will be funded according to how they rank, however, depending on funding, may be only partially funded. 
  • Incomplete applications will not be evaluated or ranked.

Water Optimization Project Application Requirements:

  1. Each application should include an explanation of how the project furthers the goals of water optimization, which include: quantification of agriculture water; use of methods, systems, and technologies to maintain or increase agriculture production while reducing agriculture water diversion and consumption, measure water gains on a basin level, or evaluate variety of agriculture crops or products; and opportunities to improve water practices based on local needs, optimize water use, and protect water quality.
  2. Culture Resource (SHPO) review is required on all funded projects. The applicant will provide a SHPO report prior to beginning work on the project.  No payment reimbursement will be processed until UDAF has received the SHPO report. Any invoices with dates prior to the SHPO report date will not be paid.
  3. Criteria. Please ensure the following specifically included in the application:
    • A detailed description how the project will meet the Water Optimization goals listed in number one above. 
    • A list who will benefit from the project and why: downstream water users, environmental or recreational users, aquatic species/wildlife, adjacent water users, an irrigation company, or individual water users.
    • A description of the water that will be made available after implementation of the water optimization project and how that water is being used. Will the water remain in the stream or will it be used within the irrigation company or on the irrigator’s property?
    • An in-depth project and project design description.
    • An explanation of who designed the project (example, PE, NRCS, UDAF planner, vendor, etc.)?
    • The project cost.
    • The funding amount requested.
    • An estimated completion date.
    • A list of other funding sources and their contribution to the project.
    • Water optimization or savings: percentage water saved, acre foot of water saved, and total acres the project impacts.
    • The project cost per acre.
    • Past crop production records: tons per acre, bushel per acre, and/or other, depending on crop type. 
    • A detailed description of and data related to pre-project water use and measurement.  
    • A detailed description of the type of water measurement equipment to be installed, including how often data is recorded, where data will be stored, and duration of data storage. 
    • A map of the project area, including acres covered, field boundaries, and location within the State of Utah.
    • County, irrigation season, and water right number.
    • Agriculture Water Optimization Priority Areas: 
      • Is the project in a Division of Water Quality (DWQ), Impaired Watershed? Impairments include: Ammonia, Dissolved Oxygen (DO), E,coli, Harmful Algal Blooms, Nutrients (Phosphorus, Nitrogen), Sediment, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
      • Is the project in a Drinking Water Source Protection area?
      • Is the project in a Watershed implementing a TMDL?
      • Is the project in a Water Right Groundwater Management Area?
      • Is the project within a mile of a priority water body for aquatic species, which may include Blue Ribbon Fisheries? 
      • Click here to view the map showing priority areas: Water Optimization Evaluation Areas Map

Annual Reporting Requirements:

  • Reporting is required to participate in this grant program and reports must be submitted annually for 3 years beginning the year after the project is completed. Applicants are encouraged to submit annual reports after the 3-year period, but this is not a requirement. The purpose of these reports is to verify that the project is functioning as planned and water optimization goals are being met. Failure to submit three years of reporting may result in a requirement to return Agricultural Water Optimization Program funds or ineligibility to receive Agricultural Water Optimization Program funds in the future. Each report shall include:
    • Water diverted (in CFS or acre foot) for irrigation season. May include: per irrigation watering, number of watering per crop, and per season.
    • Irrigation season.
    • Acres irrigated.
    • Crop(s) irrigated.
    • Production record: tons per acre, bushel per acre, and/or other, depending on crop type.
  • Annual reports may be shared with the other state and federal entities. All data shared will be aggregated and all personal information will be removed to the extent allowed by law. 
  • Monitoring: On farm projects will be evaluated through EPA’s STEPL module to determine load reductions, tons of salt removed. UDAF Planners will assist in determining the load reduction. STEPL load reduction should be included in the first annual report. Canal lining or piping projects will use photo point monitoring and should be included in the first annual report.
  • UDAF reserves the right to request other information required by state or federal entities or the Utah Legislature.

Ag. Optimization Program Projected Timeline

June – July, 2022      Award funding to eligible projects
Summer 2022- 2024      Work with grantee to implement projects
Aug. 1 – Sept. 1      Accept applications based on criteria sheet attached to the application
Fall, 2022       Applications will be ranked by a ranking committee, based on ranking criteria
Late Fall, 2022      Award funding to eligible projects
Winter, 2022-2024      Work with grantees to implement projects
         Note: This process will continue until 2024 pending availability of funding

Helpful Links and Maps: 

Learn more from the AmpliFund Applicant Training Video Series:

For more information contact Benjamin Hudson, Northern Utah Planner, at 385-226-7808, bhudson@utah.gov, or Kendra Young, Southern Utah Planner, at 385-228-8258, kendrayoung@utah.gov, or Jay Olsen, Water Optimization Grant Program Manager, at 801-718-0517, jayolsen@utah.gov.