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USDA Awards Grants to Address Water Quality, Availability in Agriculture Communities

More than $10 million for critical water problems

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 21 grants totaling more than $10 million have been awarded to universities to support critical water problems in rural and agricultural watersheds across the United States. The awards were made through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture challenge area and the National Integrated Water Quality Program.

"Water is our most precious resource, one that is essential for both human survival and well-being and for our ability to grow our crops and livestock," said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. "By funding research, extension, and education for citizens and the agriculture community, we are able to proactively create solutions to water-related issues like drought and its impact on food security."

The AFRI Water for Agriculture challenge area was first introduced in fiscal year (FY) 2014, and these grants represent the first year of funding for the program. Funded projects link social, economic, and behavioral sciences with traditional biophysical sciences and engineering to address regional scale issues with shared hydrological processes, and meteorological and basin characteristics. Fiscal year 2014 Water for Agriculture grants recipients are:

  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $149,990
  • Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, Ga., $56,943
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $999,438
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $900,000
  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Mo., $148,995
  • University of Nevada, Reno, Nev., $500,000
  • State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, N.Y., $128,511
  • Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $49,968
  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., $150,000
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $900,000
  • West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas, $149,777
  • University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, $900,000
  • Utah State University, Logan, Utah, $49,534
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc., $900,000

This year's projects include the University of Nevada's Coordinated Agricultural Program designed to increase research and participatory engagement with American Indians and assess the impacts of climate change on future water supplies and enhance the climate resiliency of tribal agriculture. Another project from Clemson University will integrate remote sensing products and weather forecast information for farmers and growers to address the best products, increase agricultural drought indices, and develop an agricultural drought forecasting model to provide near real-time feedback.

NIFA is expected to make $30 million available over the next five years for the AFRI Water for Agriculture challenge area, with the expectation that the new projects awarded this fiscal year would receive additional funds (based on available funding) if they achievement project objectives and milestones.

The FY 2015 request for applications for the AFRI Water for Agriculture challenge was released on February 18, 2015. Applications are due July 16, 2015.

NIFA also funded projects through the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP) for science-based decision making and management practices that improve the quality and quantity of the Nation's water resources in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds. Applicants were asked to develop the science behind the most appropriate drought triggers and provide an understanding of the connection between trigger levels and drought management responses or decisions; or provide estimates of the economic value of water across different uses. The approaches to estimating water values will reflect uncertainties associated with future weather and climate conditions. Quantifying the value of water will provide valuable signals to agricultural producers, rural communities, and policy makers to aid decision-making for allocating agricultural water use across consumptive or non-consumptive uses.

Fiscal Year 2014 NIWQP grant recipients are:

  • Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo., $659,954
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn., $750,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $659,676
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., $659,839
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $660,000
  • South Dakota State University, Brookings, S.D., $227,135
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., $659,926

This year's projects include South Dakota State University's research to identify drought triggers, develop mitigation plans, investigate socio-economic factors associated with new technology adoption, and educate different age groups of students about drought issues. The University of Tennessee will execute a long-term plan to assist agricultural producers, policymakers, and communities throughout the Southeastern United States as they adapt to water scarcity by efficiently allocating water and adopting water-conserving practices and technologies.

Find a complete list of this year's project descriptions on the NIFA Website.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


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