To help agricultural producers improve water quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded $1.6 million in funding through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) for three projects in high priority watersheds in California.

“The NWQI allows us to address water quality problems at a watershed scale,” said NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “We can target the conservation measures that will be effective at reducing pollution and will work for local farms and ranches.”

Through NWQI, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance in these watersheds using funds from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for implementing and planning conservation practices to address agricultural sources of water pollution, including nutrients, sediment, pesticides, and pathogens related to agricultural production, according to a release issued by NRCS. 

The Clear Lake project has been selected for funding as a new Source Water Protection planning watershed, targeting conservation efforts through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), according to the release. 

“The development of a Source Water Protection watershed plan for Clear Lake will be supported with $50,000 in Conservation Technical Assistance funding during Fiscal Year 2022,” it was stated in the release. “Partners in Lake County will develop a watershed plan to implement land-based conservation practices that will reduce phosphorus and sediment runoff into Clear Lake. Phosphorus and sediment contribute to the development of freshwater cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (FCHABs), which produce toxins and unpalatable odors.”

In addition to making recreation on the lake unpleasant, treatment costs are greatly increased for the 17 drinking water systems surrounding Clear Lake and the economically distressed communities that they serve, according to the release. 

“With the plan in place, Clear Lake would become eligible for additional implementation funding through NWQI in future years,” read the release.

Other projects chosen to receive funding include the Salt River project in Humboldt County and the Calleguas Creek project in Ventura County.

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