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USDA funds Colorado River Basin salinity control effort

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman says Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have received $19.8 million to control salinity in the Colorado River Basin.

The Colorado River Basin is the primary domestic water supply source for 27 million residents in seven states and is a source of irrigation water for more than 3.5 million acres of farmland.

“These funds will help control salinity on private lands and improve the water quality in the basin so that millions of people can have a safer domestic water supply,” Veneman said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming will use this funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to provide technical and financial assistance to eligible producers. Colorado and Utah each will receive nearly $9.6 million and Wyoming will receive $675,000. Colorado's three projects have 703 active contracts; Utah's two projects have 495 active contracts; and Wyoming's one project has 12 active contracts. Only these three states have approved USDA salinity control projects in the Colorado River Basin.

USDA provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers who voluntarily implement land management and irrigation improvement practices that reduce salinity by preventing salts from dissolving and mixing with the river's flow. Improved irrigation systems reduce leaching in the soil, which, in turn, reduces the amount of salt that moves through the soil into the water table. The end result is that less salt ends up in the Colorado River.

Since 1996, USDA has funded Colorado River Basin salinity control activities through EQIP. Annual funding in EQIP has increased from $5.1 million in FY 2000 to $19.8 million in FY 2004. This increase occurred after President Bush signed the 2002 Farm Bill, which authorized a $17.1 billion increase for conservation programs over 10 years. EQIP and the Colorado River Basin salinity control activities are benefiting from this increased funding for conservation programs.

USDA partners with the Bureau of Reclamation (BR) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to carry out Colorado River Basin salinity control activities. USDA's partnership with BR yields additional funds for this program by leveraging EQIP salinity control funds. In FY 1997, BR began on-farm cost sharing from the Basin states funds that would parallel and supplement EQIP.

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