Last Updated January 26, 2010
Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP)
Promoting ground and surface water conservation or water quality improvement on agricultural lands
The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) is a voluntary conservation program under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Under AWEP, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) enters into partnership agreements with eligible entities that want to promote ground and surface water conservation or improve water quality on agricultural lands. The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated the authority for AWEP to the NRCS Chief. As part of EQIP, the AWEP program operates through contracts with producers to plan and implement conservation practices in project areas established through partnership agreements.
The 2008 Farm Bill established AWEP, replacing the Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program.
AWEP's purposes - to promote ground and surface water conservation and improve water quality - are achieved by having producers implement agricultural water enhancement activities. These include:
- Water quality or water conservation plan development, including resource condition assessment and modeling;
- Water conservation restoration or enhancement projects, including conversion to the production of less water-intensive agricultural commodities or dryland farming;
- Water quality or quantity restoration or enhancement projects;
- Irrigation system improvement or irrigation efficiency enhancement;
- Activities designed to mitigate the effects of drought; and
- Other related activities deemed by the Secretary to help achieve water quality or water conservation benefits on agricultural land.
Application and Financial Information
An agricultural producer may apply directly to NRCS for financial or technical assistance to implement agricultural water enhancement activities in an approved AWEP project area. Producers who apply directly to NRCS must be eligible for EQIP and selected applications will be subject to applicable EQIP requirements.
Entities that are eligible to enter into AWEP partnership agreements include, but are not limited to, federally recognized Indian Tribes, States, units of local government, agricultural or silvicultural associations, or other groups of such producers, such as an irrigation association, agricultural land trust, or other nongovernmental organization that has experience working with agricultural producers.
AWEP project proposals submitted by eligible entities are ranked competitively and must include the following:
- Description of the geographic area to be covered by the agreement;
- Description of the agricultural water quality or water conservation issues to be covered by the agreement;
- Description of agricultural water enhancement objectives to be achieved through the partnership;
- Description of the partners collaborating to achieve the project objectives, as well as the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of each partner; and
- Description of the program resources required for the project.
In evaluating an application, NRCS may give higher priority to proposals that:
- Include a high percentage of agricultural land and producers in an region or area;
- Result in high levels of applied agricultural water quality and water conservation activities;
- Significantly enhance agricultural activity;
- Allow for monitoring and evaluation;
- Assist producers in meeting a regulatory requirement;
- Include the conversion of agricultural land from irrigated farming to dryland farming; and
- Leverage Federal funds with those provided by the potential partner.
Eligibility, Uses, and Restrictions
Entities that are eligible to enter into AWEP partnership agreements include, but are not limited to, federally recognized Indian Tribes, States, units of local government, agricultural or silvicultural associations, or other groups of such producers, such as an irrigation associations, agricultural land trusts, or other nongovernmental organizations with experience working with agricultural producers.
For more information and updates about AWEP and other Farm Bill topics, refer to the NRCS Website at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2008/
NRCS AWEP program Website at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/awep/
Mark S. Parson
EQIP Program Specialist
1400 Independence Ave. SW Room 5227
Washington, DC 20250