USDA Awards $10 Million In Grants To Universities To Address Water Issues

USDA Awards $10 Million In Grants To Universities To Address Water Issues

More than $10 million has been awarded to U.S. universities to address critical water problems, such as water quality and availability, in rural and agricultural watersheds across the country. The awards were made through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture challenge area and the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP).

“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,” says 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. FY 2014 Water for Agriculture grant 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

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 achieve project objectives and milestones.

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

NIFA also funded projects through the 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

Find a complete list of this year’s project descriptions online. For more information. visit the NIFA website.