Types of WRC projects
- WATER MANAGEMENT AGREEMENTS: In many states, water rights can be permanently or temporarily transferred from one use to another—and in some cases, new management approaches can deliver water at critical times to replenish depleted rivers, streams, and wetlands. Funding to support water transfers and management agreements provides important environmental benefit by restoring flows of water to critical wetland areas or chronically depleted streams to benefit fish and wildlife and enhance water quality and recreational values. Through water management or leasing agreements, water rights holders can designate some of their water to be used for environmental benefit, meaning that water rights are legally dedicated to enhance flows and improve environmental conditions. Under the right circumstances, many states in the West allow restored water to be legally protected against other downstream water use. The BEF Water Restoration program provides funding to local organizations to pay for the costs associated with implementing water leasing, management, and forbearance agreements that secure new water to support environmental and recreation benefits.
- IRRIGATION INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES: Each year, outdated irrigation systems in the U.S. can leak up to 80% of the water they attempt to transfer to thirsty crops. Addressing this challenge with modernized systems is just one of the innovative solutions that funding from the BEF Water Restoration program supports. Opportunities to conserve water used for agriculture in the U.S. abound, however funding to support infrastructure modernization and water conservation is lacking. BEF’s Water Restoration program supports projects that invest in new irrigation infrastructure that allows irrigators to conserve and divert less water from dewatered rivers, streams and aquifers. By funding irrigation system upgrades, BEF supports projects that leave significant “saved water” in the river to benefit fish, wildlife, recreation, and water quality. While projects of this type do not create “new water” they play a central role in enhancing flows in critically dewatered streams.
- NATURAL HYDROLOGIC RESTORATION: In many locations, human alterations to the landscape have changed the natural hydrology of river and groundwater systems. Due to extensive landscape alterations, natural rainfall and runoff are often no longer able to recharge groundwater tables, leading to depleted river flows and groundwater systems. Furthermore, many stream systems have been dammed or routed away from floodplains and stream channels, compromising natural flow patterns, hindering migration of animals, and/or restricting the natural infiltration and replenishment of groundwater. Artificial impoundments also can lead to water quality and safety concerns that include algal blooms and toxic water conditions. BEF’s Water Restoration Program supports projects that restore physical conditions to facilitate natural flow conditions that recharge groundwater tables, replenish depleted rivers and springs, and restore natural flow conditions needed to support fish and wildlife and recreation.
- INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS: Across the U.S. and the world, advanced information technology systems have demonstrated the ability to support precision application of water, reduce pollutant runoff, and conserve water. Deployment of hi-tech systems to monitor and control water management and application has tremendous potential to reduce our withdrawal of surface and groundwater and alleviate water and food security challenges. By precisely measuring water needs and utilizing automated systems to apply and manage water, many farmers are able to sustain food production using less water. However, hi-tech water management systems are expensive to deploy and maintain, and in many parts of the U.S. use of these systems is rare. BEF’s Water Restoration Program supports projects that deploy hi-tech water sensing and management systems where it is possible to conserve water, reduce pollutants, and/or replenish river flows, groundwater, and habitat.
These types of projects can apply to rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater aquifers.