Water conservation program funded

WASHINGTON -- Federal funding of $2.42 million has been appropriated by Congress for a program designed to help south Georgia farmers conserve water used for irrigation this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said.

Applications for the Ponds Program from eligible Georgia landowners south of a line running through Chattahoochee, Crawford, Wilkinson, Washington, Glascock and Burke counties will be accepted July 1-30, officials said. The program will be administered by the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission with technical support from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

GSWCC officials say the legislation provides federal funding and technical assistance so that farmers can construct irrigation reservoirs or improve existing reservoirs on agricultural property. The funding also is aimed at improving the efficiency of irrigation systems. Landowners who need supplemental irrigation are encouraged to apply for the program.

"Our south Georgia farmers are especially vulnerable to droughts and harsh weather," Soil and Water Conservation Commission Chairman Garland Thompson said. "And so the federal assistance provided by the Ponds Program is vital to help farmers make the most of the rains we do get while preserving the health of our aquifers."

Under the program, a landowners provides 25 percent of the cost of a pond project, and grant funds cover the remainder up to $50,000 of the estimated cost as determined by the NRCS. Possible funding for irrigation nozzle retrofits is $6 per linear foot of the center pivot irrigation system up to $5,000. Additional cost-share on an end gun shutoff will be based on 75 percent of the original cost, not to exceed $3,000.

Applications and program information are available at the GSWCC offices in Dawson (229) 995-6001, Milledgeville (478) 445-5766, and Statesboro (912) 681-5241, or at USDA Service Centers in south Georgia. Contact GSWCC at (706) 542-3065 or visit gaswcc.org for more information.