Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Dave White has announced the availability of $61.2 million in financial assistance funding for Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) projects.

This funding will help producers conserve surface and ground water and improve water quality on agricultural land.

"By working with our partners, we will see more water conservation on working lands and more opportunities to improve water quality," said White.

AWEP projects are implemented by NRCS entering into partnership agreements with eligible entities. NRCS works with these partners to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in project areas established through the agreements.

Of the $61.2 million, approximately $40.4 million will be made available to AWEP partners whose projects were approved during last fiscal year and approximately $20.7 million will be available for new project proposals.

The following partnership entities are eligible to submit proposals for funding: Federally recognized Indian Tribes, states, units of local government, agricultural associations, and other groups of producers — such as irrigation associations, agricultural land trusts, or other non-governmental organization — that have experience working with agricultural producers.

When an AWEP project area has been approved and announced, individual producers may apply for program benefits through their local NRCS office.

Types of water enhancement activities intended with this request for proposal are:

• Water quality or water conservation plan development;

• Water conservation restoration or enhancement projects;

• Water quality or quantity restoration or enhancement projects;

• Irrigation system improvement and irrigation efficiency enhancements;

• Activities designed to mitigate the effects of drought; and

• Related activities determined to help achieve water quality or water conservation benefits on agricultural land.

Deadline for partner organizations to submit a proposal is 3:00 p.m. May 17, 2010. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (farm bill) established AWEP. To view the full request for proposal, for additional AWEP information, or to apply visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/AWEP/.

For additional information about NRCS and conservation programs that may be available for you, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov, or visit the nearest USDA Service Center in your area.