In response to the Governor’s California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future and, as California enters its fourth year of drought, the shrinking groundwater supply underscores the need for action. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will launch the LandFlex Program as a new and innovative tool to protect drinking water wells. LandFlex will provide $25 million in block grants to local government agencies to grant to farmers. The program will incentivize farmers to limit agricultural groundwater use near drought-stricken communities whose drinking water wells have gone dry or are close to going dry. LandFlex will provide community benefits such as reduced pressures on drinking water wells, groundwater overdraft prevention, and climate resilience.
Funding for Farmers:
LandFlex will provide financial incentives to farmers for each enrolled acre. To ensure small and mid-sized farms have access to the program, eligibility is limited to farmers with a 3-year average Adjusted Gross Income of $2.5 million or less. A single entity may enroll up to 25% of their total acreage or 40 acres -whichever is greater. No individual grant will be greater than $2.5 million. Farmers are identified based on their proximity to drinking water wells that have gone dry or are in jeopardy of going dry.
Farmers receive incentives for the following actions:
- Provide Immediate Drought Relief by fallowing land for 1 year. For each acre-foot of water saved in the ground, a farmer will receive up to $350 per acre-foot – final amount to be determined by local GSA.
- Long-Term Elimination of Groundwater Overdraft. A farmer will receive $1,000/ per acre-foot to permanently eliminate each acre-foot of annual pumping that exceeds locally determined levels of groundwater sustainability. A farmer may choose to give more than one acre-foot in the agreement and will be compensated accordingly.
- Transition to more climate-resilient ag practices. Depending on current land uses, the farmer could receive between $250-$2,800/acre for the removal of permanent tree crops, purchasing upcycled ag waste for dairy feed replacement, and planting cover crops that use natural rainfall to grow.
LandFlex will give the agricultural community an opportunity to transition now to more sustainable practices and help their local communities in the face of an uncertain water future.