USDA is awarding 26 grants for research, education and Extension efforts that will help to inform science-based decision-making on water-related issues in communities across the United States.

The grants, totaling $13.4 million, are split into two major categories: 17 grants will support integrated research, education and extension work to improve the quality of the nation's surface and groundwater resources in agricultural, rural and urbanizing watersheds; and nine research grants will address critical water resource issues, including drought preparedness and water reuse in agriculture. The grants are funded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

"American communities and rural areas depend upon a safe and reliable water supply," said Merrigan. "These research projects will help farmers, ranchers and community leaders enhance local economies and environments in agricultural and rural communities. At the same time, drought preparedness and the consideration of novel sources of water will help cities, communities and rural areas across the nation and around the globe adapt to the effects of changing climate on water quality and quantity and better understand water's role in agro-ecosystems."

In the first category, 17 grants totaling more than $9 million were awarded by NIFA through the National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP), which aims to solve water resource problems by advancing scientific knowledge about water quality. Funded projects also use the new knowledge gained to develop and disseminate science-based decision making and management practices that improve the surface and groundwater quality in the nation's watersheds.

Projects funded this year include:

  • Cal Poly Corporation, San Luis Obispo, Calif., $234,865
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $365,000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $149,000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $17,000
  • University of Delaware, Newark, Del., $595,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $398,800
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $395,000
  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $567,000
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Ill., $595,000
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $395,000
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $595,000
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $570,000
  • Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss., $445,000
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $598,500
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., $595,000
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc., $2,400,000
  • University of Rhode Island, Kingstown, R.I., $495,000

Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2011, NIFA, in cooperation with USDA's Farm Service Agency, solicited proposals for three interrelated projects that address nitrogen cycling in agricultural watersheds. All three projects funded through this special emphasis area are expected to work collaboratively in developing solutions for improving water quality in agricultural watersheds. These projects include the University of Illinois, Iowa State University and the University of Rhode Island.

In the second category, nine grants totaling $4.4 million were awarded by NIFA through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Agricultural Water Sciences foundational program. This program supports research projects and programs that address critical water resource issues in agricultural, rural and urban ecosystems. These projects reflect the growing need to reduce the impacts of more frequent and intense droughts and provide alternative sources of water for irrigated agriculture and other agricultural uses under conditions of shrinking water availability. Projects were funded in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Nebraska and Texas and include:

  • University of California, Riverside, Calif., $500,000
  • Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo., $499,815
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $486,451
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, $499,912
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $492,797
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $495,888,
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., $500,000
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $498,649,
  • Texas A& M University, College Station, Texas, $496,335

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program and was established under the 2008 Farm Bill. AFRI supports work in six priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is at