Dairy farmers can now save and use water more efficiently thanks to a cost-share assistance program created by the Suwannee River Water Management District.
The program has received $1.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s state springs grant program.
Division Director of Agriculture and Environmental Projects at Suwannee River Water Management District, Darrell Smith, said that the program would not be possible without the grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.
“A lot of these farms would not afford these improvements,” Smith said.
The cost-share program gives the water management district the opportunity to help farmers with 75 percent of the total cost of the project, which could be up to $500,000.
The program will also address the issue of a water deficit prediction for the next 20 to 35 years that was reported in the North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan draft.
The North Florida Regional Water Supply Plan is a joint effort of the Suwannee River Water Management District and the St. John’s River Water Management District. The plan was created over the past four years to try and prevent the water deficit by using alternative water sources.
If the two districts continue to use traditional water sources such as ground water, then the water deficit will happen, according to Carlos Herd, Water Supply Division Director of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
Herd is glad about the joint effort and the creation of the plan.
“This whole process has brought the two water management districts together and we’re jointly helping with water conservation,” he said.
Applications for the program opened Wednesday and can be submitted until Jan. 20. Farmers must include information about the farm, such as types of crops and animals, and would have to implement the practices required by the Florida Department of Agriculture.
“This [program] is part of a larger effort to improve the quality of the springs,” Suwannee Water Management District’s Communications Director, Katelyn Potter said. “This is possible with the support of Governor Scott, the legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”