Delta Drought Response Pilot Program
The Delta Drought Response Pilot Program was launched in January 2022 in response to consecutive dry years, low combined storage in state and federal water project reservoirs, and drought-constrained water deliveries to project contractors.
The program was developed in partnership with the Department of Water Resources, the Office of the Delta Watermaster, and The Nature Conservancy, and in coordination with Delta water users.
Under the program, farmers receive financial incentives to reduce their water use and protect wildlife and water quality in the Delta. The collaborative program helps improve mutual understanding of agricultural practices and water conservation opportunities in different regions within the Legal Delta.
DWR allocated $8 million for grants for the first round of the program in which more than 8,700 acres were enrolled. A report was published in March 2023 that describes the initiation, solicitation, selection, and analysis of incentivized water conservation actions taken by Delta agricultural water users during the first round of the program.
With funding allocated in the Budget Act of 2022, the program launched a second phase with an additional $10.8 million in grant funding available for water year 2023 (October 1 to September 30), with 16,116 acres enrolled in water-saving practices and 6,400 acres enrolled in bird benefit practices.
The goals of the 2023 program are:
- Conserve water on a net basis during water year 2023
- Protect Delta water quality by providing an added buffer against salinity intrusion
- Promote soil health
- Mitigate potential drought impacts on fish and migratory birds
By rigorously monitoring the outcomes and impacts of a variety of actions in different settings throughout the Legal Delta, the Program provides data to support targeted water conservation/quality protection responses during sustained and/or future droughts.