The District helps Agriculture implement water protection and conservation projects

April 29, 2021

A pivot irrigation system standing over farm crops

A pivot irrigation system used at Brown’s Farm in Alachua County is just one of the water-conserving devices implemented through District cost-share funding projects.

The St. Johns River Water Management District took another step forward this month to assist farmers and growers to conserve water and reduce excess nutrients from entering our waterways. Earlier this month, our Governing Board approved cost-share rankings for 15 agricultural projects through two successful District partnership programs that are focused on water quality improvements, conserve water/water supply and help protect springs.

The first, our Districtwide Agricultural Cost-Share Program, began in July 2015 and has funded 103 projects to help farmers and growers save water and reduce nutrient loads. This year, the Governing Board approved eight projects located in Alachua, Lake, Marion and Putnam counties. They include irrigation conversion and retrofits, water reuse, pump automation and the installation of precision fertilizer application equipment. Once implemented, these projects are estimated to collectively conserve 57 million gallons of water each year and reduce total nitrogen (TN) by 6,614 pounds and total phosphorus (TP) by 761 pounds per year.

Through the second program — the Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA) Water Management Partnership Cost-Share Program — our Governing Board approved another seven irrigation improvement projects in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. These projects are estimated to collectively conserve 26.3 million gallons of water a year and reduce TN by 10,983 pounds per year and TP by 2,121 pounds per year. Since the District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDAC) formed the TCAA partnership in 2012, the cost-share program has funded 129 projects.

Brown’s Farm in Alachua County is just one example of this type of funding’s positive impact on the farming community. Roy Brown has managed a 250-acre generational family farm for more than 30 years with a focus on sustainability. Brown’s Farm operates a roadside stand off State Road 26 in Orange Heights, growing pecans and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Using District cost-share funding between 2016 and 2020, Brown has been converting less-efficient irrigation systems to center pivots with drop and low-pressure spray nozzles and has added soil moisture sensors and weather stations. He is now conserving almost 10 million gallons per year with the new systems. In addition, Roy Brown has been converting to precision fertilizer application equipment, which allows him to reduce the amount of fertilizer he uses, while placing the fertilizer just where it’s most needed. These changes will result in an estimated annual nutrient loading reduction of 6,325 pounds of TN and 3,173 pounds of TP.

We applaud the farmers and growers throughout the District who are dedicated to implementing water conservation innovations and water quality improvement projects. We send many thanks to FDEP and FDAC for the partnership that makes funding possible and to Suzanne Archer and the District’s Ag Assistance Team for dedication to our core missions of water resource protection and water conservation.

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