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On-Farm Water Quality Projects

Encouraging On-Farm Projects through Grants

Dairy farmer with pipe

More and more, California dairy farmers understand how important it is to protect clean water as an integral part of their day-to-day operations. And, with the state Water Board’s more stringent water quality regulations taking effect, they have an even greater incentive to try new technologies and practices. However, that may involve investing significant amounts of time and money to find out what works and implement the changes.

Our Role

To showcase the best technologies and practices, and provide financial support for new projects, Sustainable Conservation managed a statewide grant program supporting dairy projects that improve water quality. These projects keep nearly 400 million pounds of cow manure — and millions of pounds of nitrogen — out of waterways each year.

Completed projects include:

  • Flow meters: Allow farmers to adjust the amount of liquid manure applied to their crops, decreasing the likelihood of nitrogen and other nutrients reaching local groundwater.
  • Pipeline infrastructure: Allows farmers to distribute dairy lagoon water to additional farmland, thus irrigating and fertilizing more crops with organic nutrients and reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.
  • Back-flow prevention: Prevents manure water from reaching and contaminating groundwater wells.
  • Manure collection technologies: Decrease the amount of water used to flush dairy stalls and collect manure.
  • Air-cooled condensers: Reduces the amount of water used on-farm to cool milk.
  • Vacuum pumps: Conserve water relative to conventional pumps used on dairies.

The projects took place in six Central Valley counties: Fresno, Kings, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare.

Participating dairy farmers report significant environmental, economic and agronomic benefits from completing these projects, including:

  • Improved soil characteristics
  • Increased yields
  • Reduced spending on synthetic fertilizers
  • Improved ability to meet water quality standards

These projects show other dairy farmers that they can protect clean water and run a profitable business. By publicizing the results and coordinating education and outreach, Sustainable Conservation seeks to inspire other dairy farmers around the state to try new technologies and practices.