The goal of the Source Water Buffer Program is to protect active sources of public drinking water and to support, expand, or enhance water quality protection through the purchase of conservation easements on agricultural lands. Such projects shall preserve or establish buffers for surface or ground waters which serve as, or are tributaries to, public drinking water supplies.
Funding for this opportunity is provided through the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 with approximately $5 million available for the purchase of conservation easements on agricultural lands that support, expand, or enhance water quality protection of active public drinking water sources. These are including but not limited to aquifers, watersheds, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and streams. Program funds will also be available for the implementation of Riparian Buffer Systems within the conservation easement area that will provide further water quality protection.
Vegetated or forested buffers are extremely effective practices when it comes to improving and protecting water quality and mitigating nutrient pollution. The Source Water Buffer Program will provide long-term or forever protection of these areas to positively impact drinking water quality for future generations.
- The program will cost share up to 75% of the purchase of perpetual conservation easements or 50-year term conservation easements.
- Funds may also be used to install or enhance vegetated or forested buffers within the easement area.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts are the only eligible applicants for this program; they apply to the program on behalf of interested farmers.
Interested farmers must own an eligible farm operation or must lease land to an eligible farm operation, and must have completed an Agricultural Environmental Management Tier 1 and Tier 2 evaluation at a minimum. These lands must be:
- Directly adjacent to surface waters designated as a drinking water source,
- Directly adjacent to tributaries that drain to designated drinking water source,
- Wetland areas directly adjacent to surface waters designated as a drinking water source,
- Within a wellhead protection area designated by the New York State Department of Health, and/or
- Within the contributing area directly adjacent to an aquifer sinkhole.
The Request for Applications will remain open until January 2020 or until all funding has been awarded. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.