Water Conservation Field Services Program

Reclamation initiated the Water Conservation Field Services Program (WCFSP) to encourage water conservation and efficient use of water supplies on Reclamation's projects and to foster improved water management on a watershed basis throughout the western states.

The WCFSP is designed to support watershed partnerships to improve fish and wildlife habitat associated with water systems or water supplies affected by Reclamation projects and contribute to the recovery of endangered or threatened species whose habitat and/or survival may be influenced by conservation activities on Reclamation projects and associated watersheds.

The WCFSP implements the "Preferred Alternative" in Reclamation's Final Environmental Impact Statement of March 1996. It was initiated in 1997 to help fulfill Reclamation's overall mission to "manage, develop and protect water and related resources in an environmentally sound manner in the interest of the American public."

The WCFSP demonstrates innovative conservation technologies. The program specifically emphasizes ways to improve water measurement techniques in effective and affordable ways for agricultural districts. This includes demonstrations in water measurement, canal automation, diversion structures, seepage control, xeriscaping, and urban retrofitting. The Canal Lining Program is a specialized series of demonstration projects to test alternative methods and materials for lining canals.

In the PN Region, area offices are working with water districts on new approaches to minimize canal and ditch seepage. Reclamation is also demonstrating the appropriate use of automation and telemetry control for agricultural water suppliers working to optimize their delivery capabilities.

Water Management
Effective water management planning is a prerequisite to addressing site-specific conservation opportunities and objectives. Conservation measures can best be expected to take place when they are "locally feasible," that is, when they provide benefits to the implementer.

Section 210 (b) of the RRA requires districts contracting for water from Federal water projects to develop water conservation plans, and many districts seek assistance in getting into the water management and conservation planning process. Download the revised Water Conservation Planning Guidebook from our site.

Through the WCFSP, technical and financial assistance is being made available to encourage the development of quality water conservation plans by districts. In many cases, this is one-on-one assistance provided by Reclamation staff. In others it may be financial assistance through cost-sharing to support the district in development of its plan.

Canal Lining Program
Canals can lose 30 to 50 percent of their irrigation water through seepage. Canal-lining technologies can minimize seepage losses at reasonable costs. The Canal Lining Program is a specialized demonstration program designed to investigate alternative canal-lining materials. Traditional canal-lining materials typically include compacted earth, reinforced or unreinforced conerete, and (more recently) buried geomembranes. However, for some jobs, these materials are not always viable because they:

  1. are not locally available (such as compacted earth)
  2. are too expensive (such as reinforced concrete)
  3. require easy access for heavy construction equipment (such as slip-forming unreinforced concrete)
  4. require extensive overexcavation and subgrade preparation (such as buried geomembranes)

This study looks at alternative canal-lining materials that are less expensive, easier to construct with limited access, and compatible with severe rocky subgrades such as the fractured volcanic basalt common in the Pacific Northwest.

To date, over 30 test sections have been constructed in several irrigation districts throughout the Pacific Northwest. The lining materials include combinations of geosynthetics, shotcrete, grout-filled mattrasses, soil, elastomeric coatings, and sprayed-in-place foam. Some test sections are almost ten years old.

The Canal Lining Program publishes several reports and updates on the implementation of various canal-lining materials:

11/2002 Canal-Lining Demonstration Project Year 10 Final Report PDF 26.05 mb
10/2001 Bitter Root Irrigation District Main Canal PDF 452 kb
06/2001 Construction Cost Tables for the Canal Lining Projects PDF 48 kb
01/2000 Canal-Lining Demonstration Project 2000 Supplemental PDF 1.23 mb
09/1999 Canal-Lining Demonstration Project Year 7 Durability Report PDF 12.42 mb

Drought Assistance
In 1991, Congress established Reclamation's Drought Program to authorize emergency response and planning assistance that would minimize and mitigate losses and damages resulting from drought conditions.

Under Title I , Reclamation provides emergency drought assistance to states, including the following activities:

  • Purchase of water for threatened and endangered species
  • Pond construction for wildlife
  • Dike construction for wetlands
  • Well drilling

Under Title II, Reclamation provides assistance in the development, modification, or updating of cooperative drought contingency or water management plans. Reclamation also sponsors drought contingency planning workshops.

Conservation Education
The implementation of effective efficiency measures is the ultimate objective of water management and conservation planning. The WCFSP is providing opportunities for both technical and financial assistance for water districts to begin implementing effective efficiency measures identified in their water conservation plans. Local programs provide cost-sharing, generally on a 50-50 basis, through cooperative agreements or grants. Some activities include:

  • Assisting water agencies with implementing water conservation plans and water management practices.
  • Providing funds for implementation through cost-sharing activities.
  • Facilitating partnerships with other organizations to conduct implementation activities.
  • Assisting water agencies with water measurement (including the Water Measurement Manual), automation, telemetry, and conveyance system improvements.

Additional Resources
WaterSMART (National Reclamation Site)
Water Conservation Field Services Program (National Reclamation Site)


Leah Meeks
(208) 378-5025

Bureau of Reclamation
Pacific Northwest Regional Office
1150 North Curtis Road, Suite 100
Boise ID 83706-1234

Last Update: 11/10/16