Report: After two years, California’s Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program involves nearly 100 organizations and includes regions covering 3.3 million acres

April 9, 2024
Jonathan Seefeldt, (512) 412-2540,

(Sacramento, CA – April 9, 2024) — Nearly 100 organizations are now working collectively on agricultural land transformation according to the first-ever annual report on California’s Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program released earlier this month (Spanish version here). Launched by the Department of Conservation in summer 2022, the program seeks to increase regional capacity for repurposing irrigated agricultural land to uses that reduce reliance on groundwater while providing a range of new community benefits.

The new report indicates significant progress in the first two years of the program. The regions receiving funding now cover 3.3 million acres — the equivalent of 4.5 Yosemite National Parks and 5,258 Lake Tahoes.

“California, and much of the western United States, is facing a hotter and drier future,” said José M. Rodriguez-Flores, senior analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund’s water program. “Adapting to this change and achieving groundwater sustainability relies on reducing our agricultural water footprint. Multibenefit land repurposing ensures this transition occurs in a strategic way that benefits those most affected by the change. Growers, frontline communities, and Tribes are co-leading the planning and this report shows the emerging projects have real, transformative promise.”

"Repurposing irrigated farmland for other uses, such as wildlife habitat, recharge basins, and solar is one tool to bring aquifers back to sustainable levels," said Sonia Sanchez, manager with Self-Help Enterprises. "The program is already over-subscribed with significantly more regions applying for funding than receiving it. Clearly there is substantial need and interest in this effort — we need to continue to support and fund this critical initiative.

The new report focuses on MLRP goals and accomplishments, current progress, partner involvement, and engagement with MLRP stakeholders and communities.

Key takeaways include:

  • In its first round of funding, DOC awarded $10M block grants to 4 applicants partnering and collaborating with 73 different organizations.
  • In the second round of funding, DOC awarded $8.89M block grants to 4 applicants partnering and collaborating with over 36 different organizations, doubling the number of block grantees and extending the total reach of MLRP partner and collaborator support to over 100 organizations.
  • The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians were awarded $1,753,000 in May 2023 for the planning and development of a groundwater recharge project.
  • Round 1 block grantees identified and conducted targeted outreach to regional stakeholders, including 13 disadvantaged communities in the Kaweah Subbasin, as well as 50 key stakeholders representing 35 unique entities in the Madera Subbasin.
  • Round 1 block grantees formed community advisory groups representing a diverse set of stakeholders to inform the block grant planning process, including local community members, growers, tribal members, and others.
  • Round 1 block grantees began project development activities under three block grants in Tule, Kaweah, and Lower Salinas Subbasins, with input from communities and DOC.
  • Program administrators and participants faced several common challenges in the first year of MLRP implementation. Extreme weather and flooding impacting communities across the state and delayed community outreach efforts in some block grantee regions.
  • The Statewide Support Entity formed a diverse Advisory Committee that includes environment, agriculture, community, tribal representation and brought on The Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists as Implementation Partners. These roles leverage the expertise of organizations to support successful SSE operations and program implementation.

The DOC, SSE, and block grantees look forward to continued progress toward program and regional goals in 2024 and beyond.

The new 2023 Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program Annual Report is available in English and Spanish.

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