Cover photo for ACRE3 Irrigation Hydropower Programs

ACRE3 Irrigation Hydropower Programs

Colorado Department of Agriculture

The ACRE3 program has secured $2.9 million, including $1.45 million from the USDA RCPP program, for financial and technical assistance to help farmers upgrade their irrigation systems to save water and energy.

CDA has teamed up with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service-Colorado, Rural Development-Colorado, the Colorado Energy Office, and nine other partners through the RCPP program to facilitate the development of low-impact small hydropower on new and existing pressurized irrigation systems.

In addition to pressurized irrigation systems, the ACRE3 program can also support the development of low-impact hydropower projects in irrigation canal drops and small reservoirs.

The Hydropower Partnership Project will make it as easy as possible for agricultural producers to implement hydropower in their irrigation operations. The project aims to install 30 integrated hydromechanical or hydroelectric power systems across Colorado over the next four years. This project also promotes the conversion of flood-irrigated fields to sprinkler irrigation with integrated hydropower to promote water conservation while preserving the irrigator’s full water rights.

Each landowner participating in the Hydropower Partnership Project will work with NRCS to engage in an Irrigation Water Management Plan as part of the resource assessment and conservation activities. With combined funding from the ACRE3 program, EQIP, and REAP, landowners could receive as much as 50-75% of project costs to install new irrigation and hydropower systems.

You can learn more about how to use hydropower in your agricultural operation through these useful publications:

For more information, here is how to participate in the ACRE3 Program.


Project Developers should view the Hydro Navigation Guide Resources to download the Agricultural Hydropower Technical Manual, hydropower assessment and design tools, a project planning checklist, and other resources for project developers and program partners.


The RCPP irrigation hydro program provides funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and ACRE3 energy grant program. Additional funding is available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). ACRE3 funding will be awarded after funding has been approved for EQIP and REAP (if applicable). When applying for funding through these programs, please note that funding payments are on a reimbursement basis and upfront costs of the project are the responsibility of the applicant. Please note that federal tax incentives for renewable energy cannot be used together with payments from a federally funded program such as EQIP or REAP.


The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to eligible agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. EQIP may also help producers meet Federal, State, Tribal, and local environmental regulations. EQIP has three payment rates within the RCPP program: regular EQIP, EQIP special initiatives, and EQIP historically underserved.

To get started with EQIP, go to: Select “Service Center Locator” to find a local representative. Please request assistance through the RCPP hydro program.

This document describes EQIP project eligibility and criteria for the RCPP irrigation hydro program: P.03a RCPP-EQIP Eligibility Criteria.

EQIP payments are determined from the eligible conservation practices listed in the EQIP Practice Payment Schedule. Here are some examples of available practice codes:

  • 430 Irrigation Pipeline – Micro Hydro Power Plant 442 Irrigation System, Sprinkler 449 Irrigation Water Management 430 Irrigation Pipeline – HDPE Pipe 587 Structure for Water Control – Cleaning Screens 533 Pumping Plant

While the minimum REAP grant request is $2,500 and competition is lower for requests under $20,000, ACRE3 encourages applicants to consider that the amount of work required for small grants is nearly the same as that required for large grant requests. Before applying for a REAP grant, the applicant should look over the application and REAP checklist to estimate the number of hours that it will take to meet the application requirements both before and after the application is submitted.

This document describes REAP project eligibility and criteria: P.03c REAP Eligibility Criteria.

Additional Incentives, Policies, and Programs:

Participation in the RCPP irrigation Hydropower Program precludes you from receiving renewable energy tax credits from the IRS. However, several other tax incentives, financing options, renewable energy policies, and local programs may provide additional assistance with hydro projects. The attached brochure provides information to help you take advantage of these other opportunities: P.04 Renewable Energy Incentives and Policies in Colorado.

REAP grants provide up to 25% of eligible project costs, including renewable energy equipment and installation costs. REAP grants and loans can be combined for a maximum of 75% of project costs.

Please note: When completing the REAP application, all hydro projects approved for the RCPP irrigation hydro program should always be categorized as Renewable Energy Systems for Energy Replacement (not for Energy Generated or Energy Saved) unless the estimated energy production exceeds the on-farm energy needs. In that case, the project should be categorized under Renewable Energy Systems for Energy Generation.


The ACRE3 program promotes the development and implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for Colorado’s agricultural producers and processors under the direction of the Colorado Agricultural Value-Added Development Board. The Colorado Department of Agriculture may award ACRE3 funds to projects for up to 25% of eligible project costs, not to exceed $25,000 per project. The ACRE3 program will provide technical services to agricultural producers to complete the project development process described in this navigation guide. This document describes ACRE3 project eligibility and criteria: P.03b ACRE3 Eligibility Criteria


The USDA Rural Development (RD) provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP grants can be used to purchase or install hydropower systems to reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the Nation’s critical energy needs. REAP has two types of funding assistance, Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Assistance Financing programs, for secured loans up to 75% of project costs.

Application Instructions

Updated March 22, 2024

Image Credit: Colorado Department of Agriculture

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