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National Integrated Water Quality Program, Frequently Asked Questions

The goal of the NIFA National Water Quality Program is to protect and improve the quality of water resources throughout the United States and its territories, particularly in agriculturally managed watersheds. 

Frequently asked questions regarding the water quality program involve the focus of the program; project and grant types available; and general requirements. 

What is the National Integrated Water Quality program?

The goal of the National Integrated Water Quality program (NIWQP) is to contribute to the improvement of the quality and conservation of our Nation’s water resources through research, education, and extension activities. Projects funded through this program will work to solve water resource problems by advancing and disseminating the knowledge base available to agricultural, rural, and urbanizing communities.

What is the focus of the program?

The program focuses on developing science-based decision making and management practices that improve the quality and quantity of the Nation’s water resources in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds.

What project types are available?

NIFA is soliciting applications for the NIWQP under the following areas:

  1. Farm, Landscape and Watershed Scale Projects – Projects should promote locally focused solutions to farm/landscape/watershed scale water resource issues in agricultural, rural, and urbanizing watersheds. Applications must be integrated across research, education, and outreach/extension.
  2. NIWQP Synthesis Project- Synthesize the scientific understanding and accomplishments made through NIFA’s portfolio of funded water projects over the last one and a half decades.

What grant types are available?

Only integrated projects. The projects should include ALL three functions: research, education, and outreach/extension (see FAQ 8 for additional information).

What are some of the requirements of the applications?

Farm, Landscape and Watershed Scale Projects:

  • Be conducted at a farm, landscape or watershed scale;
  • Be integrated across research, education, and outreach/extension with specific objectives for each;
  • Include a detailed plan and accompanying budget for evaluation of project activities and outcomes throughout the duration of the project;
  • Focus on biophysical, social, economic, and behavioral practices needed to improve both the adoption and maintenance of practices intended to improve water availability for agriculture.

NIWQP Synthesis Project:

  • Identify critical findings of the NIFA Water Portfolio since fiscal year 2000;
  • Show how effective integrated (research, education, and extension) projects were at moving stakeholders (e.g., water managers) closer to solutions to water management issues in rural, agricultural, and urbanizing watersheds;
  • Are there synergies that have developed among national, regional, and watershed scale projects resulting in improved leveraging of resources and accelerated movement toward solution to critical water problems?

What is an integrated project?

Integrated projects submitted under the NIWQP should include ALL three functions of agriculture knowledge (i.e., research, education, outreach/extension). The functions should be interdependent and necessary for the success of the project, and no more than two-thirds of the project’s budget may focus on a single component.

What are the eligibility requirements for the NIWQP program?

Eligible applicants include: Colleges and universities, 1994 land-grant institutions (tribal colleges), and Hispanic-serving agricultural colleges and universities.

If I receive an award, when can I expect to start?

At least 6 months after the submission deadline date for the program.

How do I identify an international partner?

You should check with the office at your institution that oversees international programs. Staff in that office can provide networks and contacts, as well as advice on developing effective international programs. Colleagues from your institution who work internationally also know of relevant networks.

Can I use NIFA support to travel internationally?

Yes, NIFA funding can be used to support international travel so long as the requested travel clearly supports project goals.

Do international partnerships make my proposal more or less competitive?

International partnerships are a dimension—nothing more or less—of a proposal, and are assessed as part of the entire proposal. Including an international partnership—even those in which the international partner brings his/her own funding to the proposed work—does not make the proposal more or less competitive. NIFA uses peer-review and the selection criteria described in the RFA to assess the merits of proposals. Any proposed international partnership must clearly address RFA goals and contribute to American agriculture.

Can I partner with people from any country?

You can partner with most countries.  But to be certain, you should check the U.S. Department of State factsheets on bilateral relations with the country(ies) with which you plan to partner for any U.S. Government limitations or restrictions on the international partnership you are proposing.

For more information, check out the State Department factsheets. 

Also, travel warnings are posted at the U.S. Department of State.

What should I do if I want to make an application that includes an international partner?

Prior to the development of a full collaborative application with an international partner, we strongly encourage U.S. applicants to engage the RFA’s point of contact (POC) to confirm that the topic meets NIFA’s mission to support high priority issues relevant to U.S. agriculture. Contact the POC to clarify application procedures, and to receive further instructions for a joint application.

How do I plan a budget with an international partner?

Most international participants in NIFA research grants can receive funds from a sub-contract issued from the U.S award recipient’s sponsored programs management office. The roles and activities of the international collaborator should be clearly identified and integrated with the proposal objectives and described in the budget narrative. Funding modalities must be clear and, where needed, sub-contracts in place.

Is NIFA party to any current relevant international agreements of which I should be aware?

NIFA’s strategy for global engagement centers on developing carefully considered partnerships that can advance U.S. agriculture and global food security. Examples include:

  • In 2013, NIFA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S.- Israel Bi-national Agricultural Research & Development (BARD) Fund. More information is available at the BARD website.
  • NIFA will continue to provide partnership opportunities with the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases with other USDA agencies.
  • NIFA continues to partner with the Joint North American Carbon Program with United State Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), (US, Canada, and Mexico)
  • Another network with the potential to partner is the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research with USGCRP (Asia-Pacific countries)


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