From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Improving irrigation efficiency in the Lower Arkansas Valley could improve water quality and save farmers money.
Those are conclusions reached by Tim Gates, a Colorado State University- Fort Collins engineering professor who has overseen 17 years of a large-scale study of salinity of area farms.
“It’s designed to address the problems facing agriculture and the environment in the valley,” Gates told the Lower Ark board at its monthly meeting this week.
Those problems include shallow groundwater tables, or waterlogging; excessive salt buildup; crop yield reduction; and buildup of selenium, uranium and nutrient concentrations.
Studies began in 1999 to track the rate of increase and develop strategies for dealing with the problem. Those studies have been funded by state and local sponsors, including the Lower Ark district.
A new project, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will address changes in irrigation that can improve conditions.
“This will make recommendations for pilot programs throughout the Arkansas Valley that will be tested,” Gates said.
Board chairman Lynden Gill asked Gates what some examples of pilot projects would be.
Gates responded that several have already been proven, including:
The Super Ditch lease-fallowing program. Letting some ground recover periodically can improve its productivity over time. Improving technology, such as adding sprinklers or drip irrigation. Sealing canals with PAM, which can reduce seepage by 30-80 percent. Management of fertilizer to avoid excessive amounts. Improving riparian corridors, which can act to filter out contaminants.
The district has a new goal of improving water quality in the Lower Arkansas Valley. This could improve crop production and wildlife habitat. It also might fend off future legal challenges by Kansas over water quality.