The High Desert Conservation District has teamed up with farmer Brian Wilson and Teeter Irrigation, of Johnson City, Kansas, to determine if the company’s trademarked Dragon-Line system will work for this area.
Instead of using the nozzles on the center pivot to irrigate, a row of drip lines are attached that drag behind the sprinkler watering the crop at its base instead of from above.
“It saves water and reduces evaporation, erosion and runoff,” said Travis Custer, agricultural consultant with High Desert. “It is the first trial of the technology in the area.”
To compare crop yields, one section of the center pivot irrigates a field of wheat normally from spray nozzles, and an adjacent section utilizes a series of drip lines attached to the nozzles. After harvest, the yields will be compared. Soil moisture monitors have also been installed in areas watered by the drip and nozzle sections of the sprinkler.
The hybrid center pivot and drip line technology was created by Teeter Irrigation, and launched in 2015. The technology has proven effective in Kansas and other plain states that irrigate from an underground aquifer, Custer said.
But since local farms use surface water delivered via ditches and pipelines that carry more debris, a filter system had to be installed on the center pivot being used on the Pleasant View trial…
Farmers have switched to center-pivot sprinkler technology because it is less labor-intensive than side-roll sprinklers, which must be moved by hand. Center pivots are automated, and move in a circular pattern, watering from a row of nozzle heads. Water flow and speed are adjustable and can be controlled remotely.
But center pivots work best on flatter ground. On undulating farmland and fields with steeper slopes, center pivots can cause water to pool in low spots and run off the field or drain into the sprinkler’s wheel tracks, creating muddy conditions.
What’s exciting is that the drip-system attachment to the center-pivot could eliminate those problems because the water is delivered at ground level, said Steve Miles, board member of the High Desert Conservation District…
It appears to be working in the test plots. The lower areas of the drip-line section are not getting waterlogged, and there is less runoff the field. How often the filter-system has to be flushed is also part of the experiment.
As metro Denver grows, what’s the outlook for its water supply? We went to the source to ask.
Denver Water is the state’s biggest water utility, ensuring that 1.4 million customers in Denver and many surrounding suburbs have enough clean water for drinking, showering, cooking and yard watering.
Jim Lochhead was appointed its CEO and manager in 2010, after working for decades as a lawyer negotiating water rights and uses across the nation.
He sat down with me to talk about Denver’s water future. Here are some highlights.
What challenges lie ahead?
We’re doing an integrated resource plan, a 50-year look ahead to the challenges we face and how we face them — but it’s scenario planning, rather than math. Before, we looked at the past and how much water was available, figured how many people there would be in the future and did the math. But saying “we just need to get more water” doesn’t work anymore. The future will not look like the past for a number of reasons.
On the supply side, there may be more extended droughts, greater severity of weather events, and a warming climate. For demand, we’ve seen demand dropping due to our campaign for water conservation, but it’s also through more efficient fixtures and more density in the city — which means more efficiency.
Economics plans a part to, we could have economic downturns or just chug along, or the millennials moving into the downtown apartments might move to the suburbs. We’re creating different scenarios for all that.
A snowy winter in the Rocky Mountains helped Colorado River water users escape a shortage for the next year and likely for at least two more, federal water managers project, though a hot spring made the escape a narrow one.
The river’s reservoirs combined have gained 5 percent of their capacity in the last year, and now sit at 57 percent full. It means customers using Central Arizona Project water in the Phoenix and Tucson areas won’t lose deliveries next year and have just a 31 percent chance of losing some water in 2019 — a marked improvement from roughly even odds projected in recent years.
“We had a fairly decent runoff this year, which certainly helped us trend in the right direction,” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Doug Hendrix said Tuesday.
Conservationists say the projections provide a nice reprieve but that the seven states on the river must use the time to plan and save more water and prevent future pain.
“I don’t think we really have time to wait for an official shortage declaration,” said Jeff Odefey, drinking-water-supply program director for the group American Rivers…
A 2007 agreement between Reclamation and the seven states said CAP customers, starting with farmers, would lose some of their river water in any year when the August projections show Lake Mead’s elevation dropping below 1,075 feet elevation on Jan. 1.
The lake would already be well below that level if not for conservation measures by the states and Mexico, Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke said in a statement Tuesday…
The government currently projects Lake Mead will end this year well above shortage level, at 1,083.46 feet. It was about 1,080 feet throughout on Tuesday, and should gain elevation as fall temperatures cool and reduce the demand for irrigation water, allowing more of the inflow to pool behind the dam…
The Green River, the biggest tributary to the Colorado, had a record snowpack in Wyoming last winter, Odefey said, while western Colorado was also above normal.
Warm weather then melted, evaporated and increased demand for water, reducing earlier predictions that Lake Mead would get a bigger boost…
The states and the federal government have already propped up the reservoir by paying for conservation and efficiency improvements with a goal of leaving water behind the dam instead of earmarking it for a particular use.
From 2012 through 2016, the states collectively saved 1.2 million acre-feet of water in the reservoir, said Jennifer Pitt, the National Audubon Society’s Colorado River program director.
That’s enough water to support a few million households, and it approaches the Central Arizona Project canal’s share of the river.
“It’s a great demonstration of the fact that water conservation can be done,” she said. “It makes me optimistic about the future.”
According to projections released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the reservoir east of Las Vegas will have enough water in it on Jan. 1 to stave off a first-ever federal shortage declaration — and the mandatory water cuts for Nevada and Arizona that would come with it.
The lake is also on track to avoid a shortage in 2019, thanks to decreased demand downstream on the Colorado River and a larger-than-usual influx of water from Lake Powell upstream.
The extra water from Lake Powell is expected to raise Lake Mead’s surface by more than five feet by the end of the year.
The new federal projections come as officials in the United States and Mexico finish work on a new binational agreement aimed at stretching limited resources on the Colorado and keeping more water in Lake Mead.
Negotiators from the two countries, including representatives of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, have agreed on a range of water-sharing and water-saving initiatives, including voluntary cuts that Mexico could begin taking as soon as next year to prop up the overdrawn, drought-stricken river system.
The agreement also spells out how much Mexico would have to reduce its river use during a declared shortage and how much extra water the nation would get in the event of a surplus on the Colorado.
The new pact, known as Minute 323 to the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944, extends many of the provisions of an earlier treaty amendment approved in 2012 and set to expire at the end of this year. For example, Mexico will be able to keep storing some of its river allotment in Lake Mead, and U.S. water agencies will be able to continue to invest in infrastructure improvements south of the border in exchange for a portion of the saved water.
The water authority board is expected to vote Thursday to sign on to Minute 323 when the agreement is finalized next month.
“It’s a good deal for both countries,” Authority General Manager John Entsminger said.
The most important thing about the deal is the certainty it provides, Entsminger said. Water managers in both countries will now know what to expect should the river continue to shrink.
“It’s a big deal because the last thing you want is uncertainty when you get into a shortage condition,” he said.
The voluntary water cuts Mexico would take under the treaty deal hinge on a separate but related pact being negotiated by water officials in Nevada, Arizona and California.
The three states have agreed in principle on the so-called Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, under which Nevada, Arizona and, eventually, California would voluntarily leave some of their river water in Lake Mead when the surface of the reservoir falls to certain trigger points.
Entsminger said the multistate deal is on track for completion next year despite some public spats and lingering disagreements among water agencies in Arizona and California over how the voluntary cuts should be made in each state.
“I do believe it will happen,” he said…
The Las Vegas Valley relies on Lake Mead for 90 percent of its drinking water supply. The surface of the reservoir now sits at about 1,080 feet above sea level, roughly 130 feet lower than it was before the current drought began on the Colorado River in 2000…
Above-average flows in the Colorado River helped keep Lake Mead out of shortage for another year, but the real news is on the demand side.
Over the past year, Nevada, Arizona and California combined to use less than 7 million acre-feet of river water for the first time in 25 years.
Colby Pellegrino, Colorado River programs manager for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said the decline in demand is proof that conservation efforts on the Colorado are making an impact.
The last time the three lower basin states combined to use less than 7 million acre-feet of river water was in 1992, when the region was home to roughly 7 million fewer people than it is now.
“We’ve successfully decoupled our economic prosperity from our water use,” Pellegrino said.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Justyn Liff, Jenny Ward):
The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft environmental assessment on Phase II of the Cattleman’s Ditches Piping Project located in Montrose County, Colorado. The project would replace approximately 6.1 miles of open irrigation ditch with 5.1 miles of buried water pipeline. The purpose of the project is to reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Basin.
Reclamation will consider all comments received by September 15, 2017. Submit comments by email to email@example.com or to: Ed Warner, Area Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave, Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501.
Today, MillerCoors announced it used 15 billion fewer gallons of water across its value chain in 2016. The reduction can be attributed to changes in farming techniques that include innovative tools and irrigation initiatives that use less water while still producing high-quality barley, along with increased brewery efficiencies.
Wet weather also contributed to the 2016 reduction MillerCoors used 16.9 percent less water compared to 2015 – equivalent to more than 500 million kegs of beer.
“When it comes to water savings at our breweries and across our agricultural system, 2016 was a banner year at MillerCoors. We’re proud of the water efficiencies achieved at our breweries by our passionate and innovative employees, and we are proud of our long-standing partnerships with our growers. These partnerships span multiple generations and are a driving force behind using less water in 2016,” said Karina Diehl, director of community affairs at MillerCoors.
“While this was a unique year, we are committed to developing innovative ways to use less water across our system for years to come.”
On MillerCoors Showcase Barley Farms in Idaho and Colorado, the company researches and develops water conservation techniques to grow barley more sustainably – from precision irrigation technologies and practices to soil improvements and companion cropping.
Best practices from MillerCoors Showcase Barley Farms are shared through the company’s barley program, providing an opportunity for growers to obtain and share information on how to meet the company’s high barley standards.
Partnering with growers on environmental stewardship through the company’s barley program reduces risks for both parties and allows MillerCoors to work directly with farmers to determine the techniques that are best suited for their specific land.
In 2016, MillerCoors launched the Grower Portal, a digital platform for information gathering to further enhance water savings and eventually lead to data sharing among growers.
These water reduction initiatives help MillerCoors get closer to reaching its 2020 goal to manage and reduce agricultural risks, including water risks, in 100 percent of key barley-growing regions.
The company is also working alongside Molson Coors to develop new 2025 Global Goals, which will include water stewardship targets.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jason Kosovski):
Colorado State University’s study The Hidden Value of Landscapes: Implications for Drought Planning is the first study of its kind in the state to quantify how much water landscapes use and their environmental, economic and social benefits. The study looked at the three percent of total Colorado water used for landscapes and found a significant return on investment from this water.
“The use of 3 percent of Colorado’s available water to maintain green landscapes is a legitimate allocation of water resources,” said Tony Koski, professor and Extension Turf Specialist in CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
The study was led by Koski, Zach Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, and Alison O’Connor, a horticulture agent with CSU Extension in Larimer County.
“We were aware of a lot of anecdotal information about the benefits of landscapes, but this is the first time the information has been synthesized and analyzed,” said Johnson.
Environmental, economic and social landscape benefits
Some of the environmental, economic and social landscape benefits the study notes include:
48 pounds of carbon dioxide are absorbed by one tree each year.
Trees provide air quality benefits for Colorado cities valued in the high six figures.
25 percent fewer crimes occur in public housing with landscapes.
Every $1 invested in a home landscape yields a 135 percent return on the home value.
Seven percent higher rents are paid on commercial properties with attractive landscapes.
45 percent cooler temps occur when cars are shaded by trees.
Outdoor urban spaces increase mental and physical health and children who spend time outdoors are better learners.
The awareness of water planning is at an all-time high in Colorado with the completion of the Colorado Water Plan, and this study can serve as a tool for water policy makers tasked with ensuring there is enough water to weather future droughts and projected population growth.
“When water supplies diminish, it is easy to argue that irrigating landscapes is not the best use of water but there are serious consequences when urban landscapes and parks are targeted,” said Koski. “The unintended consequences from the ‘cash for grass’ buyouts in Nevada and California resulted in trees and other plants dying and succumbing to disease when deprived of regular irrigation. It’s impossible to instantly replace a 30-year-old shade tree; the cooling benefits it provides are lost forever as is the character and functionality of parks and neighborhoods.”
Reduced water consumption
The study notes that in the past decade, Colorado water users have reduced per capita water consumption by slightly under 20 percent through a combination of using best management practices on landscapes, improved irrigation technologies, tiered rate structures, and increased general awareness among users that they should conserve.
“In Colorado, drought is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when,’ ” added Johnson. “Increased conservation is necessary for drought planning and this study provides water planners information to adopt a holistic approach by factoring in the value of landscapes when formulating water policy.”
The study was commissioned by the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and conducted independently by the CSU research team. For more information, the full study can be found here.