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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 2002-2004
traditional pattern, many places to the north (particularly the northern Rockies and portions of the Midwest) are not expected to have this degree of storminess. Managing problem Because of the limited flows of irrigation water and the needs for urban and environmental interests to continually look at alternative or expanded water supplies, long-term water management plans are needed. We can be thankful for the foresight of those who developed the reservoir storage capabilities of the west. There are many who might disagree with the building of dams, but those people would probably not even reside in the west if the present day storage had not been put in place. Despite the last three years of very low runoff, reclamation has been able to deliver enough water to meet all its water delivery commitments for both agriculture and urban populations within the lower Colorado River Basin. Without the dams in place, estimates show the Lower Basin water use would have been reduced by 60 percent and shortages close to 6 million acre-feet would have occurred. Additional estimates show that it will be many years before the Colorado River system is full again. It would require an estimated 265 percent of average precipitation to refill the system. Even within a wet cycle and at present consumption, the Colorado River basin would take 2 to 5 years to fill. With limited snow pack predicted, the outlook for refilling these reservoirs is in serious doubt. With that in mind, the federal government is taking steps to decrease the amount of water being used by states within the Colorado River Basin. California is by far the largest user. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton recently signed an Annual Operating Plan. The plan allows changes in water use to take place beginning in 2003. Release rates were dependent on California signing a Quantification Settlement Agreement. Since this did not take place, the amount of water supplied to the Metropolitan Water District (Los Angeles County) will be at a level of 414,000 acre feet. This represents a significant decrease from the amount requested. This has put local water districts in a scramble to acquire additional amounts of irrigation water. Unfortunately, there are few districts with surplus water available. Steve Beckley, director of the California Plant Health Association, has stated, "With the new water constraints, Sacramento North Water users will need to reduce rice production by an estimated 50,000 acres." There are additional examples of these types of reduction in acres, all of which impact not only agricultural production, but also the agribusinesses serving these communities. Avoiding conflict Within the 2003 irrigation year and beyond, there will continue to be conflicts between agriculture and other water users. While some of the conflicts will be won by agriculture, many will be lost. However, acknowledgment that water as a precious resource needs to be shared during times of plenty as well as times of drought is an attitude that will have to pervade the consciousness of both sides. We in agribusiness, must work to increase the efficiency of water use through better understanding of crop water use. We must also take necessary measures to effectively use that portion of irrigation water available to agriculture and practice good agronomics that promote the best irrigation management practices. This includes a better understanding of soil moisture relationships to soil fertility and a better incorporation of soil moisture monitoring and interpretation of that information. Irrigation and overall water--use efficiency must continue to be emphasized. Agronomists and crop advisors should promote crops that require less water in areas where water restrictions will be evident. Growers have been known to lease their water rights to down-stream water users. These types of actions result in land being taken out of production for one or more years. Crop advisors should make sure that these growers are well aware of those drastic consequences in subsequent production years. By taking these steps and others we assure ourselves, as well as those we serve, with many years of continued production and economic success. Dr. Tindall is senior agronomist for J.R. Simplot Company. Early Spring 2003
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