Current Projects & Resources
Water availability for irrigation in the Western United States is often limited, and in many cases, declining. Below-average snow pack, drought, interstate conflicts, ground water pumping restrictions, and declining ground water from non-renewable aquifers have all contributed to declining water supplies for irrigation. These water shortages have been occurring in many western U.S. irrigated watersheds and ground water basins to some degree for the past several years. Combined with water transfers from agriculture to municipal and industrial uses and increasing recreational and environmental demands for water, the relevance of irrigation management with limited water supplies has greatly increased.
In response to these growing demands on available water and the necessity of focusing on agricultural water use and conservation today and in the future, the NPM Regional Water Program partners has developed a series of training modules for Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and other agricultural management professionals, intended to build upon concepts and suggestions for limited-irrigation management, provide updates on research projects relevant to the topic of limited water irrigation, and suggest further resources and techniques for managing irrigated cropping systems under tighter water supplies.
CCAs wishing to study the content of these modules and apply for certification renewal credits should access the modules and quiz questions through the CCA web page of the American Society of Agronomy’s web page.
Guide to Choosing Crops Well-Suited to Limited Irrigation
Population growth and climate variability are increasing pressures on limited water resources, and extensive collaboration is needed to develop long-term working solutions to this complex issue. Agriculture consumes an estimated 90% of available water resources in the western US, and future water needs for an expanding urban population will likely come from agriculture. Reduced water resources in agriculture will add to the challenge of meeting a growing global demand for agricultural outputs. Therefore, it is increasingly urgent for farmers, water managers, extension agents, and policy-makers to understand agricultural water conservation methodology, technology, and policy to make informed management decisions.
Reliable information on the subject is often not readily available to water users, especially outside of the academic and government communities. The USDA-NIFA Northern Plains and Mountains Region Water Team (NPM) has addressed the need for increased knowledge, understanding and adoption of agricultural water conservation through an innovative web-based project. The Agricultural Water Conservation Clearinghouse (AWCC) seeks to join communities of practice to collaboratively address the complex issues of agricultural water use. Social media resources help to develop connections among community members and with the AWCC.
The AWCC is designed as a comprehensive resource for the latest news, research, literature and tools related to agricultural water conservation. The focal point of the AWCC is a library that contains published materials and is also populated by contributions from Extension specialists, research scientists, and educators, providing a refined bibliographic review of agriculture water conservation grey literature. The library and database encompass refereed journal articles, books, reports, theses and dissertations, conference proceedings, and contains over 3,600 entries. The library has been searched by over 14,600 users since it was unveiled in 2008 and participation continues to grow. Building the AWCC through partnerships, the NPM team has formed relationships with several irrigation and water-related organizations. These partnerships have increased access to proceedings and reports published through these organizations. Until recently, much of this literature has only been available in hard copy and was not available from traditional library or web sources.
Lawn Water Use Assessment
All urban areas in the region experience large increases in water usage during summer months because of increased lawn watering. Much of the water use is excessive, wasting a limited resource and costing the home owner money. Many home owners’ water is based on when irrigation is allowed (for example alternating days) or based on some average recommendation without regard for current conditions. Western areas have experienced this situation for many years. Urban areas in the eastern part of the region generally need less watering. Thus, this problem is only becoming more apparent as growth is outstripping current water availability.
This program engages urban water users across the region in understanding lawn water use and behavior change by scheduling lawn watering based on meteorological assessments of lawn water evapotranspiration, thus, reducing overall water use in urban areas.