CSU Water Group Gains Info from Stakeholder Meeting


In late July, a group of Colorado State University (CSU) faculty and staff met with the Arkansas River Management Action Committee (ARMAC) in Rocky Ford to discuss how water quantity and quality, along with agricultural productivity, may be improved through better management. The meeting was well attended by a variety of water stakeholders and ARMAC members including local, state, and even federal water managers as well as farmers and personnel from canal companies and conservancy districts.

The group from CSU, led by Dr. Tim Gates, is sharing information from nearly two decades of research in the Lower Arkansas River Valley (LARV) with the hope of using this information to improve how land and water is managed in the LARV. At the recent meeting Dr. Gates presented information on why CSU has been collecting data over the past 17 years from several hundred locations within the LARV (including wells, canals, fields, and the river itself). The group is using these data to refine and apply regional scale computer models that can predict how improved management practices might help solve several problems. The aim is to find ways to reduce pollution from salt, selenium, uranium, and nutrients; to boost crop productivity by lessening waterlogging and salinity; and to conserve water.

A sound scientific understanding of how management decisions will affect shared water resources is valuable, but the question often arises “… what is this going to cost us?” Although costs can vary and are specifically tied to particular circumstances, Dr. Dana Hoag of CSU, with the assistance of  ARMAC , is leading an economic analysis that will help farm managers make informed decisions about changing irrigation practices.   “One of the goals of the ARMAC is to evaluate how current and future irrigation practices might be impacting water quantity and quality,” say’s Blake Osborn, one of the authors of the economic analysis report being prepared.

“In some cases the irrigation practices might benefit water quality or quantity, in other cases not so much.  If a producer wants to change irrigation systems we want to provide them a single document that can help make that choice a little easier.” The group putting together the economic analysis report is working with local interests including the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and federal agencies like the NRCS and USGS to better understand the opportunities, and constraints, of improving irrigation in the LARV. Together, the ARMAC group hopes to provide useful resources for water managers, including water users, to make informed decisions about how water is managed going forward.

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