Submitted to: Proceedings of the Central Plains Irrigation Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 21, 2005
Publication Date: February 16, 2005
Citation: Howell, T.A., Evett, S.R. 2005. Pathways to effective applications. In: Proceedings of the Central Plains Irrigation Conference, February 16-17, 2005, Sterling, Colorado. p. 84-98. Interpretive Summary: Irrigated agriculture is one of the largest consumers of water in the Western United States and its water resource is often viewed as a water source for growing populations in this region. Agriculture must insure it is using this resource wisely and efficiently both to conserve water and to enhance future water supplies and their water quality. This paper and presentation discusses ways to be efficient and productive while using this water resource for agriculture. It outlines the possible alternatives in terms of irrigation application technologies, tillage, and water management that can lead to effective irrigation water use in irrigated agriculture to achieve high profits within common restrictions faced by producers. No single irrigation application technology or management technology will insure 'effective applications', but an integration of 'Best Management Practices' (BMPs) involving technology and management can offer pathways to achieve 'effective applications' and wise utilization of our limited water supplies for profitable irrigated agriculture. These BMPs will improve water conservation, extend currently limited water resources, and preserve existing water supplies for future needs.
Technical Abstract: Effective agricultural irrigation involves applying irrigation water efficiently and with water management techniques that insure profitable crop production. The purpose of this paper is to briefly outline choices for irrigation application technology and irrigation water management that can lead to effective applications that minimize inefficient uses of water and that can lead to near optimum crop profitability. Traditional concepts of irrigation efficiency are based on engineering concepts of the fraction of water being diverted that is then available for useful and beneficial needs of the crop. The losses of water from supply and conveyance are discussed along with the concepts of reuse and water recycling on larger spatial, temporal scales. Detailed discussions are presented on evaporation, percolation, and runoff water losses from various application technologies. Irrigation water management is the integration of irrigation scheduling or automation with the application technology. Basically, irrigation scheduling is making decisions on irrigation timing and irrigation amount subject to the irrigation supply constraints (legal and physical) in concert with the operational constraints (labor, crop cultural operations, etc.). The goal is often to produce the greatest profit within the land, labor, capital, and water restrictions of the farm or operation. Effective irrigations must consider the application technology and the irrigation water management. Various techniques involving irrigation technology, tillage, and water management are outlined that can be effective in achieving irrigations that are aimed to achieve high profits within producer constraints. No single irrigation application technology or management technology will insure 'effective applications', but an integration of 'Best Management Practices' (BMPs) involving technology and management can offer pathways to achieve 'effective applications' and wise utilization of our limited water supplies for profitable irrigated agriculture.