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  Multiplying the Waters:
Managing for Conservation

Even as demand increases, water users can stretch the limited supply of Colorado River water to serve multiple claims. What’s the trick? Management, not magic. Careful water management can achieve positive results for both conservation and the cost of farm operations.


One cost looming increasingly large in recent years is the attention irrigators must pay to public scrutiny. With multiple agricultural, urban and environmental needs for water -- sometimes in competition -- the value of the resource is rising. Water districts increasingly must make their case for prudent and responsible conservation by documenting their management methods. An essential management document of proven effectiveness: the Water Conservation Plan. Reclamation provides the necessary tools for thorough water conservation planning.


These days, when every drop counts, nearly every drop must be counted. To manage water efficiently one must measure it accurately. With reliable quantitative gauges on water as it moves through the irrigation system from the canal to the field, districts can improve control, scheduling, delivery, fair billing, and analysis of consumption patterns. Reclamation supports local projects to improve water measurement as a key component of efficient use.


Installing a system for accurate flow measurement can often reveal deficiencies in canal operations, such as excessive or poorly timed deliveries. Canal automation is the next step in an information-intensive management approach that processes measurement data for improved delivery control. Recent technological advances have made canal automation both practical and economical. For the end-user, this means just the water needed at just the right time. Reclamation encourages canal automation by offering to local Districts technical and financial assistance for demonstration projects.


The goal of effective irrigation water management is to apply an amount of water to the field appropriate to the needs of the crop and the soil, while minimizing the amount of water that serves no useful purpose. This approach requires little capital but a lot of attention, sometimes even an adjustment in traditional irrigation methods. The effective water manager is always asking crucial questions:

  • How much water should be applied to this crop and soil under current climate conditions?
  • How large an area should be "set" for the application pattern?
  • When during an irrigation should the water be "cut off" to a set so that excessive water is not applied?
  • When in the growth cycle should irrigation be terminated so that existing soil moisture can finish the job?

Reclamation can help answer these questions, and supports locally sponsored programs to improve irrigation water management.


Life is timing, as the saying goes. For the productive life of a crop, optimum water application timing provides several benefits: increased yields, more efficient water and fertilizer use, better drainage, improved ground water quality, and safer water table levels. Farmers now have available new technologies for effective irrigation scheduling. Reclamation supports local programs to demonstrate and implement improved irrigation scheduling practices.


Your local Water Conservation Field Services Program representative can assist you with your technical and financial needs. WaterShare is our goal: to provide enough water to share for all uses through improved water management care.