Water for River Restoration: Potential for Collaboration between Agricultural and Environmental Water Users in the Rio Grande Project Area
The Rio Grande Compact is a 1938 interstate agreement among Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas that apportions water to the three states and provides water for delivery to Mexico as dictated in a 1906 treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.
EBID [elephant butte], the upstream district in the project, provides water to 90,640 water-righted acres in New Mexico. Farmers grow pecans, alfalfa, cotton, vegetables including onions, lettuce, cabbage, and chile, and other forage and miscellaneous crops. There is a general increase in acreage of pecans, and a declining acreage of cotton. Overall actual irrigated acreage has decreased to about 75,000 acres
EPCWID [el paso] provides water to 69,010 water-righted acres in Texas. Primary crops are cotton and alfalfa, with some forage, vegetables, and pecans. One of EPCWID?s largest constituents is the City of El Paso, which uses about 50,000 acre- feet of surface water in a full supply year for municipal and industrial water supply to supplement its groundwater sources. Farmers do use some groundwater, though in general the groundwater is of lower quality than that in EBID, and may be harmful to sensitive crops. Groundwater is primarily used for irrigation when drought reduces the available surface water supply to EPCWID.
HCCRD [hudspeth county] contains 18,250 water-righted acres south of El Paso County, Texas. Primary crops are cotton and alfalfa. The district is quite different from EBID and EPCWID in that it is not a part of the Rio Grande Project. The water available to HCCRD is essentially whatever flows leave EPCWID as drainage and operational spills, and so its water supply is highly unreliable and subject to severe reduction in drought.
HCCRD, in the normal operations of its regulating reservoirs, creates significant avian habitat.
Table 1: Summary of characteristics of EBID, EPCWID, and HCCRD [pdf pg 10]
Table 2: Summary of water conservation potential for river restoration in the Rio Grande Project area. [pdf pg 11]
nature of supply (drip and sprinkler irrigation)
During dry (warm) times the river valley tends to back fill with flood plain sediment. During wet (cool) times the river entrenched as flow was sufficient toremove earlier basin fill along the river course. This episodic flow behavior has left a series of paired terraces above the flood plain of the Ri o Grande Valley and below the basin floor surfaces that formed prior to Pleistocene entrenchment of the river system. [The Pleistocene (symbol PS) is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. ]
During the 19th and 20th centuries, engineered modifications to the area have included the construction of simple irrigation works in the 1800s and the much more comprehensive Rio Grande Project in the 1900s. The Rio Grande Project and its additions have included storage and diversion dams, canalization of much of the river, flood control dams on tributary arroyos, canal and drainage system s, and clearing and leveling of agricultural lands. These alterations are discussed in more detail in the descriptions of the Rio Grande Project and the individual districts.
Rio Grande Compact adopted December 19, 1939 among Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. The stated purpose of the compact is to ?remove all causes of present and future controversy among these States and between the citizens of one of these States and citizens of another State with respect to the use of the waters of the Rio Grande above Fort Quitman, Texas ? ?
Figure 1: Rio Grande Compact area. From Report of the Rio Grande Compact Commission, 2000 [pdf pg 17]
The Compact uses measured flows at index gages on the Rio Grande and its tributaries to quantify delivery obligations
At low levels of f low, the upstream state (Colorado, in the above two tables) gets a higher percentage of the available supply, but as the supply increases, the downstream state?s (New Mexico in above tables) gets an increasing percentage
Rio Grande Project Storage, commonly referred to as Project Storage, is the sum of the water stored in Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs
In practice, it is virtually impossible for one state to exactly meet its delivery obligation to its downstream neighbor, so a system of debits and credits was developed in the Rio Grande Compact
Spills are of particular importance because in the event of a spill, all accrued debits of Colorado and New Mexico are cancelled. Accrued credits for the two states are reduced in an amount equal to the quantity spilled, reducing each state?s accrued credits proportionally to each state?s respective credit balance.
Elephant Butte Reservoir had an initial capacity of over 2.6 million acre feet, but sedimentation reduced its capacity to its current level of just over 2 million acre feet.
[in the early 1900s, many ... all the water in the Rio Grande Project was appropriated. Over the years the flow/credit/debt of water has been updated. There has been little to no unappropriated water since them.]
Figure 3: Rio Grande Project map. [pdf pg 30]
Planned allocation to Project farmlands were made at the start of each water- year based on the volume of water stored in the Reservoir. Allotments were expressed in terms of an assigned depth of water that each acre would receive during the irrigation season.
vast majority of farms within EBID are laser leveled and flood irrigated [a few are drip irrigated]
farmers in the study area are generally engaged in deficit irrigation. This means that a reduction in water use would result in a reduction in crop production and a consequent redu ction in net economic value. For instance, alfalfa requires high consumptive water use, but the return to water in growing alfalfa is very high relative to the costs of that water. The lower Pecos Valley has a severe deficiency in available water, yet alfalfa acres and production has continued to increase while other crops have declined (McGuckin, 1991). Future increases in water costs or prices will have little dampening effect on alfalfa production in the region.
An interesting observation made by McGuckin (1991) is that a switch to trickle irrigation for alfalfa would actually result in increased water use. One constraining factor in alfalfa production is the limited harvest time due to field conditions after flood irrigation. Producers cannot physically irrigate as often as they would like and still harvest the crop in a timely manner. This conflict resultsin deficit irrigation of the crop ?irrigated less than the potential evapotranspiration (PET). Employing subsurface trickle irrigation would not conflict with the harvest schedule and more water could be applied with drip irrigation than with flood, allowing the crop to produce its maximum potential.
On an annual basis, drip irrigation costs approximately $157 per acre o ver and above the cost of flood irrigation. Water savings from dripdepend upon water management strategies, but if 30 percent of water could be saved, this would be an economically justified technology.
Table 15: Alfalfa water use and return under flood and trickle irrigation in Doña Ana County, from McGuckin (1991). [PDF PG 42]
4 acre feet of flood irrigation results in a yield of 6.5 tons of alfalfa, in contrast, an application of 4 acre feet under trickle irrigation yield s 7.5 tons of alfalfa. The high yield results in a high return to water use. The highest profitability level occurs when 5.33 acre feet of water is applied under trickle irrigation technology, with a yield of 10 tons
Table 16: Crop Acreage, Water Use, Net Returns and Average Value per Acre Footin EBID, from McGuckin 2001 [pdf pg 43]
Table 17: Crop Acreage, Water Use, Net Returns and Average Value per Acre Foot in EPCWID , from McGuckin 2001. [pdf pg 44]
agricultural water would then become available to the highest bidder.
programs targeted to particular environmental issues tend to be more effective than more general programs for environmental improvement [GAO - 02- 295, 2002]
[high increase in urban populations in NM, el paso, juarez, etc. Expected to require more water in the future.]
Water is the limiting resource in the region of study. Potential future water demand far exceeds th e available supply. Ground water mining in the El Paso, Texas area by the City of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has resulted in draw down of the Hueco Bolson with a cu rrent expected life left of less than 20 years.
[desalination could increase water, but requires lots of energy]
Table 21: Urban water use in Las Cruces, the City of El Paso, and Ciudad Juarezfor 1998 and estimated for 2038, from Pas o del Norte Water Task Force, 2001.[pdf pg 50] [interesting that the groundwater is maxed out in el paso while juarez will take more?]
the combined use of the cities in 2038 (880,155 AF) will exceed the normal release from Caballo Reservoir (790,000 AF)
[efficiency is delivery/diversion. Lined/pipes increase efficiency and reduce seepage.]
consumptive efficiency = consumptive use/water applied. This ranges from 50-90% efficient depending on irrigation method. surface or drip.]
[the water leaches the salt lower into the soil, this will cause problems...]
The required leaching fraction is a function of irrigation water quality (higher salinity and sodicity of water requires higher leaching fraction), soil type (soils with more clay require more leaching), crop (more salt - sensitive crops require more leaching), and yield goal (higher yield requires higher leaching fraction). In practice, water availability often determines leaching fraction, as one cannot apply excess water to leach if one doesn?t have the water to apply.
if a canal lining project were to reduce the quantity of water ?lost? to seepage in EBID?s Rincon Valley, conveyance efficiency Ec would increase because return flows from the Rincon Valley would be reduced, and a like amount of water would have to be released from Caballo Reservoir to provide sufficient water for diversion at the downstream diversions. While less water would need to be diverted at Percha Dam, the savings essentially came out of the return flow, which is not a loss term. This is a local saving (local to the Rincon Valley) but a system - wide break- even proposition. Seckler termed this ?dry water?
if a farmer who has been growing alfalfa switches to onions, he reduces the amount of water his crop is depleting, and the saving actually results in more water available for delivery and depletion by another user. This is what Seckler (1996) termed ?wet water? conservation
[$20 per acre foot from the conservation pool, $25 from groundwater]
[complex system of water delivery, metering, conservation at the dams] ~pdf pg 60
[expensive turnouts now more common because of the need for accurate metering]
primary irrigation season generally runs from late February or early March through mid- October. The rest of the year, the District does not divert or deliver water. Farmers growing cool season crops or who need an early or late irrigation for primary season crops must rely on groundwater during the winter months.
order for surface water must be made well in advance, and the exact delivery date is uncertain, high - value crop farmers rely on groundwater for irrigation if surface water is not available when the crop needs it.
High use crops, particularly pecans and alfalfa, require a farm delivery of irrigation water in excess of the standard allotment of 3 acre- feet per acre.
The most important function of groundwater pumping has been, and will undoubtedly be again, drought reserve. The District?s survival through the drought of the 1950s through the 1970s was based on creative management of surface water and heavy reliance on groundwater
declined by more than 10,000 acres during the 42- year period. At the same time, the acreage in cotton, a relatively low water use crop, went from more than half of the District?s acreage to less than one fourth. Pecans, high water use crops, have been steadily increasing. Alfalfa, a high water use crop, has remained fairly constant. Other Forage, which presumably is mostly corn, is a higher use crop whose acreage is also increasing.
bottom line in the decision is profitability
reduction in cotton acreage in spite of its lower water use is due to its poor market performance in recent years. The rise in pecan acreage is due to generally favorable market conditions and a plentiful water supply over the past 23 years that, when combined with the viable groundwater reserve, gives farmers the confidence to invest in pecan production.
Figure 13: Crop mix in EBID, 1960-2001. Width of each bar represents irrigated acreage [pdf pg 72]
At present, all water managed by EBID is delivered to nominally agricultural users
EBID and the City of Las Cruces, recognizing the need for a water supply for municipal growth in EBID?s service area, recently negotiated a policy on the creation of Municipal Water Users Associations (MWUA) and the delivery of agricultural water for municipal treatment and use
[water users can lease their water to MWUA for 5-40 years]
Figure 15: Hydrologic schematic of the Ri o Grande between Cab allo Dam and Courchesne Bridge (Rio Grande at El Paso gauging station). [pdf pg 77]
annual net depletion typically runs about 300,000 acre- feet per year
this net depletion may lead to an inability to deliver adequate water to Mexico and Texas
On - farm measures such as drip irrigation can certainly reduce required delivery to a farm, producing a saving for the farmer. It does not, however, nece ssarily decrease the depletion to the system; in fact, drip irrigation may even increase it as it increases crop yield. EBID has supported farmers? conservation efforts in on - farm metering by agreeing to use measured deliveries for water charges, reducingthe standard charge for farmers who laser- level their fields, and with technical support on farm ditch lining and other water management measures.
EBID estimates that of the water it diverts from the river, about 35 percent seeps into the ground before the water is delivered to the farm , with about 10 percent seeping into the main canal systems and 25 percent seeping into the smaller lateral canals
Table 25: Cropped acreage in EPCWID, 1986-1995and 1998. From District records (this omits some very minor crops and does not subtract out double cropped acreage) [pdf pg 83]
56 percent cotton in these years, and saw the pecan acreage increase from 11 percent of the cropped area in 1986 to over 14 percent in 1995. Alfalfa is typically 13 to 14
El Paso?s Water Utilities ?Public Service Board (PSB). The City has been using surface water for its municipal and industrial (M&I) needs since the 1940s, and has in recent years expanded the percentage of its water supply drawn directly from the Rio Grande to about half of its water supply. The City also relies on groundwater pumped from the Hueco Bolson aquifer and the Canutillo well field in the Mesilla Bolson aquifer. The Hueco has been used heavily by both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and it is nearing the point of exhaustion as a productive aquifer
In 1999, the City of El Paso?s total water usage was 129,778 acre- feet (City of El Paso v. EPCWID, 2001). Fifty six percent of this supply came from groundwater, with 51,127 acre- feet pumped from the Hueco Bolson aquifer in the El Paso Valley and surrounding area, and 22,136 acre- feet from the Mesilla aquifer system. The City of El Paso received the remaining 44 percent (56,515 acre- feet) from the Rio Grande
1992 Memorandumof Understanding, allow ing the City of El Paso to obtain one acre- foot of water diverted from the Rio Grande at American Dam for each two acre- feet of sewage effluent discharged from its Haskell Street Sewage Treatment Plant and Northwest Plant into the American Canal. This eff luent (required to be of suitable quality) is mixed with water diverted from the Rio Grande and used for irrigation within EPCWID.This MOU was executed by EPCWID in return for the City of El Paso?s payment of $5 million as the local share of the American Canal Extension Project, which enlarged and concrete- lined the American Canal, and extended it 13 miles to the Franklin Canal. According to estimates by the International Boundary and Water Commission, the project would save 21,300 to 30,200 acre- feet of water per year, primarily through seepage reduction.
2001 Implementing Contract among the USA, EPCWID, and the City of El Paso, which voids and supercedes the 1992 MO U. Itallows delivery of Project Water to the City for District land owned by the City i n excess of the 2,000 acres allowed in the 1941 contract , and provides up to 50 percent credit for usable sewage effluent delivered by the City to the District, and water conserved by the American Canal Extension Project.
restoration proponents and the agricultural core of EPCWID share may common interests that could be explored in the negotiation of a policy on environmental use of water.
Figure 19: Diversions in EPCWID, 1979-2000.[pdf pg 86]
HCCRD, as it is now constituted, was formalized in 1924. Payment for the water in 1925 was to be $1.25 for each ac re irrigated, paid to the United States, and the price was to be set each year by the Secretary of the Interior.
The current contract under which the District operates is dated April 27, 1951. This contract provided for the delivery of water to the District through the Tornillo Canal, Fabens Waste Channel (Fabens Wast eway), and the Tornillo Drain. The Rio Grande Valley Farms Company right also allowed them to divert water from the Rio Grande. The cost to the District for water rental is still $1.25 per irrigated acre.
In addition to irrigation, the District supplies water to the Esperanza Fresh Water Supply Corporation for industrial use, based on a 1999 contract among the District, Reclamation, and Esperanza.
The District?s total area within its boundaries is 20,176.4 acres
In 2000, about 13,400 acres were actually irrigated. The maximum irrigated acreage was 17,752 acres in 1951.
Water quality, specifically the salinity of irrigation and ground water, is a primary concern within HCCRD.
[Drought of 1951 until 1978] The goal was to keep all water that could beneficially be used within the Project from being ?wasted? to the Hudspeth District. Kirby (1978) stated that this redirection was not taken as a punitive action against Hudspeth, but rather recognition of a failing water supply.
Figure 22: Irrigated acreage, total inflow, and charges to HCCRD [pdf pg 92] Note the precipitous drop in water supply beginning in 1951, and the lagging drop in irrigated acreage. Presumably the lag was achieved through to the use of groundwater as the surface water supply ran short, and in the mid 1950s when the water supply virtually disappeared, farmers would have been totally dependent on groundwater and rainfall to provide water even to their reduced acreage.
HCCRD, seeing its water supply rapidly dwindling in the early 1950s, filed suit against the Rio Grande Project in an attempt to establish rights to water from the Rio Grande. The litigation was bitterly fought for several years, and it ended in a complete victory for the Rio Grande Project. The decision reaffirmed that HCCRD had no rights to the waters of the Rio Grande, only rental rights to surplus water of the Project as determined by the management of the Project (Kirby, 1978).
In his evaluation of the District Kirby (1978) presented a rather gloomy outlook for the District, understandable considering the 28 years of drought that preceded his investigation: ?It would appear that the Hudpeth District may continue marginal agricultural operations at about current levels for perhaps another twenty years. At the end of thattime, the district most probably will begin dissolution with only those few water users blessed with good soil drainage and reasonably good groundwater surviving as independent farmers.?Ironically, the water supply began its wet cycle the very next year, and HCCRD has enjoyed three to nine feet of inflow per water righted acre ever since. If the current drought proves to be anything like the period of 1951- 1978, Kirby (1978) may prove to be prophetic, but ahead of his time.
The District operates about 59 miles of canals and laterals, nearly all unlined
estimates its seepage loss in the conveyance system to be about 20 percent
District instead focused its resources on regulating storage capacity and pumping plan installation to conserve water. HCCRD?s conveyance system includes three off- line regulating reservoirs (reservoirs located off the river)
The District is nearly all flood irrigated, though a few farmers have experimented with drip irrigation. To maintain a healthy salt balance i n the crop root zone, farmers need to apply excess water to flush salts from the root zone. This results in deceptively low on - farm application efficiencies of about 50 percent.
Table 26: Crops and crop value in HCCRD, 1980-2000, from Blair (2001).
the District?s three reservoirs, which are a haven for water fowl.
HCCRD farmers are necessarily flexible and willing to try new things, as they must adapt to an ever - changing water supply.
nearly all of the District?s irrigated land has been laser- leveled. Uniformity of application is probably quite high, and significant improvements in uniformity are unlikely under surface irrigation. Farmers do necessarily apply extra water to leach salts out of the root zone, and this water is collected by the drainage system and returned to the river.
Farmers will accomplish as much leaching as possible when surface water is available, because they don?t know when water will be available again.
At least one farmer has begun growing chile under drip irrigation. This technology may be necessary for continued crop production in HCCRD in the impending drought conditions. Because drip irrigation allows farmers to apply less water and more carefully manage the soil salinity, [this] could free up water for restoration efforts in the Forgotten Reach.
Chapter VIII : Potential for Managing Water for Restoration Projects
Rio Grande, restoration really isn?t in the rules.
development and negotiation of the rules and institutional framework under which water can be acquired, transferred, managed, and accounted for restoration projects.
irrigation districts are the logical place to begin negotiations, because the government agencies will be much more likely to cooperate with a unified district - environmentalist proposal than a divided one
develop a policy creating a class of water use for environmental use paralleling that developed by EBID and the City of Las Cruces for transfers to municipal use
policy should cover the acquisition of water rights, on a permanent basis, through sale, donation, or reclassification, and transfer of water on a temporary basis. Criteria for suitability and classification of land for restoration should be discussed. The details for accounting for the water, land appurtenance, application of water to land that is not irrigable or is owned by the federal government along the river, consumptive use, and transfers
Any new management objective that will affect compact accounting, either at high or low storage levels, will meet with harsh opposition fro m the upstream states. [CO]
Estimating the cost for developingthe institutional framework for applying water to river restoration is very difficult to estimate. Legal costs will likely be the largest component of such an effort, and technical evaluation will also be necessary.
A pilot project could probably be launched for as little as $10,000, but it is not unreasonable that total costs of such a negotiation could run up to $100,000 or more, if issues are difficult to resolve. 
Figure 23: Potential structure for Environmental Water Users Association within EBID. [pdf pg 98]
Most irrigators are strong proponents of private property rights, including water. Purchase of the water right for restoration with a willing buyer and a willing seller is likely the most acceptable method to irrigators for acquisition of w ater.
Currently in EBID, water righted agricultural land in parcels of a few dozen acres or larger sells for $4,000- $5,000 per acre in the northern Rincon Valley near Arrey and Garfield, $5,500- $6,000 per acre in the vicinity of Hatch and Rincon, over $10,000 per acre in the Las Cruces area, $6,000 per acre south of La Mesa, and about $8,000 in the Anthony, New Mexico area. Parcel size is a major factor as well, with a 5 acre lot in Mesilla Park selling for $25,000 per acre. 
HCCRD has historically been reduced more sharply in times of shortage than the supply of the Project districts. If the current shortage turns into a few years of short supply, many farmers in HCCRD may look for opportunities to cash out of farming rather than incur losses and debt to survive the drought. It is unlikely that irrigated agriculture will disappear entirely from HCCRD, even in a severe drought, but the investments farmers would have to make in order to continue production, including equipment such as wells and drip irrigation systems may make it a losing proposition for many. A willing buyer - willing seller relationship between environmentalists and farmers for water, with or without land, could prove mutually beneficial. There would be little competition from municipalities because of the generally low quality and unreliable supply. While it is difficult to guess what will happen to irrigated land prices in HCCRD, this would likely be the least expensive surface irrigated land in the study area, and its location presents unique opportunities for restoration. However, the water supply is also the least reliable in HCCRD, and growing competition from urban growth upstream may cause a severe and permanent reduction in the water available to HCCRD.
<P>Sitting just above the Forgotten Reach with 3,600 AF of regulation reservoir capacity, HCCRD would be an intriguing location for managing restoration projects below Fort Quitman.
large flows downstream of the Project have in the past and present triggered protests from Colorado and New Mexico at both high and low levels of storage in Elephant Butte Dam, and so some sort of understanding with the upstream Compact states should be established.
Table 27: Water prices in the Western United States, from Business Valuation Services, 1999.[pdf pg 103]
The drainage systems of EBID and EPCWID are in many respects the most viable riparian habitat in the stud y area.
Work by Bawazir (2000) at the Bosque del Apache indicates that the difference in evapotranspiration between a dense salt cedar stand and a restored cottonwood stand with less dense canopy was more than one foot. The reduction in evapotranspiration due to the change in vegetation at the Bosque Park allows restoration of native vegetation and even some open water and wetlands without increasing net depletion.
Much of the extensive length of drains is adjacent to private farm land. The width of the drains as riparian habitat could be widened, at least in sections, by implementing a conservation easement program. Under such a program, either incentive based or purely voluntary, farmers could set aside frontage along drains to provide extra width to the riparian zone.
HCCRD is the least suitable candidate for habitat restoration along their drains. They maintain their drains much cleaner than the other two districts because drainage is a more limiting factor for them, and the efficient functioning of their drains for salt removal is much more critical . Heavier vegetative growth along their drains would elevate the drainage base and local water table, which would lead to salt and sodicity buildup, and impair drain function. Irrigators in the more poorly drained parts of EPCWID would face the same constraints.
While irrigators in EBID and much of EPCWID do rely on their drains for salt removal, the primary function of the drains is generally water table control, which can be accomplished even with low flow velocities and fluctuating depths to groundwater.
On- farm water conservation generally would directly involve irrigators,
Drip irrigation an d high flow turnouts are aimed at decreasing applied water by increasing application efficiency
Low water use crops and deficit irrigation scheduling
Fipps (1999) suggested that metering is a necessary part of a water conservation program. T he fact that farmers have quantitative metrics to guide their management can, in itself, significantly reduce water use by as much as 20 percent.
If available energy and funding are not too restrictive, a dedicated structure such as a flume or weir may be installed to measure surface water deliveries
Alternatively, turnout gates themselves have been used as measurement structures. While this method may not give as precise results as those of a dedicated flow measurement structure, it has the advantage of not requiring an additional structure
Prefabricated or cast- in - place concrete f low measurement flumes typically cost $600 to $2,000, depending on size and type. An off - the - shelf pressure transducer appropriate for metering such flumes (one is required per installation) costs about $800, and an appropriate data logger runs about $800, for a total cost of equipment of $2,200 to $3,600. Radio telemetry units cost an additional $2,000. [arduino]
To reduce the cost and promote the dissemination of flow measurement devices, EBID has developed its own lower cost components. Using the turnout as a measurement structure, no flume is required. The District fabricates its own pressure transducers for about $150 each, and two are required for each turnout gate. EBID?s data logger/controller combination with built- in low power radio costs $700. In order to use a turnout gate to meter flow, the gate opening must also be monitored, and the sensor for that costs $50. This puts the total price for metering one turnout using EBID?s system at $1,050, and this price is independent of turnout size.
Well metering is traditionally accomplished using an impeller- type meter that accumulates total flow on an analog counter. Such meters typically cost between $700 and $2,500 
modified pitot tube (dubbed the ?Mag Tube? after inventor Henry Magallanez) to measure the velocity in the well discharge pipe, which, when multiplied by the cross sectional area of the pipe, gives flow.
cost of the tube is about $100, so with a pressure transducer and data logger/telemetry unit, the total cost for parts is about $950. This system will see its first use in 2003.
virtually all of the significant acreage in all three districts has been laser leveled already by the farmers.. [Costs 350/ac initially, 2-300 every 3-5 years maintenance.]
Table 28: General characteristics of irrigation system types, based on Cuenca (1989). [pdf pg 112]
sprinkler systems in general will be limited by field size and geometry, water quality (salt deposition on crop can cause problems with many of the area?s crops), and crops. In the Rio Grand Project area, potential water saving by conversion to sprinklers is probably limited, since the wind and evaporation losses incurred by conventional sprinklers offer little savings over the evaporation loss of existing surface irrigation systems.
In Israel, citrus trees have been successfully irrigated with special high clearance center pivots, [?!?}
throughout the study area, drip irrigation would out perform sprinklers both economically and in terms of water savings.
microsprinklers (small, low pressure sprinklers that function similar to an above- ground drip system) and bubblers (essentially drip irrigation with a flow typical of a small sprinkler).
Drip is the racehorse of irrigation. Managed correctly, this type of system can produce the highest yield, and the highest quality, for a wide variety of crops. Drip proves in many cases to be economically quite viable. Unfortunately, as with a racehorse, anything less than the highest level of management can create serious problems.
cost range in New Mexico is $1,700 to $2,800 per acre. The drip lines of the more expensive laterals last about ten years, twice as long as the lower priced systems. $200 to $400 should be included for land preparation. 
High flow turnouts allow rapid and efficient advance across the irrigated field by pushing the advancing water with as high a flow as possible without eroding the field. The rapid advance produces less infiltration time variation between the head and tail of the field, thereby producing better uniformity of infiltration and potentially high efficiency.
(King) indicated a uniformity of about 94 percent for a high flow turnout on a low infiltration rate soil, which is excellent performance for a surface irrigation system, compared to a uniformity of about 55 percent for a conventional turnout
The drawback to high flow turnouts is that the ditches supplying a given turnout may lack the capacity to perform high flow irrigation. It doesn?t matter what the capacity of the turnout is if the ditch can?t get the water to it fast enough.
High flow turnouts typically cost about $2,000 for standard construction, though farmers in the area have gotten the price down to $1,200 by using their own labor and cinderblocks, rather than formed concrete, for the baffle blocks that dissipate the energy on the downstream side.
The perfect crop would be a low water use crop w ith low market risk, high potential return, and it would require a low management level. Unfortunately, the crops that fit this description are generally not legal. For example, hemp, a popular fiber crop that has found many other legal uses, can typically be produced with about 21 inches of applied water, and it handles stress due to deficit irrigation well.
Deficit irrigation is a technique for dealing with short water supply where less water is applied during an irrigation than is required to fully replenish the root zone soil moisture, or irrigation application is delayed until some moisture stress has occurred.
There may be some potential for deficit irrigation scheduling, but in terms of water conservation, this is not the ?low hanging fruit.?
alternate furrow irrigation. Irrigating every other furrow allows the farmer to manipulate the wetted profile and reduce irrigation while maintaining adequate drainage.
This innovative development has not been widely publicized, and there are likely many other similar innovations or improvisations developed by local farmers that could help to conserve water if they are thoroughly evaluated and publicized.
For a given canal trapezoidal section, with bottom width B (feet), side slope z, and overall depth D (feet), the square footage of lining per linear foot of canal P (feet) can be computed from the relationship P = B + 2D v(1+z^2)
Based on data from ditch lining projects in EBID, for smaller canals, the cost per square foot is about $2.22/square foot. This would mean that a typical farm ditch with a one foot bottom width, 30 inch overall depth, and 1.25:1 side slope would require 9 square feet of lining per linear foot of canal, for a cost of $20 per linear foot of canal or $105,600 per mile of canal.
In larger canals, the price per square foot increases as the lining becomes thicker and more reinforcement steel or fiber is required. Blair (2001) estimated that in order to line the Hudspeth Main Canal, which has a 22 foot bottom width and a 4 foot depth, the cost would be $600,000 per mile, or $113.64 per linear foot of canal, or $3.26 per square foot. This is basically consistent with the EBID data for smaller canals, considering that the lining must be about 50 percent thicker
HCCRD estimates their seepage losses to be about 20 percent of their inflow, or roughly 27,000 acre- feet per year over the past ten years. EBID, with its longer canal system has a higher seepage rate, estimated at about 35 percent of diversion, or roughly 180,000 acre- feet in a full supply year. Lining does not eliminate conveyance loss, but it does reduce the loss by 80 to 95 percent.
EBID and HCCRD have considered lining programs and concluded that lining the main canals is not practical as a water conservation measure, though both have supported programs to line farm ditches to improve on - farm efficiency. On the other hand, EPCWID has been actively lining smaller canals. Larger canals in the vicinity of American Dam have included a cooperative effort among the IBWC, Bureau of Reclamation, and the City of El Paso to line more than 13 miles of the American Canal Extension with concrete, completed in 1999. This effort was estimated to reduce seepage by 30,000 acre- feet per year.
A farmer ordering water is given a three- day window in which he must be ready to take the water. The water is due by the end of the three- day period, which means the District must have the water by that time. If a farmer is ready, he must take water and be charged when it becomes available, or he will be charged for half of the amount he ordered. The ditchrider will then try to find another ready farmer on the ditch to take the unused water. Farmers are given an exception i f they fail to take their water due to heavy rain, safety issues, or other legitimate reasons. [EPCWID + HCCRD]
Endangered species and the restrictions placed on water management by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have created a rift between agricultural and environmental interests all over the country.
the river from Caballo to Fort Quitman (and beyond) had been determined unsuitable for the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow (RGSM )and while some habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (SWF) has been identified in the Project area, it has not created any special considerations in terms of water management. Several fish species have gone extinct or become extirpated from the area, and what is left is not endangered.
The Middle Rio Grande (MRG) between Cochiti Reservoir and the headwaters of Elephant Butte Reservoir at San Marcial, on the other hand, has been a hotbed of contention and controversy, particularly in the weeks preceding this report. Both species are present in the MRG, and a recent court order by Judge James A Parker, giving the federal g overnment discretion to use imported San Juan - Chama water to keep the Rio Grande from drying up in the lower reaches of the MRG caused an uproar among state, City of Albuquerque, and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Judge Parker?s decision was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. While farmers in the Rio Grande Project area generally sympathize with the farmers of the MRGCD, farmers in the Project had something of a sense of separation due to the presence of Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, which insulated them from the viable habitat of the RGSM. This recently has changed, as the discretion given to the federal government may impact the Rio Grande Project .
any collaborative effort is to be executed involving the irrigation districts and their constituents and environmentalists, the irrigators will be guarded and suspicious, if not downright hostile, and this attitude will go both ways.
If restoration activities are to be based on radical change, it is unlikely that irrigators, heavily invested in their operations, will be interested, and a water war will result. While attorneys and water resources specialists may fare well, endangered species and irrigators will not. As in the case of the RGSM, the court order and the stay have resulting in further polarization and still the likely demise of the species.
irrigators need to understand that evolutionary changes to better the river for habitat do not necessarily harm them, can quite often benefit them, and are certainly preferable to an all out water war between irrigators and environmentalists. Environmentalist,on the other hand, need to understand that they are dealing with the livelihoods and culture of the irrigators, and past litigation and political maneuvering by environmental groups has created an atmosphere of extreme distrust.
[late 90s-early 2000s there was dispute on how the water was allocated in TX, NM, Mexico. The judge threw out the cases claiming failure by the USA in properly managing the water.]
key components in an environmental management agreement would be:
1. The ability to lease or receive by donation water;
2. The ability to purchase or receive by donation water rights;
3. The ability to gain water and water rights through conservation practices working with farmers at the farm level and the districts at the system level;
4. The accounting for delivery of water to restoration projects, as opposed to irrigators or municipal treatment plants.
Table 30: Summary of potential projects for acquiring water for river restoration. [pdf pg 135]
High flow turnouts are attractive water conservation devices, and have been installed in many, if not most, of the fields in which they are feasible. Purchase and lease of water rights are attractive at present, but as the current drought deepens and competition for water intensifies, municipalities will very likely drive the price of water up rapidly. Canal lining, particularly in the smaller channels, has a similar cost per acre- foot, and the cost of lining will be much more stable than water purchase or lease. Drip irrigation offers many advantages to the farmer, and cold probably be cost shared to bring the price per acre- foot down.
Low water use crops and improved cultural practices are two areas that merit further investigation.