While surge-valves and poly-pipe irrigation is nothing new for many South Texas farmers, a demonstration of the technology at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco this Friday will offer their first ever view of the valves in action.

"For so many years South Texas was extremely lucky to have very few water issues thanks to the comprehensive canal and pumping systems along the Rio Grande River from Mission to Brownsville. But with less water and extended droughts, water has become a serious issue in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and there is a real need for better irrigation technology in South Texas," said Tom McLemore, manager at the Harlingen Irrigation District.

The district was involved in a 2011-2012 Texas A&M University study titled the Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative (ADI project), which illustrated the need for the Valley to move toward a state-of-the-art water distribution network management and on-farm, cost-effective irrigation program to maximize surface water use efficiency.

High-cost water

"Many Valley growers have been forced to purchase water out of district this year and in recent years because of water shortages and that adds significantly to the cost of irrigation each year. But worse is to find out there just isn't enough water to go around, so looking at a better system of using and managing the water available to us is our best hope of conserving our natural resources," he added.

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About 30 Valley growers are being encouraged to participate in a program that will allow them to purchase surge-valves at an extremely discounted price if they attend one of two workshops designed to provide an orientation in proper use of the technology.

This Friday, area wide farmers are invited to a demonstration of the water-saving devices at the research center where irrigation engineers will provide an overview of the benefits and cost savings possible by using surge-valve and poly pipe technology.

“We’ll have a surge-valve set up in one of our grain sorghum field plots where we’ll demonstrate how it works, then we will have a question-and-answer session to discuss the pros and cons,” says Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service fruit and vegetable specialist at the center.

The demonstration is being presented by AgriLife Extension, the Texas Water Resources Institute and the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority.