In 2011, the Texas A&M University's Department of Agricultural Economics and Texas AgriLife Extension Service conducted a comprehensive study in the Lower Rio Grande Valley titled the Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative (ADI project), a multi-faceted effort involving the Texas Water Development Board, the Harlingen Irrigation District, South Texas agricultural producers, Texas AgriLife Extension (Extension) Service, and other agencies.

It was designed to demonstrate state-of-the-art water distribution network management and on-farm, cost-effective irrigation technologies to maximize surface water use efficiency.

In 2010, as part of the larger study, a furrow vs. surge valve technology demonstration, associated with the ADI project, was completed to analyze potential water application and irrigation cost scenarios in cotton production.

At the time, irrigation water sold to growers was $1.17 per acre-inch or $14 per acre-foot. The cost of surge valves at the time of the study was approximately $1,800.00. The results of the project concluded that while the investment required by growers to acquire and use surge valves in their cotton fields would have been minimally higher than purchasing water at prevailing prices, and considering irrigation water was readily available in 2010, only a few growers expressed interest in investing and converting to surge valve technology at that time.

But the study, conducted by Texas A&M Extension specialists Mac Young, Steven Klose and Valorie Reynolds, correctly predicted that water would become harder to acquire and water prices would rise. They concluded that the cost of purchasing and changing over to surge valve irrigation would not provide an immediate cost benefit compared to traditional furrow irrigation methods, but it would help conserve water. They further concluded that a time was coming, as water supplies diminished and the cost of water increased, when converting to surge valve technology would not only be cost efficient, but would also lower overall production costs.

According to water officials in the Valley, that time has arrived.

More information and details about the demonstration and the grant program, producers can contact representatives at RGRWA.org and TexasAWE.org, or by calling 956-423-7015 and asking for Heather.

 

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