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If Texas maintains its current rate of water use into 2060 without finding a way either to conserve significant amounts of water or to develop new sources, the state will experience a gap between demand and availability.
WATER WOES PANELISTS (from left) Greg Ellis, GM Ellis Lawfirm PC, Houston; Comer Tuck, Texas Water Development Board; Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon; and Tom McLemore, project manager, Harlingen Irrigation District, discussed challenges of providing adequate water to a growing population during the recent Texas Produce Conference at San Antonio.
Delivery system waste
Most irrigation water waste occurs in the delivery system, McLemore says. “We need to measure what we put in the system and what we take out at the farm. We have to do more with less, and we have to improve the process of delivering water from the river to the farm. The key is to make the district operation more efficient by improving delivery systems — that’s where the loss is.”
Minimizing losses, enhancing system performance, and making precise delivery of water to farms with a strong head of water are goals. “If we do these things, we can cut surface water use in half,” he says.
Improving the infrastructure is crucial. Closed pipelines, automatic gates, telemetry, remote access with checks and alerts that allow “rapid response to solve problems,” are all part of an efficient delivery system.
Surge irrigation also offers water savings, “but there are no incentives to switch to surge now,” he says. A program currently in place that offers a few growers the opportunity to add surge irrigation at much reduced costs may be a start.
Rio Grande Valley growers “are optimistic about agriculture,” McLemore says. “Rain will come,but we have to be prepared to use a gallon of water as efficiently as we can. It’s time for Texas to invest in efficient water use.”