Irrigation Dynamics and Tactics – Developing a Sustainable and Profitable Irrigation Strategy for Agricultural Areas

Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Jonna Van Opstal, Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States, Christopher M U Neale, University of Nebraska, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, Lincoln, NE, United States and Sergio Lecina, Centro de Investigacion y Tecnologia Agroalimentaria de Aragon, Soil and Irrigation, Zaragoza, Spain
Irrigation management is a dynamic process that adapts according to weather conditions and water availability, as well as socio-economic influences. The goal of water users is to adapt their management to achieve maximum profits. However, these decisions should take into account the environmental impact on the surroundings. Agricultural irrigation systems need to be viewed as a system that is an integral part of a watershed. Therefore changes in the infrastructure, operation and management of an irrigated area, has an impact on the water quantity and quality available for other water users.
A strategy can be developed for decision-makers using an irrigation system modelling tool. Such a tool can simulate the impact of the infrastructure, operation and management of an irrigation area on its hydrology and agricultural productivity. This combination of factors is successfully simulated with the Ador model, which is able to reproduce on-farm irrigation and water delivery by a canal system. Model simulations for this study are supported with spatial analysis tools using GIS and remote sensing. Continuous measurements of drainage water will be added to indicate the water quality aspects. The Bear River Canal Company located in Northern Utah (U.S.A.) is used as a case study for this research. The irrigation area encompasses 26,000 ha and grows mainly alfalfa, grains, corn and onions.
The model allows the simulation of different strategies related to water delivery, on-farm water use, crop rotations, and reservoirs and networks capacities under different weather and water availability conditions. Such changes in the irrigation area will have consequences for farmers in the study area regarding crop production, and for downstream users concerning both the quantity and quality of outflows. The findings from this study give insight to decision-makers and water users for changing irrigation water delivery strategies to improve the sustainability and profitability of agriculture in the future.