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Identifying opportunities for district-wide water savings using remote sensing technology




Samani, Z., author
Bawazir, A. S., author
Bleiweiss, M., author
Skaggs, R., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Irrigated agriculture is the largest water user in New Mexico; in southern New Mexico's Lower Rio Grande region, agriculture uses about one million acre-feet of water each year. Previous research has estimated that the average irrigation efficiency in the area is 44%. This relatively low aggregate efficiency indicates a large potential for water savings from agriculture. In order to determine the potential water savings, the amount of water depleted by crop evapotranspiration (ET) in the Mesilla Valley section of the EBID was estimated using satellite information and ground-level measurements to calculate plant consumptive water use on scales ranging from individual farms to the larger watershed. Two areas of potential water savings were evaluated using the satellite-generated consumptive use information: 1) potential water saving at the farm level and 2) potential water saving at the district level. This study found that the majority of farms in the study region were growing crops under deficit irrigation conditions. Therefore, irrigation improvements at the farm-level are likely to increase both yields and water depletion. Potential water savings at the district level were evaluated by comparing the total volume of water diverted for irrigation versus aggregate ET. From the satellite-generated ET data, district-level efficiency was determined to be 55% in 2002 (a full allocation year). Thus, there appears to be a potential for improving district-level efficiency. This can be accomplished by using regional ET depletion values to plan water releases from the reservoir and improve the diversion and distribution within the canal networks.


Presented at Irrigation district sustainability - strategies to meet the challenges: USCID irrigation district specialty conference held on June 3-6, 2009 in Reno, Nevada.

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