Irrigation News

Dr. Nelson Honored for His Work in Efficient Citrus Irrigation

  • May 2015 - The Ag Mag
  • The ag industry in Texas often gets a bad rap when it comes to water conservation and irrigation efficiency. But many growers, researchers and irrigation districts in the Rio Grande Valley and around the state are actively conserving through daily decisions, changes in farming practices, and investment in new technologies or infrastructure. FULL STORY

Small Adjustments in Irrigation Practices Lead to Big Water Savings

  • April 2015 - The Ag Mag
  • The importance of irrigation efficiency grows with each season. The Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency (Texas AWE) spent the last ten years studying and demonstrating methods of agricultural irrigation efficiency and water conservation in the Rio Grande Valley. Two irrigation techniques have been shown to both save water and increase productivity: narrow border flood and surge valve irrigation. FULL STORY

Mighty Rio Grande Now a Trickle Under Siege

  • April 2015 - The New York Times
  • The perils of drought are on ample display along the Rio Grande, where a rising thirst has tested farmers, fueled environmental battles over vanishing fish and pushed a water-rights dispute between Texas and New Mexico to the Supreme Court. But you can also see glimmers of hope. Albuquerque, the biggest New Mexico city along the Rio Grande, has cut its water consumption by a quarter in 20 years even as its population has grown by a third. Irrigation districts and farmers — which consume perhaps seven of every 10 gallons of river water — are turning to technology and ingenuity to make use of every drop of water given them. FULL STORY

Farmers: The Key to Our Global Water Crisis

  • March 2015 - Environmental Defense Fund Blog
  • Farmers are usually the first to feel the impact of drought, often experiencing water shortages before any urban water users are affected. For this reason, they are among the first to adapt, adjusting practices to increase efficiency. FULL STORY

Groundwater Pumping Causing Levels to Rapidly Drop

  • December 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Brian Hurd, an agricultural economics professor and president of the Universities Council on Water Resources was quoted recently in the El Paso Times, saying that the threat of coming water shortages in New Mexico and Texas represents a serious problem for farmers up and down the entire basin region."The real big deal is going to be the change in the intensity of pumping," Hurd told the Times. FULL STORY

Water Availability Limiting Factor in Ag Production

  • December 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Not too long ago, J. Allen Carnes and his father made crop planting decisions based on market conditions, what they expected would be in demand several months down the road. “That’s no longer the case,” Carnes said during the opening session of the Texas Plant Protection Association’s 26th Annual Conference in early December at the Brazos Center in Bryan. “Now, we ask, do we have the water to produce it?” FULL STORY

Feds May Revise New Food Safety Rules for Irrigation Water

  • December 2014 - The Monitor
  • WESLACO — Complaints from farmers nationwide have encouraged the Food and Drug Administration to take the almost unheard of act of revising landmark food safety laws that were scheduled to take effect soon, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service food safety expert. Dr. Juan Anciso, a horticulture specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, said the new rules on food safety are part of the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act designed to reduce food-borne illnesses. FULL STORY

Loans Could Improve Water Delivery

  • November 2014 - The Packer
  • In 2012, Texas voters passed Proposition 6, a constitutional amendment that would make available $2 billion in low-interest loans for safe water conservation projects in the state. Prewett said farmers are not directly eligible for loans, but municipalities, river authorities and irrigation water districts in the Rio Grande Valley can propose projects for funding. FULL STORY

Irrigating Along the Big River: An Interview with Sonny Hinojosa

  • October 2014 - Irrigation Leader magazine
  • The Lower Rio Grande Valley is an extremely productive and varied agricultural center. There are 26 irrigation districts that pump Rio Grande water to service growers and municipalities. Hidalgo County Irrigation District No. 2 (HCID2) is one of those districts, supplying a reliable source of water for irrigation, municipal, industrial, and domestic uses of the lands within its boundaries. FULL STORY

Efficient cotton irrigation demands systems approach

  • September 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Improving water use efficiency may require a handful of strategies that include using a more effective delivery system; increasing irrigation system efficiency; including evapotranspiration rates in irrigation scheduling; and reducing non-water production limitations—better variety selection, fertility management, weed control and proper start-and-stop time for irrigation applications. FULL STORY

NRCS offers irrigation enhancement assistance

  • August 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Farmers can seek both technical and monetary assistance from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve irrigation efficiency. FULL STORY

Video: moisture sensors offer tool to schedule irrigation

  • August 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Moisture sensors offer farmers a useful, inexpensive tool to gauge crop water needs, says Oklahoma State University Extension water resources specialist, Saleh Taghvaeian. FULL STORY

Water conservation incentives on topic at AgriLife workshop

  • August 2014 - Valley Morning Star
  • South Texas farmers, crop consultants, technicians and anybody involved in crop irrigation are invited to a workshop to help brainstorm ideas on how to generate incentives for water conservation, according to experts at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. . . “Our water reservoirs have not been at full capacity since January 2011,” said Dr. Juan Enciso, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research irrigation engineer at Weslaco and a program organizer. FULL STORY

Farmers turn to technology to make best use of scarce resources

  • July 2014 - Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
  • Now, with software improvements and the proliferation of cellphones and towers, the moisture readings are automatically downloaded at regular intervals and shipped remotely to the Internet, ready to be uploaded on a smartphone or laptop. What the relayed data essentially tells Kitten is how much moisture is in his soil, whether the water is 4 inches or 40 inches down. That guides Kitten’s watering choices.“It’s changed everything,” Kitten said. “Before, we were just guessing.” FULL STORY

Lower Rio Grande Valley looks at alternative water solutions

  • May 2014 - Southwest Farm Press
  • As populations continue to swell on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border and competition for water becomes fiercer between agriculture and municipal users, the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority (RGRWA) is desperately on the hunt for new water sources. FULL STORY

Officials Talk About Mexico's Deficit for River Allocations

  • May 2014 - Brownsville Herald
  • In November, Mexico announced its water-priority list, which allocates 100 percent of the country’s water to various users and entities along its river basins. The United States, again, was not on that list of water users, despite specific requirements laid out concerning water sharing between the two countries that impact the Rio Grande Valley. FULL STORY

Drought Loans Now Available

  • May 2014 - Valley Morning Star
  • Farmers, ranchers and some small businesses in the Rio Grande Valley that were hurt by prolonged drought are eligible to apply for low-interest federal emergency disaster loans. Eligible small businesses are those dependent on farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Small Business Administration are making the loans available in response to damages and losses brought on by drought conditions from April 1 through Oct. 31, 2013. FULL STORY

More Drought, Heat and Water Wars: What Climate Change Already Means for Texas

  • May 2014 - State Impact Texas
  • The National Climate Assessment is the product of hundreds of experts and scientists, organized by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. They claim it’s “the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report on U.S. climate change impacts ever generated.” The report focuses on current and future climate change impacts to the U.S. For Texas and the Great Plains region, climate change caused by carbon emissions will exacerbate the issues the region has long faced: droughts, heat waves, storms and flooding. Agriculture will suffer, water wars will increase, and it’s going to get even hotter. FULL STORY

Saving the Citrus Industry

  • May 2014 - Valley Business Report
  • The 500,000 backyard citrus trees in the Rio Grande Valley represent the biggest problem facing the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus industry as it tackles the devastating disease known as citrus greening. The annual farm-gate value of the Valley’s citrus crop is $72 million. Associated businesses -- packers, shippers, implement and crop care suppliers -- bring the industry’s overall economic contribution to the region to $134 million. “If we go by Florida’s experience since 2004, 100% of their citrus has been infected” with citrus greening, said Texas AgriLife economist Luis Ribera.

  • FULL STORY

Water for Today and Tomorrow

  • April 2014 - Valley Business Report
  • “All of us remember what it feels like to be in a drought,” said Carlos Rubenstein, chairman of the Texas Water Development Board. The problem has been that when it rains, many people tend to forget about water scarcity. Speaking at the RGV Water Awareness Summit, Rubenstein, formerly the Rio Grande Watermaster, pointed out the long range impactsof ignoring the urgency of water shortages. FULL STORY

Water rights: Board discusses Mexico’s deficit, solutions to shortage

  • 25 March 2014 - Valley Morning Star
  • Mexico’s water debt has climbed so high that it must give the United States more than twice its minimum annual allocation within the next 18 months to comply with an international treaty, officials said Monday at a Texas Water Development Board meeting here. FULL STORY

West’s Drought and Growth Intensify Conflict Over Water Rights

  • 16 March 2014 - New York Times
  • Across the parched American West, the long drought has set off a series of fierce legal and political battles over who controls an increasingly dear treasure — water. Just outside this minuscule farm town, Frank DeStefano was feeding a 500-acre cotton crop with water from the Brazos River 16 months ago when state regulators told him and hundreds of others on the river to shut down their pumps. FULL STORY

Reservoirs low, but at highest point since 2010

  • 12 February 2014 - Brownsville Herald
  • The last time two key reservoirs that are water lifelines to the Rio Grande Valley were at or above normal levels was in 2010 after Hurricane Alex struck northeastern Mexico. . . .In early February 2013, Falcon Lake was 32.9 percent full. This year the lake has risen by 4.9 percent, and is 37.8 percent full. Amistad Reservoir was 45.3 percent full in early February 2013 and is now 49.3 percent full, a 4 percent gain. FULL STORY

Improving irrigation efficiency with surge valves

  • 29 January 2014 – Delta Farm Press
  • "Most furrow irrigation systems operate at about 50 percent to 55 percent efficiency when you consider they put on too much water on one end of the field and not enough on the other. But there’s a way to get more water where it’s needed – and improve efficiency – as Jason Krutz explains in this video from the Delta Ag Expo. FULL STORY

Border Flood Irrigation in Citrus Produces Significant Cash Advantages for Producers

  • December 2013 – Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics Farm ASSISTANCE Focus

  • “Border flood” irrigation produces the highest net cash farm income (NCFI) for citrus growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. A new analysis of the data collected for border flood, micro-jet, drip, and flood irrigation in citrus conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Department of Agricultural Economics puts the projected 10-year average annual NCFI border flood at $1,360/acre, almost 68 percent higher than the projected NCFI for flood irrigation. FULL STORY

A&M Analysis Shows Higher Profits with Surge in Cotton

  • December 2013 – Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics Farm ASSISTANCE Focus

  • Surge irrigation in cotton is more profitable than furrow irrigation over the long term and can increase net cash farm income (NCFI) by as much as 56 percent per acre, say Texas A&M experts in a December 2013 analysis of average NCFI under various water-pricing scenarios in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. FULL STORY

Cotton no longer King in LRGV

  • 20 December 2013 – Southwest Farm Press

  • "Cotton is unlikely to regain its prominence in the Lower Rio Grande Valley without drastic changes in climate and the global market. The days of quarter-million acre cotton crops in extreme South Texas are a thing of the past, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts." FULL STORY

USDA Strike Force Initiative

  • 13 December 2013 – Southwest Farm Press

  • “Texas NRCS is participating in the USDA StrikeForce Initiative. The Strike Force Initiative is designed to provide relief to persistent high-poverty counties - 90 percent of which are in rural areas - by accelerating technical and financial assistance delivered through the Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency, and Rural Development.” The Initiative includes Hidalgo county.

  • FULL STORY

Agriculture faces daunting challenges in coming year

  • 12 December 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “Speakers at the recent opening session of the 25th annual Texas Plant Protection Association in Bryan, Texas, took time to reminisce and acknowledge the association’s growth, but they also considered the significant challenges ahead and offered opinions on how to meet them." The Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency attended and exhibited at the conference, promoting the Surge Valve Cooperative and other water-saving strategies.

  • FULL STORY

Ag advances parallel TPPA growth

  • 27 November 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “Agriculture has seen a lot of changes in the last 25 year, says Brad Minton, Syngenta Specialty Crop Product Evaluation, Houston, Texas. Many of those advances have paralleled the creation and growth of the Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA), which celebrates its 25th annual conference Dec. 10 and 11 at the Brazos Center in College Station.”
  • FULL STORY

US Bureau of Reclamation Now Accepting Proposals for WaterSMART Grants

The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation.

For details click here or here. Applications are due Jan. 23, 2014.

Texas rice farmers may go 3rd year without water

  • 19 November 2013 - Austin American-Statesman
  • “A Texas water supplier voted Tuesday to ask the state to allow it to withhold irrigation water from downstream rice farmers for a third year in a row.

    The Lower Colorado River Authority voted 8-7 to require its two key reservoirs near Austin to be filled to 55 percent of their capacity by March before releasing water downstream for rice farmers. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will have the last word on the issue.”

  • FULL STORY

Sugar prices down, but drought hurts Valley’s production

  • 18 November 2013 - Valley Morning Star
  • “The Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc. recently fired up the only sugar mill in the state of Texas, and has begun their 41st consecutive year of harvesting sugar cane grown by the Valley’s 123 sugar cane farmers.

    Texas is one of four states in the United States where sugar cane is grown, and it is all grown within 50 miles of Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers’ mill just west of Santa Rosa. Other sugar cane producing states are Louisiana, Florida and Hawaii.”

  • FULL STORY

Surge valve grant for Valley farmers

  • 12 November 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "Valley farmers who missed out on a special pilot program that provided a limited number of participating farmers the chance to purchase surge valves in July at a significantly reduced price will have another opportunity to take advantage of a grant-funded program Thursday, Nov. 14, during a special Surge Valve Field Day at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Annex Farm in Mercedes.
  • The event gets underway at 10 a.m. when the efficiency of the surge valve irrigation system is demonstrated by representatives of the Harlingen Irrigation District and Texas AgriLife technicians. At the end of the demonstration participants can purchase surge valves at a reduced grant price, made possible by a WaterSMART grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation."
  • FULL STORY

Irrigation testing in Weslaco could help South Texas vegetable growers

  • October 25, 2013 - Agrilife Today
  • “As water supplies tighten, improved computer technologies could soon eliminate the waste and guesswork of irrigating winter vegetables in South Texas, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist in Weslaco.
  • “There’s not much we can do to increase our water reserves, so we’re always looking for new ways to conserve the dwindling supplies we do have,” said Dr. Juan Enciso, an irrigation engineer at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.”
  • FULL STORY

HID Wins Blue Legacy Award for Water Conservation & Leadership

The Harlingen Irrigation District has been named a winner of the 2013 Blue Legacy Award in Agriculture by the Texas Water Conservation Council. The award was created "to identify and honor those whose practices enhance water conservation while improving on-farm profitability." Criteria include the use of best management practices or innovative technologies as they pertain to water conservation, water quality, and water resources, and leadership in water conservation within the community and the agricultural industry. Click here for the nomination entry.

The award will be presented to HID at the 13th Annual Texas Commodity Symposium on Dec. 4, 2013, held in conjunction with the Amarillo Farm & Ranch Show.

Surge Valves in the News

  • October 25, 2013 - KRGV
  • KRGV-TV (Channel 5) features the Surge Valve Coop, a project of the Rio Grande Rio Water Authority with support from the Texas Project for Ag Water Efficiency. Click here for the video.

Growers Invited to Texas A&M AgriLife Surge Valve Field Day on Nov 14

Ag producers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley can learn about the water-saving features of surge valves Thursday, Nov. 14, 10-noon, at the AgriLife Research Annex Farm in Mercedes.

For more information about surge valves, click here.

Detailed information about the Field Day here.

Texas Water Development Board Launches New Website

  • October 23, 2013 - TWDB
  • “The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) today launched a new drought web site as part of its Water Data for Texas Web site. As Texas faces ongoing drought and critical water shortages, this site brings together relevant resources, links, data and analyses to provide a one-stop shop for drought information. It consolidates, updates and replaces drought-related pages on the main TWDB website.”
  • FULL STORY

South Texas soil testing campaign to run through February

  • October 10, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "Growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley can save money while helping the environment by taking advantage of a free soil testing campaign. Proper nutrient amounts and replacement help in the reduction of nonpoint source pollution into the Arroyo Colorado and Lower Laguna Madre, both important waterways in the Lower Rio Grande Valley." FULL STORY

Texans have opportunity to vote on water issue Nov. 5

  • October 8, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • ". . . Texans will have an opportunity on Nov. 5 to do something about the water shortage. Proposition 6 is one of nine proposed Texas constitutional amendments on the ballot. The proposition states: 'The constitutional amendment for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.'
  • The proposition, if passed, will establish two funds to finance water plan projects—the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). Those funds would receive financial resources for water projects." FULL STORY

Surge Valve Training Scheduled for Wed., Oct 9, 2013

  • October 2, 2013
  • Ag producers in the Lower Rio Grande have another opportunity to join the Surge Valve Cooperative Wednesday, Oct. 9, when the next training session is scheduled. Cooperators will receive a $2,000 surge valve and controller for only $300, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's WaterSMART program. Field demonstration in the Valley show that surge irrigation can cut water use by up to 52 percent, good news for growers dealing with drought. Register here.

Wearable computers could make steep inroads to farming

  • October 1, 2013 - Southeast Farm Press
  • “Look, Mom, no hands.” In the case of wearable computers, such as Google Glass, this is perhaps more aptly phrased, “Look, Mom, both hands” —one of the reasons why three technology experts believe that wearable computers are primed to make steep inroads into several facets of farming." FULL STORY

South Texas surge valve demo set

  • September 9, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "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." FULL STORY

Growers invited to surge valve demonstration

  • September 5, 2013 - McAllen Monitor
  • "WESLACO — South Texas growers interested in learning more about surge-valve irrigation are invited to a demonstration of the water-saving device at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. The free event will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Sept. 13 at the center, located at 2415 E. Business 83." FULL STORY

Low Water Deliveries From Mexico Hurt Texas Farmers

  • August 28, 2013 - Fronteras
  • "Jesus Luevano works for the Comisión Internacional de Límites y Agua, the Mexican agency that represents the country under the binational water treaties. He confirmed that irrigation districts in Mexico do not set aside water for the Rio Grande when they plan their yearly allocations.

    “Because usually with the rains, in the past, we were able to comply with Mexico's obligations under the treaty," he said. "So we didn't have the need to make any operations in Mexico in order to comply.” FULL STORY

RGV farmers lost vast majority of crop to drought, heat last year

  • September 1, 2013 - McAllen Monitor
  • "Rio Grande Valley farmers lost as much as 88 percent of their crop to drought and heat last year [and] . . . Crops in the Valley weren't any better off this growing season, which marked the worse for farmers since 2006. . . .With these kinds of reports becoming common, experts are urging farmers to become more water-wise and more resistant to weather-related risks." FULL STORY

Not much LRGV cotton will be harvested

  • August 15, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "Cotton harvest in the Lower Rio Grande Valley will not stretch into late fall this year, according to agriculture observers in the region." FULL STORY

AWE 2012 Report Now Posted

  • August 8, 2013
  • The Texas AWE 2012 Annual Report is now available in the Resources section under Annual Reports.

Surge valve program could help Valley farms

  • August 5, 2013 - Valley Morning Star
  • "For three generations, the fields of SRS Farms in the Rio Grande Valley have been watered by flood irrigation. Flooding furrows has long been considered the easiest way to irrigate crops, but it’s not the most efficient and water-wise way, some farmers say. The prolonged drought, which has caused irrigation water to be in tight supply, has prompted some growers to look for alternative methods..." FULL STORY; more info on Surge Valve Coop
Extended Drought Fosters New Approaches.jpg

Extended Drought Fosters New Approaches

  • August 2013 - TCEQ Natural Outlook
  • “While it is tempting to think that the drought of 2013 is “second verse, same as the first,” it is and it isn’t. In some parts of the state, the lessons learned since the drought began in the fall of 2010 are paying off through planning, and in implementation, of innovative ways to extend water supplies. In other areas, shortfalls at water sources have been so rapid and severe that systems have had to improvise to avoid critical water shortages…” FULL STORY (Image source: "Extended Drought Fosters New Approaches," Natural Outlook, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, August 2013)

Rio Grande Valley farmers offered limited surge valves at extreme discount

  • July 25, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "With an ongoing shortage of water for irrigation, South Texas farmers are looking for cost-effective ways to make every drop count. Now, thanks to a special grant program, Rio Grande Valley growers can apply to be one of the 32 growers selected to participate in a surge valve project and acquire these water-saving devices at a fraction of what they normally cost..." FULL STORY; direct link to Surge Valve Cooperative

Rain falls across much of the Southwest

  • July 19, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "From the High Plains to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, farmers are, for the most part, rejoicing at recent rain showers that have, at least temporarily, interrupted a long-standing drought. Some concerns come with rainfall, however, mostly from Valley cotton producers who have cotton open and vulnerable to rain damage…" FULL STORY

Mobile app helps farmers protect water quality

  • July 11, 2013 - Western Farm Press
  • "Tree crop growers have a new tool to help them assess the potential impact their growing practices may have on water quality. Know Your H2O, an iPad app developed by the UC Cooperative Extension Agricultural Water Quality Research and Education Program in San Diego, asks growers a series of questions about their growing practices, then suggests Best Management Practices based on UC research that can reduce runoff or leaching of contaminants from orchards into water…" FULL STORY

Meeting bores in on South Texas water issues

  • July 11, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “Community leaders from South Texas have agreed in a special meeting that the region’s troubling water problems can only be solved by developing a comprehensive initiative that would be shared by major stakeholders along the Rio Grande River from Brownsville north to Laredo…” FULL STORY

Surprising corn, grain yields in parts of Texas Valley for some growers

  • July 1, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "'All's well that ends well,' wrote William Shakespeare in an early 17th century play by the same name. Ever since the early 1600s a debate over the literary work has fueled the argument of whether the play was a comedy or the tale of human tragedy. Perhaps the same could be said about grain sorghum and corn harvest underway in the Lower Rio Grande Valley this week…" FULL STORY

In Texas, a Push to Show Farmers How to Save Water

  • June 30, 2013 - Texas Tribune
  • "Deep in the Texas Panhandle, where the decline of the Ogallala Aquifer has left farmers fearful for their future, Harold Grall is hoping his field of tiny green corn plants will survive with minimal watering. “We’re doing everything that we know possible that we can do to conserve water,” Grall, a corn farmer, said as his pickup bounced toward the 120-acre field..." FULL STORY

Farm Press Water Series

HID, Valley featured in Irrigation Leader

The June 2013 issue of the Irrigation Leader featured an interview with HID General Manager Wayne Halbert, along with several other articles featuring Valley leaders and issues. Read the interview with Wayne here; to read the full magazine, click here.

Dry South Texas agriculture would cost $400 million, 5,000 jobs

  • June 19, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “A total lack of irrigation water, whether by drought or international politics, would amount to agricultural losses in South Texas of almost $400 million annually and the loss of almost 5,000 jobs, according to an expert with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service…” FULL STORY

As summer looms, drought conditions likely to worsen

  • June 16, 2013 - Valley Morning Star
  • “The Rio Grande Valley’s rainy season ended with some disappointing news for Harlingen and surrounding areas. Although April showers brought some healthy rainfall, the spring months still fell below average. The outlook for summer, which officially begins Friday, doesn’t offer much hope for brighter news…” READ MORE

Farmers scuffle through record South Texas drought

  • June 15, 2013 - The Courier
  • "Normally the flat fields surrounding this small farming community display neat rows of cotton running to the horizon and grain sorghum with heavy seed heads waving in the breeze. But now dozens of wind turbines whirl lazily above a patchwork of fields, some completely barren, others displaying only spotty growth..." FULL STORY

OPINION: Does water treaty have no teeth? And if not, what good is it?

  • June 13, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "[T]he 1944 International Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico...seems to have no teeth for enforcement. Mexico apparently has no qualms about ignoring the treaty when it suits its purpose to withhold water from South Texas..." FULL STORY

TAWC recognized with major American Water Resources Association award

  • June 14, 2013 - TTU CASNR
  • “The Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, a research project made up of producers, industries, universities, and government agencies, has received the American Water Resources Association’s ‘Integrated Water Resources Management Award.’ The award will be presented at the group’s annual conference in November in Portland…” FULL STORY

Recruiting Cooperators for Surge Valve Grant Project

  • June 11, 2013
  • With irrigation water in tight supply these days, smart growers are looking for cost-effective ways to make every drop count. The Surge Valve Cooperative is a new initiative of the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority (RGRWA) aimed at putting surge valves to work in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The RGRWA has just been awarded a WaterSMART grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that will offset the cost of surge valves for up to 32 volunteer cooperators in an extended demonstration of the technology.
  • For more information about the Cooperative, click here. Be sure to save the dates of Sept. 17-18 for the cooperator workshops, and stay tuned to this website for additional details.

Farm Subsidies Leading to More Water Use

  • June 6, 2013 - New York Times
  • "Millions of dollars in farm subsidies for irrigation equipment aimed at water conservation have led to more water use, not less, threatening vulnerable aquifers and streams. From Wyoming to the Texas Panhandle, water tables have fallen 150 feet in some areas — ranging from 15 percent to 75 percent..." FULL STORY

Additional EQIP funding for Texas

  • June 4, 2013
  • NRCS announces additional EQIP funding to help Texas farmers and ranchers apply conservation practices to reduce the impacts of drought while improving soil health and productivity. Applications are due June 14. More at Southwest Farm Press.

When Will the Texas Drought End?

  • June 3, 2013 - StateImpact Texas
  • “Sno Cone stands are open, school’s almost out, and thermostats across the state are getting closer and closer to reading a hundred, if they haven’t already. As another summer approaches, Texans are wondering what kind of season is in store. If the forecasts of meteorologist Chris Coleman turn out to be correct, this summer may well be a hot one, though not as bad as the record-breaking summer of 2011...” FULL STORY

Rains came too late for many farmers

  • June 3, 2013 - Brownsville Herald
  • “Recent rainfall, although small, has made a big difference to one local farmer who said it should help him weather the withering drought that is crippling Rio Grande Valley crop production. Wesley Valerius grows cotton, sorghum and hay between Harlingen and Santa Rosa. He is hopeful that by nursing the small amount of irrigation water he has left in his allotment, along with the extra water he’s purchased and the sporadic rain of the past month, he’ll complete this crop year. But that’s not the case for many farmers...” FULL STORY

New op-ed encourages Mexico to give up water

  • May 30, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “As Deep South Texas continues to struggle with a water crisis, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein are once again rattling sabers at Mexico in an effort to get the South of the Border neighbor to release what both commissioners are calling water that is owed to Texas by treaty…” FULL STORY

Special Report: Running Dry

  • May 22, 2013 - KRGV News
  • KRGV presents a special 4-part video series on drought issues in the Rio Grande Valley, entitled "Running Dry." Click here to see the videos.

Opinion: Unless Mexico Honors Water Treaty, Valley Could Face Disastrous Summer

  • May 24, 2013
  • "As the record-setting drought continues, the Rio Grande Valley is marching toward a disastrous summer. The Valley’s economy is threatened, as the price of water rises for farmers, municipalities and consumers alike. Unless the drought ends, the worst-case scenario is looming – water may not be available for many uses, at any price..." READ FULL TEXT of opinion piece by Commissioners Staples & Rubinstein

Valley Officials Launch Water Petition Drive

  • May 22, 2013 - KRGV News
  • “Rio Grande Valley water officials want the public to help pressure President Obama to get Mexico to pay its water debt. They want Valley residents to sign a petition. They are calling it Texans for Treaty Compliance. Water officials want 100,000 signatures…” WATCH VIDEO

Technology advances irrigation and drought management

The Weslaco Extension Center has been awarded part of a nationwide $5.3 million Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service to “develop guidelines for managing irrigation under drought conditions and computer programs for linking weather stations with irrigation scheduling,” according to Dr. Juan Enciso, an irrigation engineer at the center.

The South Texas center will receive $233,000 to develop irrigation guidelines, starting with crops like sugarcane, citrus, corn, cotton, onions and watermelon, as well as for pastures in the Texas Lower Rio Grande Valley. FULL STORY

Texans for Treaty Compliance petition

  • May 15, 2013
  • The newly reformed Texans for Treaty Compliance is gathering signatures on a petition to President Obama. The petition calls on the President to enforce the Rio Grande Water Treaty with Mexico and demand repayment of the water debt that is: 1) Crippling South Texas agriculture and related businesses; 2) Jeopardizing municipal water supplies; and 3) Further compromising habitat for the 131 rare species - many threatened or endangered - in the region.

Battle for H2O

  • May 14, 2013 - Action 4 News
  • “The supply of fresh water in the Rio Grande Valley ebbs and flows radically as weather cycles between tropical downpours and prolonged periods of drought. Despite recent rains it seems the long dry spell could not get much worse. Joe Barrera knows it can get much worse. He is the regional water authority district manager and he worries every day for the future of water in the valley…” WATCH VIDEO

Agricultural pioneers battling water scarcity

  • May 13, 2013 - Western Farm Press
  • "It takes more than a few lakes full of water to simply grow what we eat, and another sea-full to process it before we put into our mouths. So, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs and agricultural pioneers are eager to find new ways to feed the world’s growing appetite at the same time that scarcity of water and costs for its use are growing..." FULL STORY

New research report on sugar cane irrigation

  • May 10, 2013 - FARM Assistance Focus
  • Our newest research report, "Furrow vs. Surge Irrigation in Sugar Cane Under Restricted Water Availability in the Lower Rio Grande Valley," was published in the May 2013 issue of FARM Assistance Focus. Read the full report here.

Hidalgo County wants regional water efforts

  • May 10, 2013 - McAllen Monitor
  • Hidalgo County governments are working to build uniform plans to conserve more water now and expand future availability. County and city officials met Thursday to discuss the lingering drought and identify ways they can work together. Oscar Montoya, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said the information sharing allowed them to begin work on regional proposals…” FULL STORY

Open data a treasure trove for world agriculture?

  • May 9, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • “Over the last few years, there has been much fretting about the ability of farmers to feed and clothe a booming world population, expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. One solution to keep bellies full: share knowledge now that will, hopefully, drive new agronomic methods and technological breakthroughs in coming years…” FULL STORY

Growers opt to plant sorghum over cotton

  • May 8, 2013 - Valley Morning Star
  • “Drought and deflated market prices are likely to have a negative effect on this year’s Rio Grande Valley cotton crop, agriculture experts say. The price of cotton in the world market during spring planting was the main factor for local growers, who say it helped them decide to plant grain sorghum instead of cotton…” FULL STORY

Official stresses urgency in conserving water

  • May 2, 2013 - Valley Morning Star
  • "The Harlingen Irrigation District has made major steps to conserve water but much more needs to be done, Wayne Halbert, the district’s general manager, told a Chamber of Commerce audience Tuesday morning..." FULL STORY

Third year of drought threatens South Texas crops

  • April 30, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • "Farmers in the Texas Coastal Bend who were lucky enough to get crops out of the ground this spring could still make an average or a little less than average crop if they get something close to normal rainfall for the rest of the growing season..." FULL STORY

Opinion: Mexico must release more water

  • April 30, 2013 - San Antonio Express-News
  • "Perhaps residents in the parched Rio Grande Valley should just do a rain dance. It might prove more fruitful than ongoing federal negotiations to persuade Mexico to release more water from the Rio Grande. Those negotiations have yet to produce much of anything, and there is no resolution in sight..." FULL STORY

Op-Ed: South Texas Calls on President Obama to Resolve Mexico Water Debt

  • April 30, 2013 - Austin American-Statesman
  • The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is suffering the impacts of extreme drought from two sources: natural and manmade.There’s not much that can be done about a lack of rainfall, but when drought is exacerbated by political decisions, something CAN and SHOULD be done.A good time to start is May 2, 2013, when President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City. READ FULL OP-ED

Drought takes toll on South Texas cotton acreage

  • April 26, 2013 - AgriLife Today
  • “All indications are that cotton growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley this year will produce one of the area’s smallest crops on record, according to experts at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco..." FULL STORY

Drought costs dry land farmer more than $100,000

  • April 22, 2013 - Action 4 News
  • "Vern Vanderpool’s family has been farming in the Rio Grande Valley since the early 1900’s. He practices dry land farming which means he depends on rain to water his crops. He said some years are better than others, but this year’s crops was anything but plentiful.” FULL STORY

Ag Issues Summit Sept. 8-10 in Oklahoma City

  • The second annual Southwest Agricultural Issues Summit will take place at the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City, Okla., Sept. 8-10, 2013. The summit will again bring agricultural leaders from across the greater Southwest region together for a three-day event to discuss key issues facing agriculture, as well as the opportunity to network with fellow agricultural influencers in the industry.

News Release: Rio Grande Valley Suffers While Mexico Withholds Water

  • April 16, 2013
  • "Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Commissioner Carlos Rubinstein today urged the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and the U.S. State Department to compel Mexico to deliver Rio Grande system water to the United States..." Read full release here.

AWE to present at water law conference

Representatives from the Harlingen Irrigation District, Wayne Halbert and Tom McLemore, will be presenting on Texas AWE at the 13th Annual Law of the Rio Grande Conference, taking place April 25-26 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Conference has long recognized the Rio Grande as essential to the lives, jobs and traditions of millions of residents along the U.S.-Mexico border. The annual event examines conflicting interests and works toward possible solutions to water rights, conservation, drought, and other issues surrounding the Rio Grande. Dr. Benjamin Tuggle of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will present the keynote address. For more information, visit the CLE website.

On-farm technology in the palm of your hand

  • March 22, 2013 - Western Farm Press
  • "In farming, as in all aspects of life, smart phones, tablets and apps now have changed the way we do business." READ MORE

Fresno State farm a home for irrigation innovation

  • March 7, 2013 - Western Farm Press
  • The farm on the campus of California State University, Fresno will soon be home to a state‐of‐the‐art demonstration facility for innovative water and energy management technologies in agriculture. Bolstered by $450,000 in funding from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and supported by irrigation and water technology manufacturers, the Center will be a location to demonstrate how innovation can save significant amounts of energy and water and preserve water quality in agricultural operations across the Central Valley...FULL STORY

TWDB accepting applications for ag water conservation grants

  • March 6, 2013
  • The Texas Water Development Board’s Agricultural Water Conservation Fund is accepting applications for grants for the state fiscal year 2013. Political subdivisions, state agencies, and state institutions of higher learning are eligible to apply for grants totaling up to $600,000 for agricultural irrigation water use measurement equipment, agricultural irrigation system improvements, and feasibility and assessment study of remote sensing technologies to assist with estimating irrigation water use. Applications are due April 17. READ MORE

Drought, lack of water from Mexico a serious threat to farmers, municipalities in the Valley

  • March 6, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • A lack of rainfall combined with Mexico’s refusal to release water to the U.S. could cause serious problems for farmers in the Valley this spring. Producers are rethinking their planting schedules after being informed that they may be limited to one irrigation application for commercial crops. As meteorological forecasts predict little rain and Mexico’s treaty-based water debt grows, municipalities can also expect to feel the pinch of a decreased available water supply. READ MORE

AgriLife Extension Offering Free Soil Testing for Nutrient Content Through March

  • March 4, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Testing supports Arroyo Colorado clean-up efforts. More information here.

Emergency loans available for drought-stricken farmers

  • February 1, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • South Texas growers affected by last year’s drought are encouraged to apply for emergency farm loans as soon as possible, and the Hidalgo County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is available to help. Details here.

Texans Take Action Addressing Future Water Supplies

  • February 1, 2013 - TCEQ Natural Outlook
  • Texans take the bull by the horns—they deal with problems head on. Avoiding water shortages is no different. Water systems, irrigation districts, agriculture, and industry are taking steps to conserve and increase water supplies in the face of extended drought. Here are just a few ways these grassroots problem solvers are mitigating risk...READ MORE

Texas’ state water plan calls for heavy dose of conservation

  • January 22, 2013 - Dallas Morning News
  • The state is running out of water. So much so that Texans may need to brace for quick showers, low-flush toilets and irrigation restrictions. That’s a slice of the water-saving steps that are being talked about as the Legislature considers bankrolling larger projects and other incentives for voluntary conservation...READ MORE

Producers get creative using seasonal high tunnels

  • January 4, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • Things are looking up in the small farm crop industry. Farmers who are embracing new ideas in farming technology are finding they can increase crop production, extend growing seasons, and generate extra income. A new farming trend uses seasonal high tunnels, sometimes called hoop houses, to help farmers grow locally grown, fresh food to sell in their communities...FULL STORY

Variable rate technology improves efficiency, profit potential

  • January 3, 2013 - Southwest Farm Press
  • It’s no secret that agriculture has always been, continues to be and will be into the foreseeable future a challenging way to make a living. The risks are numerous and the stakes are high. The line between profit and loss is typically razor-thin. But technology can take at least some of the guesswork out of the process, says a Wharton County, Texas, cotton and grain farmer...FULL STORY

Report recommends water action, recognizes Texas AWE

"Despite significant investments over the past decades, rapid population and business growth, lack of financial resources, gaps in authority and the declining quality of water resources contribute to significant water and water infrastructure needs" along the U.S. border with Mexico, says the Good Neighbor Environmental Board in its 15th annual report on environmental infrastructure needs within the U.S. states contiguous to Mexico. The Environmental, Economic and Health Status of Water Resources in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region was released Dec. 12, 2012.

The report recommends a number of specific actions to be initiated by the federal government that will lead to increased collaboration and coordination, reduced discharge into border water bodies, enhanced drinking and wastewater infrastructure, and improved financial conditions.

It also cites Texas AWE as a water supply case study (also known as the Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative; see page 31 of the report).

The Good Neighborhood Environmental Board is an independent federal advisory committee managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency that advises the President and Congress of the United States on good neighbor practices along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Tool helps farmers access water with solar power

  • December 10, 2012 - Western Farm Press
  • A computerized tool - the Solar Water Pumping Design Specification Spreadsheet - is showing New Mexico's farmers and ranchers how they can use one of the state's most plentiful resources, the sun, to access one of the most scarce, water...FULL STORY; click here for a video showcasing a solar-powered water pump

Farm Service Agency Conservation loans available

  • November 30, 2012 - Southwest Farm Press
  • USDA Texas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Farm Loan Chief Eddie Trevino announced that funds are now available for Guaranteed Conservation Loans. Conservation loans allow farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices on their land that will help protect natural resources...FULL STORY

Presentation about AWE to the Texas Water Conservation Association's fall 2012 conference

Wayne Halbert and Tom McLemore made a presentation about Texas AWE at the Texas Water Conservation Association's fall conference in San Antonio in October. A copy of the presentation can be viewed here.

Dwindling water supplies prompt recommendations for growers

  • November 15, 2012 - AgriLife Today
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research has released a set of recommendations for South Texas growers facing an extended drought and dwindling water supplies, according to an agency water engineer...READ MORE; read Irrigation Management Recommendations

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Hands-On Training in How Technology Can Enhance Irrigation District Operations

An enthusiastic group of canal riders and other district staff plus state agency personnel explored the efficiencies of district automation at a Nov. 7-8, 2012 workshop at the Rio Grande for Ag Water Efficiency. Classroom instruction alternated with hands-on training at the virtual flume, featuring automated gates and water level sensors, all networked and controlled through a telemetry system accessible via any linked computer device, including cell phones and tablets. Besides the capability to remotely manage gates, the group was impressed by the fact that the system also eliminated the need for canal riders to carry water tickets.

The next training session at the Center, scheduled for Jan. 24, 2013, will focus On-Farm Irrigation Advances. This workshop, designed for ag producers, will cover low- or no-cost irrigation techniques and technologies to improve yields and boost net farm income. More information on the Rio Grande Center page.

Districts interested in scheduling training for their staff on automation technology can call Heather Stock at 956.423.7015.

Status and Trends of Irrigated Agriculture in Texas: A Special Report by the Texas Water Resources Institute

  • Published by TRWI on September 14, 2012
  • "Irrigation is critical to our food production and food security and is a vital component of Texas’ productive agricultural economy. Texas ranks third in the United States in both agricultural acres irrigated and irrigation water applied. Significant advances have been made in irrigation efficiency; however, challenges remain." READ FULL REPORT

Farmers Watching Their Water Use

  • October 28, 2012 - The Wall Street Journal
  • For decades, farmers here have tapped a vast underground reservoir to irrigate their fields to grow corn, soybeans and wheat. Now they are reluctantly starting to reduce their water use, fearing a dwindling supply could otherwise make them the last generation to grow bumper crops in this arid patch of the High Plains...READ MORE

Oct. 29, 2012: Register now for training in irrigation technology & techniques

Friday, Nov. 2, is the deadline for registering for upcoming workshops at the Rio Grande Center for Ag Water Efficiency:

  • District Technology Enhancements (Nov. 7-8, 2012)
  • On-Farm Irrigation Advances (Nov. 9, 2012)

Space is limited. Click here for workshop details and registration forms or call Heather Jones at 956.423.7015.

Message from LCRA General Manager Becky Motal: No decision yet on water releases for rice farmers in 2013

  • October 25, 2012 – LCRA
  • "Earlier this month, our staff told LCRA’s Board of Directors that at that time it did not recommend applying for an emergency order from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding water releases for agriculture in 2013. Some news reports wrongly concluded that meant LCRA had already decided to provide water for rice irrigation next year. That wasn’t what happened..." READ MORE

$2M loan will modernize Texas Panhandle irrigation

  • October 11, 2012 - Amarillo Globe-News
  • The Texas Water Development Board will loan $2 million to the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District to modernize irrigation in the district, doubling the amount the district got last year. Farmers can apply to the district for loans funded by the Water Development Board’s loan... READ MORE

South Texas reservoir levels are low and dropping

  • September 20, 2012 - The Brownsville Herald
  • "With reservoir levels dropping, South Texas growers should be especially mindful of their irrigation practices, according to Dr. Juan Enciso, an irrigation engineer at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco...." READ MORE

Opinion: Texas water debate starting to get ugly

  • August 6, 2012 - Texas Agriculture Talks
  • "The chatter about where Texas gets water to meet a future population explosion has taken an ugly turn lately as agriculture—the state’s largest water user—is being accused of wasting water." READ MORE

Technology helps reduce water supply gaps

  • July 13, 2012 – California Farm Bureau Federation "Ag Alert"
  • ". . . a growing number of farmers tie multiple technologies together to stretch irrigation supplies and to save energy used in moving water to fields or pumping it out of the ground." READ MORE

Flow Meters Increase Irrigation Efficiency

  • July 6, 2012 - Soybean South, May 2012 issue
  • "This tool also helps evaluate management practices, determine pump efficiency and detect well pump and irrigation system problems." READ MORE

Drip Irrigation Expanding Worldwide

  • June 25, 2012 - National Geographic NewsWatch "Water Currents"
  • "This tool also helps evaluate management practices, determine pump efficiency and detect well pump and irrigation system problems." READ MORE

Life by the drop: Rice farming after the water is cut off

  • June 21, 2012 - StateImpact Texas
  • "Instead of assuming that the water that we need in the future for our cities is going to come out of agriculture (which is kind of the current mantra for our state water plan), at some point we're got to start preserving that water for agriculture at all costs and incentivize those who can to undertake the more expensive propositions of developing new water supplies." - 4th generation Wharton County rice farmer Ronald Gertson... READ MORE

What's the best irrigation canal liner?

  • May 24, 2012 - Published on "AgriLife Today" by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service
  • There are an estimated 1.2 million acres of agricultural land in Texas irrigated via canals, and many are in need of renovation, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert. Historically, irrigation canals were basically just earthen ditches, according to Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station. But due to the burgeoning water shortages over the past 15 years, there has been an increase in the awareness of the need to reduce water loss from canals through seepage... READ MORE