ITRC interviewed irrigation district personnel from 25 agricultural districts in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana.

Data were analyzed to determine the degree of water delivery flexibility provided to farmers and the extent of existing and planned district modernization. This is the fourth such report the Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC) has published for irrigation districts in the western US. The first two evaluations were conducted on behalf of the Mid-Pacific Region of the US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and included California irrigation districts that had long-term federal contracts. The third report was prepared on behalf of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and did not include irrigation districts with long-term federal contracts. The first three evaluations were conducted in 1996, 2000 and 2002, respectively. All three reports can be downloaded from the ITRC’s Reports web page (http://www.itrc.org/reports/reportsindex.html). This report was prepared on behalf of the USBR Yakima Office of Water Conservation, Upper Columbia Area of the Pacific Northwest Region and includes districts that receive at least some water from federal facilities.

The interview process identified a strong perceived need by the districts for more direct technical assistance and training. This perceived need is greater than what ITRC has seen in California irrigation districts. These needs varied by district and region. In addition to general support, some districts acknowledged interest in small, specialized training efforts customized for single or small groups of districts at local facilities. Interest is especially high for information about automation and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. The data also indicated that more Rapid Appraisal Process (RAP) visits are needed to determine possible physical and operational improvements (modernization and efficiency) for districts to accommodate the ever-changing needs of their consumers and the environment. Direct technical assistance to individual districts has been and will continue to be a key element of continuing success in modernization.

Other key items include:

  1. Many of the districts, and their farmers, are heavily dependent upon electric power to convey and distribute irrigation water. Presently, the power rates are lower than in other areas of the West.
  2. Irrigation district personnel, on the average, consider on-farm water usage/conservation to be beyond their scope of responsibility. This indicates that the “Bridging the Headgate” initiative by USBR and others may need more effort.
  3. Although 24 of the 25 districts provide water on at least an “arranged” basis, there is still room for improvement of the water delivery flexibility provided to farmers. The overall Flexibility Index was 11.5 (max. possible = 15; min. possible = 3). This compares with an overall Flexibility Index of 10.9 for sixteen non-Federal irrigation districts ranked by ITRC in 2002, and an Index of 12.9 for 58 Federal irrigation districts ranked by ITRC in 2000.
  4. Since 1995 the irrigation districts have made numerous improvements, including both software and hardware.

This report summarizes the results and provides brief comments on various aspects of those results.


Bioresource and Agricultural Engineering

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/bae_fac/151