A Yuma Mesa Irrigation and Drainage District (YMIDD) commitment to cease irrigating a specified amount of “qualified land” each year will help keep more Colorado River water within the system. This is an important step—especially as the probability of a Colorado River shortage continues to escalate.
The program represents a partnership with the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD). The pilot “fallowing project” is projected to begin in January 2014.
Landowners within the YMIDD who elect to participate in the program will commit to fallow—that is not irrigate. This will provide a stable revenue stream for YMIDD farmers with limited impact on current farming operations. In return, YMIDD will agree to not use the Colorado River water allocation that would otherwise have been used to irrigate. The conserved water will remain in Lake Mead—helping to avoid or minimize the effects of a projected shortage.
The program calls for approximately 1,500 total acres of land to be fallowed. That’s less than 10 percent of the current irrigated acres within the YMIDD. The program provides a stable revenue stream for YMIDD farmers and also avoids the permanent loss of productive agricultural land. The estimated annual volume of water to be conserved through the fallowing program is about 9,000 acre-feet. The conserved water will be stored in Lake Mead and will help to minimize or avoid shortages to water users in Arizona and the Lower Colorado River Basin.
The pilot program will allow YMIDD, CAGRD and other Colorado River stakeholders to evaluate the benefits and impacts of creating conserved water through rotational fallowing.