Farmers take caution for likely water shortage declaration on Lake Mead
March 20, 2018
As Lake Mead approaches dangerously low levels, locals are preparing for ways how to irrigate more efficiently and looking for alternative sources of water.
“We’re trying to get as efficient as we can with the water,” Dan Thelander, partner in the Tempe Farming Company, says. “The efficiency in our district is around 80 percent. Our farm has about one thousand acres of drip irrigation. We would like to have our whole farm in drip… It’s just so expensive, we don’t have the money to do that.”
Drip irrigation would raise the efficiency levels to 90 or 95 percent. Thelander says even if they had the money, they probably wouldn’t make the transition to drip. Farms in the central Phoenix area are facing cutbacks and the possibility of fallowing, the act of not cultivating plots of land to reduce water use. It wouldn’t be worth the risk.
Traditionally, the Tempe Farming Company receives have their water from the Central Arizona Project (CAP) which is water that comes from the Colorado River. The other half comes from pumping ground water. If they are forced to use 100 percent ground water, the cost of pumping increases and it puts an unhealthy amount of stress on the supply of ground water.
If the water in Lake Mead reaches its critical level, the cut in water supply will fall to the lowest priority entity which is CAP, explains General Manager of Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District Brian Betcher. That will then affect the lowest priority users within CAP which is irrigated agriculture.
“I would like to think there is a proper balance that will allow a gradual decline in farming down here but keep it profitable to balance the needs of the state,” Betcher says. “I’m a firm believe that every state should have a significant component of farm ground to provide direct supplies of food and fibers to people in the state.”
Arnott Duncan, CEO of Duncan Family Farms, says it’s only a matter of time when water is going o be all about a legislative process of policy. He says that’s why farmers need to start saving now. It won’t help to wait until the declaration of a water shortage is made.