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IID system is efficient

April 25, 2002

One of the most intriguing pieces to come out of all the water transfer documents and testimony is a study that states despite a reputation for using water inefficiently, the Imperial Irrigation District and the farmers within the district actually are uncommonly efficient in their handling of water.

Take that, all you people and agencies who like to tar IID and its farmers as a huge water waster as propaganda in the never-ending war to get our water.

The on-farm efficiency rate in Imperial County in recent years, according to a study done by Fort Collins, Colo.-based Natural Resources Consulting Engineering Inc., was 83 percent. That means 83 percent of the water delivered to farm headgates in the Imperial Valley was used for crop evapotranspiration, leaching and other crop-production uses. The years of the study were 1988-1997, and we are sure IID and farmers have gotten even more efficient in the last five years.

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(The overall efficiency rate for the entire IID water system is 74 percent, which also seems a pretty good figure.)

The state of California assumes on-farm irrigation efficiency will be 73 percent by 2020, possibly reaching 80 percent by that date with better irrigation management and improved facilities. We are already well beyond those conservation rates, 18 years early.

So while Imperial County may use a large portion of the state's Colorado water allotment, it is not particularly wasteful, and that point should be stressed again and again in all meetings IID and county officials have with people from the state and from other water districts.

In fact, according to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 1990 figures, IID is the second most efficient irrigation distribution system along the Colorado, second only to the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District in Arizona, which was a nudge above IID's 89 percent at 90 percent. Our friends in the Coachella Valley Water District — you know, the ones who constantly call us water wasters and are always pining and carping that they should have some of our water supply — were behind us at 87 percent.

Maybe CVWD needs to be more efficient so it can soon transfer conserved water somewhere else in our parched state.

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