Yuma Area Office
Program and Activities

Water Management

Water conservation means using water efficiently, with minimum waste. Water conservation practices manage water to consume no more than necessary for the intended purpose.

With desert agriculture, wasted water reduces profits, increases production expenses, and is difficult and expensive to reclaim. Above ground, wasted water evaporates into the hot, dry air. Below ground, wasted water is mineralized by percolation through the soil, degrading its quality and usefulness.

Photo of Sprinkler irrigation for germination of lettuce

Sprinkler irrigation for germination of lettuce

Efficient water management in irrigated, desert agriculture can be achieved primarily through:
1. Water Conservation Planning
2. Water Measurement
3. Canal Automation
4. Irrigation Water Management
5. Soil Salinity Management

1. Water Conservation Planning

Efficient water management is not an easy task, and resources to implement improvements are limited. In order for a program to improve, water management must be carefully planned. The process of developing a conservation plan involves taking an inventory of resources, identifying problems and opportunities, analyzing alternative courses of action, selecting a course of action, and scheduling and budgeting actions.

Water Conservation Plans are also excellent methods to show the public how and why irrigation districts are prudently managing water resources. With multiple agricultural, urban, and environmental needs for water --sometimes in competition -- the value of this resource is rising. More and more, water districts must make their case for prudent and responsible conservation by documenting their water management methods. Reclamation's Yuma Area Office assists Water Districts and Tribes with water conservation management and planning.

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2. Water Measurement

Water measurement structure in operation

The number one rule with most resources is: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it effectively". We add a corollary to that rule: "If you can't measure it accurately, you can't manage it efficiently".

Accurate water measurement can be considered the "bedrock" water conservation measure. All other water management and conservation measures are contingent upon accurate water measurement to be effective. Reclamation's Yuma Area Office provides technical assistance to Water Districts, Tribes, and other water-user and conservation organizations to improve their ability to measure water accurately.

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3. Canal Modernization

Canal Modernization is often thought to mean "lining canals". In actuality, Canal Modernization is much more than that. To better explain this, we can compare the spigot or faucet at your house to an irrigation canal system.

Photo of Irrigation Canal

SCADA on a canal control structure

At your faucet, water can be delivered exactly where you want it, when you want it, and at the exact rate you want it just by adjusting the faucet handle. It is not that way with an irrigation canal. With a canal system that is not sufficiently modernized, water must often be ordered days ahead of time. It does not necessarily arrive at the time or rate you asked for, and the rate can go up and down quite a lot during the delivery. If you change your mind about needing the water after it is ordered, then it is often too late - the water is already in the system and has to go somewhere or it will overtop the canal.

As you can, a canal system that is not modernized can make it difficult for a farmer to manage his/her water carefully. A Canal Modernization program introduces the service concept: making the water delivery as close to your household spigot as possible: accurately-delivered, on-time, and when you need it.

A Canal Modernization program looks at the whole water management system and includes various measures such as refurbishment of water control structures; electronic, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems; automation of water control structures; water ordering and accounting systems; and regulation of reservoirs along canal systems.

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4. Irrigation Water Management

Photo of Levee Basin Irrigation
Levee Basin Irrigation

By "Irrigation Water Management" we mean management of irrigation water on the farm. We work in partnership with local Irrigation and Conservation districts and Cooperative Extension offices to:

  • develop and distribute irrigation management tools and guides specifically for local soil, crop, and water delivery conditions; and
  • encourage the adoption of effective new technology for irrigation management and irrigation scheduling through demonstration projects and workshops

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5. Soil Salinity Management

Photo of Salt Mapper


In irrigated, desert agriculture, soil salinity must be managed to avoid harmful accumulation of salts in the soil. Soil salinity build-up is managed by ensuring that the amount of water applied to the soil exceeds the rate of water used by the crop. The technological challenge in soil salinity management is to apply just the needed amount of additional water for soil salinity control, in the right place, the right amount, and at the right time - and avoid excessive amounts of water for salinity control.

Excessive amounts of water percolating through the subsurface have negative effects: the percolating water dissolves additional salts, making the water salinity higher for the next user of the water downstream. Thus, soil salinity management is a necessary component of water conservation.

New technology in the form of precision-farming tied to soil salinity measurements is available through a cooperative effort between local action agencies, water districts, Reclamation's Yuma Area Office, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.

We work in cooperation with local action agencies and research institutions to:

  • demonstrate new technology and expertise for soil salinity management,
  • assist water districts and action agencies with programs for implementing improved soil salinity management practices, and support continued development of software and tools for soil salinity management.

For more information please visit the Lower Colorado Region Salinity Assessment Network Internet site:http://www.ussl.ars.usda.gov/lcrsan/index.htm

Last Updated: 4/23/15