Social Factors Affecting the Transfer of Modern Water Management Technologies to Irrigation Districts

Project ID: 2786
Principal Investigator: Thayne Coulter
Research Topic: Supporting Irrigation Districts
Funded Fiscal Years: 2005 and 2006
Keywords: None

Research Question

The hypothesis of the research is that rapid adoption of modern water management technologies by irrigation districts is constrained by key social, organizational, political and physical factors (e.g., urbanization, size of district, board of director philosophy, condition of irrigation system, profitability of agricultural production). This fact is resulting in a significant time lag in achieving Reclamation objectives under the Water 2025 initiative.

* How can lessons regarding successful technology transfer be brought to the attention of technicians in regional and area offices?

* What kinds of technology transfer activities are most popular and successful with irrigation districts today, and why?

* What methods of information diffusion about water management technologies are best suited to irrigation districts?

* How can improved understanding of technology transfer processes guide technology developers, including both Reclamation and the private sector, in meeting irrigation district needs?

Need and Benefit

Need and benefit for this research on enhancing and improving Reclamation technology transfer delivery systems has been determined by an initial scoping effort under a 2004 funded project titled Applied Research on Improving the Management of Urban Encroachment on Reclamation Facilities, with Emphasis on Irrigation Districts (fiscal year [FY] 2004 budget of $10, 000). The scoping effort determined that:

* The adoption of technologies by irrigation districts for improving water management is constrained by many different kinds of social, organizational, political and physical factors generally not recognized by the agency and frequently leading to unsatisfactory results for agency technology transfer activities.

* Existing capabilities available to Reclamation from internal sources (i.e., Area Offices) to improve technology transfer are limited by budgets.

* There is no Reclamation-wide inventory of what irrigation districts have today in the way of modern water conservation technologies, in order to properly assess rates of technology transfer and its benefits, what are viewed as popular and acceptable technologies by districts, for what reasons, and what kinds of technologies irrigation districts would like to see developed in the future by S&T or the private sector.

It was further determined by the FY 2004 scoping effort that the private sector does not view research into improvements in technology transfer processes as a profit center for them. Therefore, both the private sector and agency technology transfer delivery system are likely to remain unchanged and inadequate to meet Reclamation 2025 initiative needs, unless funding is provided to research ways to enhance and improve these delivery systems. An improved method of technology transfer will help assist area offices in enhancing their capabilities, conserve water, and make it possible for Reclamation Research and Development (R&D) to better serve the needs of irrigation districts. An efficient, more acceptable, and less intrusive data collection method will be used to conduct research on these technology transfer issues. Central to the new method of data collection are lessons learned from the highly interactive irrigation district workshops organized and conducted by Colorado State University on urban encroachment issues. The attendance at these workshops by irrigation districts has been very large and very successful as a means of data collection. Central to the philosophy underlying well designed workshops as a method of data collection on important issues has been:

* Maximum participation of all facets of the agricultural community organization, not just districts

* Identification and participation of other stakeholders surrounding irrigation districts, such as municipal and county government that could assist irrigation districts with technology transfer

* Irrigation district managers as guest speakers and educators

* Inter-regional information exchange, such as having an irrigation district manager from California attend and speak to an audience of irrigation district managers and board members in Idaho on a particular technology and issues with its adoption

* Substantial irrigation district involvement in the planning of the workshops, and videotaping of workshops for purposes of documenting issues discussed in the workshops more thoroughly. This method of data collection is much less intrusive and more acceptable to irrigation districts than using questionnaires and other traditional methods of data collection on issues affecting them.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 4/4/17