By Shelby Ruud Jarman
Utah State University recently received a grant to invest in the Ag Water Demonstration, Research, and Implementation Program (Ag-DRIP), designed to help increase agricultural resiliency to drought and conserve water in the Colorado River Basin.
The grant is sponsored by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Colorado River Authority of Utah. The grant is the first part of a five-year commitment ($5 million total) to develop and administer the Ag-DRIP program.
“Agriculture is a critical industry in Utah and provides many environmental, social, and economic benefits to the state,” said Matt Yost, USU Extension agroclimate specialist and one of the principal investigators of the grant. “This industry has taken the brunt of the mega-drought of 2020 to 2022, with massive losses in farm production and profits. Building resiliency to drought by optimizing agricultural water use will be critical for the food and water security of the state.”
The Ag-DRIP program plans to build resiliency to drought and optimize agricultural water use by collaborating with water users and managers to help them develop and achieve irrigation management goals. With educational materials, onsite evaluations, irrigation technologies that will become demonstration projects, and data evaluation, USU researchers will work together with water users and managers to learn, improve, innovate, and develop opportunities to optimize water use.
“Our farmers are often targeted in discussions of water use and conservation, while most are much more impacted by water scarcity than the average Utahn,” said Burdette Barker, USU Extension irrigation specialist and the program’s other principal investigator. “This project will provide farmers with resources to do what many are already striving to do: make the best use of the available water resources.”
The program will begin this spring with the recruitment of 25 farmer participants who will work with USU Extension experts to test alternative crops and develop irrigation management plans. They will learn to use irrigation scheduling with data from water measurements and soil moisture sensors to guide their irrigation management plans.
Another step will be to identify five irrigation companies to participate. These companies will also develop water management plans and receive assistance in water measurement and management techniques based on research and resources from USU.
To learn more and apply to participate in the Ag-DRIP program, visit https://tinyurl.com/usuag-drip. To learn more about how USU Extension is using research to serve the state of Utah, visit https://extension.usu.edu/.