Task 1 Research
Principal Investigator(s): Ron Lacewell, Ed Rister, Allen Sturdivant, Ellen Pennington
We mutually agree for Ron Lacewell, Ed Rister, Allen Sturdivant and Ellen Pennington to deliver the following during the period of July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007, using funds from the Rio Grande Basin Initiative. Note some efforts associated with Tasks 1 and 3 are closely integrated between Extension and Research, and are thus reported on both MOAs. Where applicable, reports on these efforts will be published through TWRI.
Task 1: Irrigation District and Regional Studies (Rister, Sturdivant, Lacewell)
- Begin collaboration with the USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research
Service) to investigate and perform economic analyses associated
with a potential management program for controlling Giant Cane
(Arundo donax). Giant cane is a perennial invasive weed throughout
the southern U.S., with dense infestations along the Rio Grande and
related tributaries, and other parts of the arid Southwest. Giant
reed presents a severe threat to agroecosystems and riparian areas,
and where it chokes riversides and irrigation channels, consumes
excessive amounts of water, displaces native plants and reduces
wildlife habitat. Economists anticipate estimating (1) the
potential lost economic activity to the Basin from giant reed
invasion and (2) the economic and financial costs
($/acre-foot) of adding water to the agroecosystem through management of this exotic weed. That is, (a) giant reed's water consumption prevents the potential use of that water towards agricultural crops which produce economic activity, and (b) the estimated net costs and benefits of a management program which adds water (by reducing giant cane) can be calculated and compared to other measures which add (i.e., save) water.
- Continue responding to invited requests for assistance from stakeholders regarding the increasingly pervasive Value of Water issue. The region's changing landscape from traditional production agriculture is impacting the clientele structure and finances for many irrigation districts (IDs) in the LRGV. Water's value and related issues of delivery costs and rate assessments are simultaneously merging in a manner which is challenging some IDs to re-think some basic business strategies. Invited requests for economists' assistance via economic- and financial-based workshops, rate analyses, surveys, etc. on the intertwined issues are expected to contribute towards lower exposures to financial risks and improved financial positions for several IDs.
- Analyze and report on the economic implications of desalination in South Texas by collaborating with NRS Engineers. Desalination offers an opportunity for source diversification of water for many communities, along with possible defenses against security threats potentially affecting clean water supplies. The economic costs associated with constructing and operating desalination plants in South Texas are to be investigated. Primary data will include engineering considerations and actual costs associated with existing and plants under construction in South Texas. Specific costs to be considered include raw water acquisition and transport, pretreatment, and purification, with the results reported on an annuity-equivalent basis ($/acre-feet) and comparable to other cost-of-water values calculated with RGIDECON© for infrastructure rehabilitation projects. There is a potential this work could be expanded to include desalination in El Paso, TX.
- Continue the development of and increase the application of VIDRA© (Valley Irrigation District Rate Analyzer) to requesting irrigation districts. This spreadsheet model aids in an interaction process whereby IDs can understand likely financial outcomes to changes in water-delivery rates to agricultural, municipal and industrial users. Appropriate accounting, economic and institutional factors are incorporated. Scheduled usage of VIDRA© includes eight IDs to date and has, in its trial implementation, highlighted a significantly different rate regime for an ID which not only exposes the district to lower financial risk, but also results in farmers paying the same total amount of money for the same amount of water. Invited requests for rate-analysis assistance are expected to lead to improved financial positions for several IDs.
- Continue collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to complete a guide on engineering considerations and economic costs. With an objective of saving water within a water-delivery system, deciding which rehabilitative system (i.e., shotcrete, liners, protected liners and pipe) provides the most 'bang for the buck' can be difficult. In lieu of a customized analysis with RGIDECON©, this handbook-style document will provide IDs a useful tool, particularly in the conceptual/planning stages as it provides comparative costs ($/acre-foot of water saved) for each system, across an array of scenarios.
Task 3: Institutional Incentives for Efficient Water Use (Lacewell, Rister, Pennington)
- A review of the history, organization, rules, water allocation mechanisms, methods of electing a board of directors and defining the district manager will be completed for the Delta Lake ID.
- Develop a summary report comparing and contrasting individual irrigation districts' operational characteristics (from reports already completed and others near completion). This report will identify and evaluate alternatives and implications for increasing the efficiency of water allocation and use in the LRGV.
- Develop a report addressing the implications for water conservation within an irrigation district, relative to the incentives and barriers to adopting on-farm water conserving technologies and opportunities to bring irrigation district and on-farm interests together for consistent efforts.