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CWA renews ag water management contract with Mission RCD

 

Last updated 6/14/2007 at Noon



The San Diego County Water Authority board voted May 24 to renew an agreement between the County Water Authority and the Mission Resource Conservation District for operation of the CWA’s Agricultural Water Management Program.

The agreement provides the Mission RCD with $155,000 for Fiscal Years 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10.

“We’ve been working on these for many years and are excited that this water conservation program’s going to be continuing,” said Mission RCD executive director Judy Mitchell. “We’ve always had a great demand for it and felt that it was one of our most important outreaches.”

The Agricultural Water Management Program provides technical information to growers after conducting an audit which includes visual observations of the irrigation system, examination of soil and crop materials, pump testing, and response to the grower’s questions. A written report summarizes the irrigation system’s hydraulic characteristics and the soil profiles and provides recommendations for improving the overall system efficiency. Local water data, crop water demands, and information on cultural practices are also included, and potential yield improvements and water savings obtained from the irrigation efficiency improvements are explained to the grower. Follow-up service determines system improvements and encourages the recommendations to be implemented.

The County Water Authority has contracted with the Mission Resource Conservation District for the agricultural water management services since 1990, and since that time the RCD has provided more than 1,700 audits on more than 28,000 acres. “That’s always been one of our important, really important outreaches to support the agricultural community by trying to help them really maximize the use of water.”

The 2006 annual report for the program indicates reduced water demand by an average of 11.2 acre feet per year per site, which with an average of 50 sites per year would total 560 acre feet in savings. The audit program currently has a two-month waiting list.

The $155,000 covers $50,000 per year, which allows for the service of 50 sites per year at an approximate cost of $1,000 per audit including follow-up work. The remaining $5,000 will cover agricultural water conservation research and will be allocated for Fiscal Year 2007-08.

A separate CWA board action May 24 approved an agreement between the CWA and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California which gives the CWA $142,935 in grant funding for the landscape auditor intern program. That program trains community college students in conservation principles with an emphasis on landscape conservation. The Mission Resource Conservation District will be part of that program. “This is an important program, too,” Mitchell said.

One of the programs on which the RCD is working involves satellite control of irrigation. “It should bring a higher level of sophistication to even the residential irrigation,” Mitchell said. “Here in Fallbrook several months ago we installed one of the ‘smart controllers’ at Beech Street Park.”

Mitchell noted that the RCD would hold classes at Beech Street Park on the new technology, although the dates for that class have not yet been determined.

“We are delighted that there’s going to be funding for those programs,” Mitchell said. “We always thought they were extremely important.”

 

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