Agricultural Water Management

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Overview

Agricultural water management encompasses irrigation and drainage engineering, improved utilization of precipitation in both rainfed and irrigated agriculture, use of recycled water, soil and water conservation, and watershed management. Improving agricultural water management plays a central role in maximizing agricultural production from limited water supplies while achieving economic and environmental sustainability.

Davids Engineering provides a broad range of services supporting management of surface water and groundwater supplies. Over our nearly 20 year history, we have assisted dozens of irrigation water suppliers and farmers, across a wide range of agro-climatic, hydrologic, production and water management conditions.

Specific services provided by Davids Engineering under the agricultural water management area are described in more detail below.

Conjunctive Water Management

Conjunctive water management refers to the coordinated and planned use and management of both surface water and groundwater resources to maximize the availability and reliability of water supplies. Irrigation-dominated agricultural areas with developed surface and groundwater resources and facilities often can increase water supply reliability and achieve environmental enhancements through conjunctive management. With its agricultural orientation and technical capabilities, Davids Engineering is uniquely suited to support local agencies in the development and implementation of conjunctive water management strategies and programs.

Water Measurement Plans

Effective water management depends on sufficiently accurate water measurement. Davids Engineering approaches water measurement by first understanding the desired water management outcomes, and then designing water measurement improvements that appropriately balance benefits and costs, recognizing measurement costs generally go up with increasing measurement accuracy. Plans typically include identifying strategic measurement locations, selecting the appropriate structures and instrumentation for measuring and recording flow, and design and implementation of a program to collect, quality control, store and analyze measurement data.

Water Information Systems

Increasingly, water stewards throughout the west are being required to collect and report water information to regulatory and quasi-regulatory agencies, reflecting increasing public demand for transparency in how water supplies are used. Most commonly, this includes surface water flows and quality and groundwater levels. This data must be collected, reviewed for accuracy, stored, analyzed and incorporated in various reports. Davids Engineering works closely with water stewards to develop water information systems that perform these functions reliably and cost-effectively. We have designed and implemented low-end water information systems based on manual data collection and spreadsheet-based data management and reporting, to systems involving literally hundreds of remotely monitored sites with Oracle-based automated quality control and reporting procedures, and many variations in between these extremes.

Irrigation System Modernization

Irrigation system modernization generally refers to improvements made to irrigation water conveyance and distribution systems to improve the level of service provided to customers and to increase system efficiency. Often, system modernization is driven by the need to provide increased levels of reliability, consistency and flexibility to farmers to support adoption of high-efficiency on-farm irrigation systems and management practices that maximize economic productivity. Additionally, modernization may target water conservation through reduction of system losses to seepage and spillage. Modernization programs emphasizing service improvements often begin with grower interviews to identify specific service improvements that will provide greatest value. Where water conservation is involved, and especially in cases where conserved water will be transferred, historical water balances are developed to quantify potential water savings. Once specific modernization objectives are established, design of facility and operational improvements can be undertaken and phased implementation mapped out to match available funding. Modernization improvements to open canal systems typically include regulating reservoirs, modification and automation of water control structures, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). Davids Engineering works closely with water suppliers to develop modernization programs that are tailored to meet specific objectives within defined cost and schedule constraints.

Water Conservation Planning and Verification

Transfer of conserved water between willing buyers and sellers is a viable means of reallocating available water supplies under certain conditions. Transfers of conserved water typically require some form of verification to quantify the volume of water actually saved. Verification protects the interests of buyers and sellers, third parties not directly involved in but who may be affected by the transfer, and the environment. Davids Engineering is a pioneer in water conservation verification based on its development and implementation of verification strategies for the landmark conservation agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). More recently, Davids Engineering employed verification-based planning procedures derived from the IID-MWD transfer to develop IID’s Efficiency Conservation Definite Plan, a highly detailed formulation of integrated system and on-farm improvements that serves as IID’s basis for fulfilling its obligations under the Quantification Settlement Agreement. Davids Engineering has employed various elements of the analytic approaches and procedures developed on these major projects on much smaller planning initiatives.

Water Management Planning

Agricultural water suppliers prepare various types of water management plans, both to guide their own initiatives and to comply with state and federal requirements. In California, suppliers may be required or compelled to prepare Agricultural Water Management Plans (AWMPs), Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (IRWMPs) or Groundwater Management Plans (GMPs). Other states may have similar requirements or conditions that call for similar kinds of plans to enhance resource management. Davids Engineering has prepared (either solely or as part of multi-firm teams) all of these water management plans for dozens of agricultural water suppliers both within and outside of California. California-required plans have been prepared according to applicable criteria, and have been formally adopted by the suppliers and approved by the administering agencies.