Irrigation Leader
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Volume 10 Issue 7 August 2019 Nation-Building Through Irrigation Infrastructure

Arizona agriculture is a marvel. Despite its blazing hot summers and its desert climate, the state produces significant agricultural output, including most of the lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli eaten in the United States and Canada during the winter. To make this happen, water suppliers and irrigators distribute hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water each year across the state.

In our cover story, I speak with Dr. David DeJong, the director of the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project (P-MIP), the tribal program that is managing the design and construction of over 100 miles of irrigation conveyance structures in the Gila River Indian Community. Dr. Dejong, whose doctoral dissertation in history focused on the water rights of the Gila River Indian Community, provides a historically-informed explanation of how P-MIP’s activities fit into the broader picture of nation-building.

We also speak with Darrin Francom of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), who digs into the details of how the agency powers 1.6 million acre-feet of Colorado River water across Arizona. At 2.8 gigawatt-hours a year, CAP is Arizona’s biggest energy user.

The Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, a University of Arizona–linked research center, links Arizona agriculture with researchers who are working to improve yields and water use.

I also talk with Roosevelt Water Conservation District’s Shane Leonard about the annoyances and expense caused by scooters and other debris being thrown in his organization’s canals.

In our irrigated crop section, we get to the result that all this infrastructure and research aims at: Arizona’s agricultural output. Tom Davis of the Yuma County Water Users’ Association walks us through the process of growing lettuce from germination to harvesting to shipping. At the height of the produce season, a refrigerated truck is leaving Yuma every minute, 24 hours a day.

Finally, I speak with Emily Morris, the founder and chief executive officer of Emrgy. Emrgy creates simple modular hydropower arrays that can be easily installed in canals. This exciting technology should be of interest to every irrigation district in the United States.

Irrigation can make the desert bloom, but it takes hard work. This issue of Irrigation Leader highlights the water utilities, irrigation districts, tribal agencies, researchers, farmers, and entrepreneurs who make it happen. I hope you find the stories within interesting and inspiring.

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at Kris.Polly@waterstrategies.com.