For a century, the Wapato Irrigation District (WIP) has been delivering water to the diverse and productive agriculture of Washington’s Yakama Nation reservation. While some of WIP’s engineering and operating activities are handled by the Yakama Nation, it is a federally owned project operated primarily by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In our cover interview, Stuart Crane of the Yakama Nation Water Resource Program discusses the challenges this entails and describes the infrastructure projects WIP is currently undertaking.
I also 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 provides a historically- informed explanation of how P-MIP’s activities fit into the broader picture of nation-building.
Our other stories also focus on the marvel that is Arizona’s desert agriculture. Darrin Francom of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) 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. Roosevelt Water Conservation District’s Shane Leonard describes 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.