avid Brown of the City of Yakima’s Water/Irrigation Division knows that straightforward improvements can have dramatic results. In 1998, the city replaced 32 miles of wood-stave pipes with PVC and polyethylene and, in so doing, reduced its diversion from 23 cubic feet per second to 9. Today, the division is taking the same attitude toward implementing aquifer storage and recovery facilities and replacing the 1985 Nelson Dam with a roughened channel. As Mr. Brown explains in our cover story, these improvements require money, but their payoffs are significant.
The rest of this issue focuses on an Irrigation Leader tour of Chile that took place in February. Chile stretches 2,600 miles north-to-south along the Pacific Coast of South America, with a dramatic landscape that includes mountains, deserts, fjords, and fertile valleys. On our tour, we saw how farmers, water managers, and civil servants are working to fight Chile’s serious droughts and cultivate grapes, avocados, citrus fruits, vegetables, and other crops in north-central Chile’s transverse valleys.
In addition to letting our tour participants tell you about their experiences in Chile, we speak with Gastón Sagredo of Rubicon Chile about how Rubicon’s technology is helping boards of control and canal associations fight Chile’s fierce droughts. We also interview the managers of the Choapa River and Elqui River Boards of Control, entities that manage the deliveries of two snowpack-derived rivers in north-central Chile. Each board of control provides water to several thousand users, subdivided into canal associations and water communities. Then we speak with Federico Errázuriz, the head of Chile’s National Irrigation Commission—the equivalent of the Bureau of Reclamation—about how his agency subsidizes critical irrigation infrastructure. And if all this talk of drought is making your mouth dry, we also bring you a story about the production of pisco grapes, the main ingredient in Chile’s traditional brandy, pisco, which is gaining in popularity around the world.
Even though Chile is thousands of miles away, irrigators there face many of the same problems that American farmers do: drought, supply issues, user conflicts, and funding issues. Comparing and contrasting the American and Chilean situations was fascinating and enlightening. We hope that this issue of Irrigation Leader will give you a taste of this amazing country.
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.