Cuts on the Colorado

By Kris Polly

In August 2021, the severe drought in the Colorado basin triggered a tier 1 shortage under the terms of the Drought Contingency Plan, resulting in automatic cuts to lower-priority water users in Arizona and Nevada. Further drought threatens to result in further cuts. Not only is this huge news for Arizona and Nevada, it is also a vivid illustration of how long-term drought may begin to affect water users across the West. To learn more about the effects of the tier 1 cuts, we speak with Tom Buschatzke, the director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. 

Two years ago, the unthinkable happened for Nebraska’s Gering–Fort Laramie Irrigation District (GFLID). One of its water conveyance tunnels collapsed, leaving it without water for more than a month during the most critical time of the year. GFLID Manager Rick Preston tells us about the hard work the district put in to get water flowing again. 

Next, we speak with Dr. Khaled Bali and Dr. Stephen Kaffka, two University of California experts who were involved in studying the benefits of automating the surface irrigation of sugar beets in the Imperial Valley. Using Rubicon gates and software, they demonstrated an increase in water use efficiency from 70–75 percent to 85 percent. 

Moleaer has created a novel and highly effective aeration system that injects water with billions of tiny air bubbles, thousands of times smaller than a grain of salt. We speak with Moleaer CEO Nick Dyner about the technology’s potential for reservoirs, canals, and other irrigation-related use cases. 

Evans Equipment Inc. buys, refurbishes, and sells Caterpillars and other heavy work equipment, often disassembling the machines to the frame and completely rebuilding them. President Brad Evans tells us about the cost savings this allows the company to pass on to customers, including irrigation districts. 

Cuts in deliveries of Colorado River water demonstrate just how serious the effects of further drought may be. Addressing these challenges will require considerable ingenuity and effort. Luckily, as the stories in this magazine show, irrigated agriculture in the United States is full of smart, hard working individuals. Let’s all roll up our sleeves to help secure the future of irrigated ag. 

Building new reservoirs, promoting new inventions, and educating the next generation of irrigation leaders are all crucial ways of planning for the future of irrigated agriculture. I hope you enjoy reading about them in this issue of Irrigation Leader 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the 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