Volume 14 Issue 2 February MT

Protecting Montana Water Rights

By Kris Polly

If anyone knows their way around Montana water, it’s Mike Murphy, the longtime executive director of the Montana Water Resources Association (MWRA) and the contributing editor for the Montana edition of Irrigation Leader. This month, we have the chance to pick Mr. Murphy’s brain on MWRA’s top priorities for the upcoming year and how it will work to protect water rights and other private property rights in the state and make sure that irrigated farmers’ voices are heard during legislative, regulatory, and judicial processes.

Next, we speak with three New Mexico water managers. Dr. Patrick Sullivan, the new treasurer-manager of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, tells us about facing drought, maintaining infrastructure, and fostering all-important collaboration in the Rio Grande basin. Coley Burgess, the manager of southeastern New Mexico’s Carlsbad Irrigation District, tells us about his agency’s infrastructure and efficiency efforts, and Aron Balok, the superintendent of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District, tells us about the water conservation measures his agency has taken to prevent the depletion of the area’s artesian aquifer and to avoid the risk of a priority call from senior water rights holders downstream.

A new software tool, IrrigationViz, developed by Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office, aims to help irrigation districts decide whether to move forward with system modernization projects by generating estimates of water savings, return on investment, and other metrics. INL Applied Data Scientist Shiloh Elliot and PNNL Software Engineer James Kershaw tell us more.

We also highlight another initiative aimed at using software to make data more manageable. Tony Willardson, the executive director of the Western States Water Council, tells us about the forthcoming Western States Water Data Access and Analysis Tool, which will streamline the sharing of water data for western states.

Cortec is a major global manufacturer of corrosion- inhibiting products, with solutions for the water treatment, irrigation water, and civil construction industries, among others. We speak with Scott Bryan, Cortec’s technical sales manager for water treatment and coatings additives, and Julie Holmquist, its marketing content writer, to learn more about its products for the irrigation market.

United States Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska recently introduced the Precision Agriculture Loan Act, which would establish a loan program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency dedicated entirely to helping farmers adopt precision agriculture technologies. We speak with her to learn more.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers has agricultural roots in eastern Washington State and has represented Washington’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. She speaks to us about the importance of irrigated agriculture and upcoming work on the Farm Bill.

Challenges such as increased costs and drought require all U.S. irrigators to increase efficiency and conservation through infrastructure upgrades, new technology, and analytics. As the stories in this issue demonstrate, the professionals of our irrigated agriculture industry are showing the way forward.

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 kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.