A Nebraska Solution

A Nebraska Solution

Friday, July 5, 2024

By Kris Polly

Nebraska’s Legislative Bill 962, passed in 2004, was a decisive step toward better water management—and it is one that other states can learn from. In this month’s cover story, we speak with Tom Riley, the director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources; Jasper Fanning, the general manager of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District; and Lyndon Vogt, the general manager of the Central Platte Natural Resources District to hear about the law’s genesis, its content, its practical effects, and its long- term results.

Then, we turn again to a top international water issue: Mexico’s underdelivery of water under the terms of the 1944 Treaty on the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande. This month, our cover interview is with United States Senator Ted Cruz, who highlights the “devastating” effect the shortfall in deliveries is having on South Texas farmers and pledges to keep pressing for a solution. Then, we speak with Tom McLemore, the general manager of Harlingen Irrigation District Cameron County No. 1, to get an on-the-ground view of how the situation is affecting irrigated agriculture.

Next, we turn to several novel technologies that are helping save water in irrigation applications worldwide.

Transpira is an award-winning new product line from the Toro Company that uses a sensor installed directly in the trunk of a tree to measure water use. Senior Product Manager Adam Setzler tells us more about its practicalities and benefits.

Then, we speak with Jan Gould, the CEO of Responsive Drip Irrigation, LLC, which has created a microporous dripline that releases water directly in response to plant root signals. Because it never overwaters, it can save 30–50 percent of the water used by conventional drip systems. Plus, there are no emitters to unplug!

Meanwhile, Juniper Systems is providing mapping tools to improve irrigation asset management, including rugged tablets, high-precision global positioning systems receivers, and easy-to-use software. Trevor Brown, the Uinta software product manager, tells us more.

Next, we look at innovation in the crop itself. Emily Meccage, the senior manager of R&D at Forage Genetics International, informs us about the HarvXtra strain of alfalfa the company has developed. This reduced-lignin strain allows growers to adjust or lengthen their harvest schedule without affecting quality, meaning that they can get more or equal amounts of water.

Last, we speak with Kelton Montgomery, the manager of Cascade Irrigation District in Ellensburg, Washington. He updates us on infrastructure needs, funding efforts, the complications of urbanization, and more.

While the roots of the situations on the Colorado and the Rio Grande are sui generis, the basic problem—not enough water—is widespread. Our political leaders can help by pushing water users to abide by the agreements they have signed and funding important initiatives. Our industry leaders, meanwhile, can help by pushing forward the technologies that will help us use water efficiently, manage our systems more effectively, and grow more with less.