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Innovative Irrigation System Aims to Save Dwindling AZ Water Supplies

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Friday, November 19, 2021   

PHOENIX -- The extended drought and climate change have pushed Arizona into water restrictions for 2022, and farmers could see their allotments severely curtailed.

Levels in Lake Mead, the primary water storage reservoir for the Lower Colorado River Basin, are at record low levels, with little relief in sight.

The Central Arizona Project is testing irrigation systems that could allow farmers to grow the same amount of crops with about half the water.

Chuck Collum, Colorado River programs manager for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), said the system, called "N-Drip," could be a game-changer.

"Because of the way the drip system works, which reduces water stress between irrigations, it's continuing to provide water to the crop," Collum explained. "It grows more efficiently and has the potential for a slight increase in crop yield."

CAP is running a 100-acre pilot project using the low-pressure, gravity-powered system from N-Drip, a company based in Israel. Partners in the project include the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the University of Arizona.

Collum pointed out the system uses plastic tubing with emitters every three feet to continuously deliver water to the soil. He described the project's two major goals:

"To preserve irrigated agriculture, which is important to the economy and food security," Collum outlined. "And to conserve water for the benefit of CAP and all Colorado River water users."

Collum added the tests are showing a 50% reduction in water use, while producing the same or slightly higher crop yields. He said once it is proven, CAP plans to partner with Arizona farmers to install the system.

"If we can provide the capital for this technology, they'll continue to provide that vital economic benefit to the rural communities," Collum emphasized. "And CAP and other water users will receive the benefit of the reduction in water use."


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