Why is this program needed?
Irrigated agriculture and related businesses drive northeastern Colorado's economy, supporting more than $2 billion in annual commodity sales (NASS, 2019). Groundwater pumped for agricultural crop production, however, is extracting water much faster than precipitation replaces it. Current pumping practices may become unprofitable as the water table drops; land values, and in some places household water supplies, may also be affected. Lacking alternative water sources, more water conservation-oriented management is needed to address regional declines in groundwater quantity and quality that threaten community quality of life and Colorado's ability to meet Compact-related obligations.
How could this program benefit you?
Colorado Master Irrigator's focus is on providing Republican River Basin irrigators the opportunity to explore how integrating different conservation- and efficiency-oriented practices and tools might have the potential to positively impact their bottom lines and the aquifer under their farms.
Why participate in Colorado Master Irrigator?
Irrigated agriculture depends on the Ogallala/High Plains aquifer resource which is declining. Significant water savings across the region are possible through advanced water management and through upgrading or improving older and less efficient systems. A key goal of this program is to extend the timeline and improve profitability of irrigated agricultural systems in this region for as long into the future for as many producers as possible.
- Colorado Master Irrigator is modeled after a highly successful Master Irrigator program that has served Texas Panhandle producers farming in the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District since 2016.
- The Colorado Master Irrigator course curriculum has been designed by a ~35-member, farmer-led project advisory committee (PAC) involving local producers, Northern High Plains Ground Water Management District and agricultural industry representatives, state and federal agency personnel, CSU Extension, and others. Representatives from Colorado who learned about the TX Master Irrigator program through attending the 2018 Ogallala Aquifer Summit formed the PAC which has met monthly since early 2019 to prepare Colorado Master Irrigator for launch in early 2020. The PAC will review and update the Colorado Master Irrigator program curriculum each year using participant feedback.
- Early financial support for Colorado Master Irrigator has come from producer-led conservation groups, Ground Water Management Districts in the Northern High Plains Designated Basin, The Colorado Water Center at CSU, and through grants awarded through the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Water Reserve Supply Fund and Water Plan Grant program.