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, extracts water much faster than precipitation can replace it. Current pumping practices may become unprofitable as the water table drops. Land values, and in some places household water supplies, may also be negatively affected as a result. Lacking alternative water sources, more water conservation-oriented management is needed. If more producers can save a few inches of water every year, these efforts combined can slow regional declines in groundwater quantity and quality that threaten community quality of life, and Colorado's ability to meet Compact-related obligations with Nebraska and Kansas.
How could this program benefit you?
Colorado Master Irrigator aims to provide Republican River Basin irrigators a solid opportunity to explore how integrating different conservation- and efficiency-oriented practices and tools may have the potential to positively impact their bottom lines and the aquifer they rely on to keep on irrigating.
Why participate in Colorado Master Irrigator?
Irrigated agriculture depends on the declining Ogallala/High Plains aquifer resource. Significant water savings across the region are possible through advanced water management and through upgrading or improving older and less efficient systems. Any water used that doesn't meaningfully translate into profits for an operation, if it's not pumped today, is the equivalent of a gift of extended time, where that water might be used another day to sustain the profitability of irrigated ag longer into the future, for as many producers as possible.
Colorado Master Irrigator is a terrific place to meet other farmers, irrigation management specialists, and others who are interested in exchanging ideas and finding answers to questions about successful, advanced water management.
- 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 leaders, agricultural industry representatives, state and federal agency personnel, staff from CSU and 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. This group has been actively meeting since early 2019, to develop the Colorado Master Irrigator program for its launch in early 2020, and continued improvement for the program that will be delivered in 2021. The PAC reviews and updates 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 Republican River 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.