WHAT IS THE COLORADO MASTER IRRIGATOR PROGRAM?
Colorado Master Irrigator is a comprehensive educational course available to Republican River Basin and San Luis Valley irrigators.
Colorado Master Irrigator offers farmers and farm managers advanced training on conservation- and efficiency-oriented irrigation management practices and tools. This program is the product of efforts led by several local producers, district management representatives, and others. Colorado Master Irrigator is modeled on the award-winning Master Irrigator program created and run since 2016 by the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the Texas panhandle.
Topic experts from Colorado and adjacent Ogallala states serve as instructors for the 32 hours of the program. Colorado Master Irrigator's interactive class format is designed to encourage peer-to-peer exchange among participants and instructors. We intend to help graduates forge several useful connections that will benefit them and their operation long after their participation in this program.
Colorado Master Irrigator's Goal Is To Equip Producers With The Knowledge They Need To Evaluate The Potential Pros, Cons, Costs, And Methods To Help Pay For/recoup Costs Of Implementing Different Tools And Strategies To Improve Water And Energy Use Efficiency And Conservation, Soil Health, And Profitability On Their Operations.
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?
Improve water and energy use efficiency on your operation.
Explore opportunities to save money and time on your operation related to irrigation.
Take advantage of incentives and other opportunities available to program graduates to support the implementation or upgrades of various tools and technologies on your farm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first Colorado Master Irrigator program was launched in Wray, CO in January 2020.