Irrigation district receives $ 2.9 million prize to pay for water improvements

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Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District has received a $ 2.9 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture to fund water efficient and wildlife habitat improvement projects.

Casey Ish, an MRGCD water resources specialist, said they would use some of the money to review irrigation infrastructure and identify needed improvements to ditches, diversions and farming systems in the district.

“A more drought tolerant system means that even when we have a low water supply like this year, our system is still able to efficiently deliver these small amounts of water,” Ish said.

The funding comes as the state moves towards a more arid climate.

New Mexico could experience more frequent and warmer droughts over the next 50 years, according to a report from a science advisory committee that will shed light on the state’s long-term water body.

Earlier winter runoff and warmer rivers and streams are also likely if global temperatures continue to rise.

The district serves 10,000 irrigators from the Cochiti Dam to Bosque del Apache, and also manages approximately 30,000 acres of bosque habitat.

Ish said the funding could support conservation easements. Voluntary agreements between landowners and a land trust may contain land use provisions that protect regional wildlife and agriculture.

At least $ 2 million of the funding must go directly to producers as financial assistance.

Individual awards will focus on first-time farmers and ranchers, as well as military veterans, socially disadvantaged or low-income producers.

“This is a great opportunity to put resources where they need to be, which is at the doors of our irrigators and in their pockets so that they are able to adapt their farming practices,” said Ish.

Subsidies to producers could also finance the rental of water, cover crops and the modernization of agricultural equipment.

The district will work on the projects with Audubon Southwest, Center for Sustainable Social Systems, Intermountain West Joint Venture, New Mexico State University, Rio Grande Agriculture Land Trust, Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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