UA program to help farmers conserve water through irrigation systems, crop selection

By Ron Dungan
Published: Wednesday, August 2, 2023 - 2:26pm

About three-fourths of Arizona’s water supply goes to agriculture, and policy makers say the state needs to address that fact as it confronts a shrinking Colorado River.

That's why a University of Arizona program is helping farmers use water more efficiently.

For decades, cotton was a cornerstone of Arizona’s economy. But cotton is a thirsty crop. UA has received $45 million in grant money for a program to help farmers transition from flood irrigation to drip irrigation. Researchers have also begun to help growers switch to crops that use less water, such as guayule, a rubber substitute that grows well in the desert.

Ethan Orr coordinates the program.

"If most of the water is going into agriculture, then by investing there, most of your water savings will be created, by creating efficiencies in that sector," Orr said.

He says the work has led to large water savings at a fraction of the cost of other systems.