Conservation Matters February 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Harlingen Irrigation District’s conservation projects receive global recognition

A group of water conservation initiatives developed and promoted by the Harlingen Irrigation District (HID) of Cameron County was recognized as one of nine global "good practice" projects included in a special report presented to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

A Catalogue of Good Practices in Water Use Efficiency highlights agricultural, municipal and industrial water efficiency and conservation projects that can be replicated elsewhere. The catalogue was prepared by the Stockholm International Water Institute, and it defines a "good practice" project as one that "demonstrably improves the efficiency or productivity of water use (through water savings and/or yield increase)."

The district, which manages 52,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation use in agricultural operations in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, was recognized for its innovation and technological advances in the area of irrigation flow control and water usage measurement.

"This project has proved that proper management, regardless of the method of irrigation, actually can produce increased yields with less water," said HID General Manager Wayne Halbert. "Our results can be replicated across Texas and the entire world."

In 2004, HID was awarded a 10-year grant under the Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative Program of the Texas Water Development Board to promote water conservation while maintaining or increasing profitability on farms. HID’s efforts focused on developing a water distribution network control and management system and promoting on-farm irrigation techniques in a large-scale demonstration of cost-effective technologies. HID’s SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) allows it to monitor and control processes distributed among various remote sites, facilitating communications between those sites and the central facility and providing the necessary data to control processes.

HID supports the SCADA system with several other initiatives:

  • A Flow Meter Calibration and Demonstration Facility, the first in Texas according to HID, that can simulate various options for irrigation systems, allowing for more informed decisions about irrigation techniques and water conservation.
  • Collection of on-farm flow measurement data through automatic meters installed throughout the District’s 250-mile irrigation system.
  • A demonstration of web-based information system that reports weather, real time flows, and a user accounting system.
  • Design of low-cost automatic gates for irrigation canals and low-cost remote telemetry units to measure water levels and soil moisture.

HID surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010 showed that these innovative irrigation system controls and data streams achieved water savings of nearly 35 percent.

AW Blair Engineering, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Texas A&M University Kingsville provide consulting services for the various projects. Additional funding has been provided by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the North American Development Bank and by the District, its consulting partners, Delta Lake Irrigation District, Netafim, and USDA-EQIP.

For more information see the Catalogue of Good Practices in Water Use Efficiency, where HID is featured starting on page 11, or read the full HID news release.

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