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Rice Water Irrigation: Conservation Management at the Lower Colorado River Authority

David J. Eaton

The purpose of this report is to evaluate a multi-year experiment conducted by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) in agricultural water conservation. During the 1980s and 1990s the LCRA implemented a four-component agricultural conservation program to reduce water consumption in the Gulf Coast and Lakeside irrigation districts: canal rehabilitation, technology transfer to farmers, on-field water measurement, and volumetric pricing. Beginning in 1982, the LCRA made significant capital investments in canal rehabilitation. Then in 1992 they began to measure water withdrawn for each plot of land farmed for rice in Lakeside and Gulf Coast. In 1993 the LCRA began to bill farmers for water in part on a volumetric basis. The experiment in the Lower Colorado River Basin provides evidence to justify investment in canal rehabilitation, volumetric measurement, and volumetric pricing as a means for reducing water utilization in rice farming. This report provides conclusions on the most significant single source of saved water, as well as the factors affecting consumption.

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