Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014UT195B

Managing Western Irrigation Systems in the Face of Urbanization

Institute: Utah
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $29,989 Total Non-Federal Funds: $63,731

Principal Investigators: Douglas Jackson-Smith

Abstract: Most irrigation water in the Intermountain West region is managed, distributed, and delivered to individual farmers by thousands of local irrigation or canal companies who operate an estimated 72,000 km of main irrigation canals (and much larger amounts of minor canals and ditches) in mountain valleys across the West. While much less studied than the much larger federal dam and water distribution systems in the West, these organizations remain a vital link in the agricultural irrigation systems throughout this region. In recent decades, the growth of residential settlement in the Intermountain West is occurring mostly on formerly irrigated agricultural lands. The shifts in the socio-demographic characteristics of shareholders and changes in land use patterns associated with urbanization pose new challenges to the performance and long-term viability of local irrigation systems. This project will provide irrigation and canal companies in Northern Utah with scientifically-based data on the characteristics, behaviors, attitudes, and information needs of their shareholders. Since most contemporary shareholders do not actively participate in company planning or decision-making processes, these companies have few opportunities to learn about many of their members. In this project, we will collaborate with leaders of three irrigation companies in Northern Utah to develop, distribute, and analyze results from a mail survey instrument to be sent to a sample of their shareholder members representing a diverse set of land use contexts along the gradient of urbanization. Results will be useful to the participating companies as they make plans for future investments in new infrastructure and/or operating procedures.