The following information is related to the current years water usage.
Even though we have had extreme heat and little rain this year our water supply is good, and we expect to have good carryover in the reservoirs for next year. We expect that our existing policies and operating procedures will be sufficient to deal with the current drought.
As of July 19, the total storage in McGregor, Travers, and Little Bow reservoirs is approximately 325,000 acre feet, which is a typical volume for winter storage. The total diversion from the river so far is 288,000 acre feet, which is 53% of the total allocation for all licences diverted at Carseland. We diverted at the full licensed capacity of 1800 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Bow River for almost two full months but had to reduce diversion to 1460 cfs late last week due to high water temperatures in the river. It is a condition of the newer licence which increased the diversion from 1460 cfs to 1800 cfs that the increased rate cannot be used if water temperatures exceed specified thresholds.
The diversion from Little Bow reservoir has been 219,000 acre feet so far, which is 58% above average for this period. If current trends continue water use this year will be second highest ever, behind 2001 and slightly ahead of 1988. We have set a few new daily records for diversion from Little Bow reservoir this year, although diversion has now dropped to more typical levels. A graph showing our diversion from Little Bow Reservoir including averages and daily record highs and lows is shown below.
Twenty years ago, on July 19, 2001 there was only 255,000 acre feet of water in the reservoirs, so we are doing much better now than then, even though the irrigated area within the district is far larger. Improved on-farm efficiencies, reduced losses because of pipelines, the higher maximum diversion rate from the river, and increased winter storage in Little Bow Reservoir are all factors in our improved situation this year. We also added a floating boom to divert debris away from the canal intake on the river this spring which is working extremely well. There used to be frequent significant reductions in flow into the canal because of debris plugging the intake, and the boom has almost completely eliminated that problem. A photo of the boom is shown below. In addition, the mountain snowpack last winter was better than in 2001, although it melted too rapidly with extreme heat in June. A final factor that will make this year’s water situation better than 2001 is the implementation of maximum water use limits following extremely high water use in 2001. Our limits are intended to be adequate to allow all irrigators to meet their crop water requirements, provided they are good stewards of their water.
The water limit is 20 inches for sprinkler irrigation and 24 inches for flood irrigation, but the water allotment for each farm is pooled, so a parcel can use more than the limit, provided another parcel within the same farm uses correspondingly less than the limit. All the land within the same actual farm is considered when determining the total water allotment, regardless of the name on the title. For example, if Mr. Irrigator owns one quarter, Mr. and Mrs. Irrigator own one quarter, and Irrigator Farms Ltd. owns three quarters, the water for all five quarters is pooled.
Once an irrigator has used their entire allotment, they can purchase one additional four inch per acre block for any or all of their parcels, at a price of $4.00 per acre. In that case, the additional block is added to their pool so they don’t need to buy a block for each parcel that will use over 20 inches if they will only be slightly over. As a simple example, if an irrigator has four quarters with 160 irrigation acres per quarter, and they need to use 21 inches per quarter, they could buy extra water for one quarter for $640 and then apply one inch to each of their four quarters.
We are checking our database daily to see who is approaching 15 inches of total irrigation, and ditchriders will notify irrigators when they reach that amount. We will then notify them again if they are going to exceed the limit, to allow them to decide whether to purchase extra water or stop irrigating. It is essential that you as irrigators also keep track of your water use. If you have any questions, please contact your ditchrider or call the office.
We also ask that you make sure you give at least 24 hours notice of water orders to either begin or end irrigating to your ditchrider. This is essential to manage the system properly and reduce spill, which is especially important in a year like this.