The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said farmers have installed flow meters on the 10 percent of the permitted irrigation wells needed in each of the 19 Delta counties to meet a goal set to avoid mandatory monitoring of the wells.
The latest installations brought to 1,820 the number of wells that have been equipped with flow meters to help members of the Delta Sustainable Water Resource Task Force determine how best to manage the alluvial aquifer that supplies most of the irrigation water used by Delta farmers.
“MDEQ is excited that the producers in the Delta worked together to reach the total 10 percent voluntary metering installation goal put forth by the task force,” said Kay Whittington, director of the MDEQ’s Office of Land and Water and a leader of the eight-member task force created by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.
“This is a significant accomplishment, and everyone who installed a meter is to be congratulated. We must continue that momentum to reach the other milestones of the voluntary metering program.”
Farmers attending the Dec. 15 Delta Irrigation Summit, which was sponsored by the task force and Mississippi State University, were told that although rainfall has been plentiful the last two years studies indicate more water is being removed from the aquifer annually than is flowing back in from area rivers and streams and rainfall.
Another milestone coming
Whittington said the next milestone is for producers who installed meters to report water use for 2015 to MDEQ by Feb. 1, 2016, and annually thereafter. MDEQ is committed to working with task force members to meet these additional goals in the voluntary metering program and to do “whatever is needed to ensure that Delta producers have sustainable water supplies for the future.
“We need that information on Feb. 1 of each year from now on to be able to evaluate water use by crop type, soil type and precipitation as it is geographically distributed throughout the delta on a long-term basis, and to help maintain that awareness of water use at the local level, as well as the regional level. The water use data is critical to improve our science in evaluating solutions for maintaining an adequate supply of irrigation water.”
Besides MDEQ, members of the task force are the Mississippi Soil & Water Conservation Commission, Delta F.A.R.M., the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Water Management District, Mississippi Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Delta Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The task force began working three years ago to reach a goal of equipping 5 percent of the wells in each county with flow meters by June 30, 2014, and reporting of the information from those meters by Jan. 30 of this year. Both those goals were met, allowing task force leaders to turn their attention to the goal of having meters installed on 10 percent of the wells in each county.
The 1,820 wells are more than 10 percent of the operating, permitted wells in the counties, but they provide task force members with a more geographically distributed pattern of water usage in the Delta region.
Mississippi Farm Bureau efforts
“We cannot express how proud we are of the producers in the Delta area for stepping up to meet the goals of the voluntary metering program,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation President Mike McCormick in a statement released by MFBF.
“Farm Bureau policy supported a voluntary approach to collecting this information about our water use. We supported the proposal for a voluntary program offered by the Delta Sustainable Water Resource Taskforce, and the farm leaders in the Delta followed through on that agreement.”
Over the last three years, McCormick said, “a large amount of time and resources was put forth by our volunteer leaders and staff to assure that we met these numbers. This proves that by working together the Delta can unite toward a common effort. MDEQ, Farm Bureau, Delta Council, YMD, and the other organizations on the Taskforce will continue to focus our attention on promoting water conservation measures and analyzing new and alternative water sources to address the Delta’s water challenges.”
For more information on the metering program, visit www.mdeq.ms.gov