Dec 28, 2022 | Blog

Farmers, Ranchers And Water Managers Across The West Step Up For The Environment

Farmers, Ranchers and Water
Managers Across the West
Step Up for the Environment


As 2022 comes to a close, the team here at Family Farm Alliance is happy to share some shining examples of producer-driven water conservation projects across the West.

At a time when Americans are battling inflation, high gas prices, and soaring food costs – Western farmers and ranchers continue to try to do what they do best: providing safe, affordable food for their country and the world. Farmers and ranchers are also the best stewards of the land. We’re pleased to highlight some recent conservation successes undertaken by Family Farm Alliance members and partner organizations.

Something entirely new: Using dams to save salmon

IYakima Rivern the Yakima Basin, irrigators and the Yakama Nation are investigating how reservoirs can be used to create artificial currents that mimic natural ones. Science writer Nathan Gilles did a great job on this article about some of the work led by Family Farm Alliance Advisory Committee member Urban Eberhart (Manager, Kittitas Reclamation District) in the Yakima River Basin (WASHINGTON).

Photo courtesy of Nathan Gilles, Columbia Insight.

FCA Teams Up With Deschutes River Irrigation Districts to Improve Water Supply Reliability and Instream Flows

Our partners at Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA) do an amazing job showcasing the collaborative work they are doing with irrigation districts – many of them Family Farm Alliance members – and other parties in Central Oregon.

Arnold Irrigation District (AID) just received approval for $25 million dollars in federal assistance through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, administered by NRCS, to pipe 11.9 miles of their Main Canal. The project will save 32.5 cfs (11,083 acre-feet) of water annually, much of which will be passed along to patrons in North Unit Irrigation District for agricultural use. In addition, the modernization project will improve water reliability for AID farmers, reduce operation and maintenance costs, and return water to the Deschutes River.

Earlier this fall, FCA interviewed AID Manager Steve Johnson and three AID farmers for the following video about the value of irrigation modernization and local agriculture.

IWJV Produces On-the-Ground Results for Western Habitat Conservation

Irrigated lands comprise over 60 percent of wetland habitat in the snowpack-driven systems of the Intermountain West. These lands provide vital habitat for migratory birds, sustain floodplain function, and recharge aquifers, but are at risk of fragmentation from rural subdivision, competing water demands, and the ongoing impacts of climate change.

Our friends at the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) believe in forging productive, lasting relationships built on trust and respect with a diversity of partners, fostering innovations in their work, and producing tangible, on-the-ground results for habitat conservation across private and public lands in the West.

Water 4 emerged in 2019 from conservation work already in action around the Intermountain West. What was once an initiative is on the radar at the highest levels of government and is increasingly bringing new investments from key agencies to support locally led conservation efforts. Yet, now more than ever, drought and climate change are fundamentally altering the valuable wetland and irrigated agricultural lands that are imperative to the future of migratory birds, wildlife and fisheries, and people.

This fall, the IWJV hosted a journalist workshop along the path of Utah’s Bear River. Check out this incredible story from one of those reporters about IWJV’s science and staff.

Don’t miss this feature from the Salt Lake Tribune : “Flood irrigation uses Great Salt Lake water. It could also save its ecosystem”.

The success of the Family Farm Alliance is rooted in the passionate and creative work of our members. We’ll continue to share examples of their good work with you.

We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments impacting Western irrigated agriculture.
If you’re not a member, join us!