Drought 2013

Published in the July 2013 Issue Published online: Jul 07, 2013 Tyler J. Baum
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Raindrops keep falling on my head.

(At least we wish they would.)

Just a couple months ago, I talked to a grower who was very concerned-almost worried-about the lack of water, anticipating that, with how early the pivots were turned on this year, growers could run out of water.

It was reported back in April that the 2012 drought-the worst this country has seen in decades-with the end of the snowpack year had officially become the 2013 drought. Forty-seven percent of the continental U.S. was in some stage of drought, compared to about 37 percent last year, according to the April 30, 2013, U.S. Drought Monitor.

This means most growers started off 2013 in worse shape than they were at the start of 2012.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report the week of May 14 (the latest report as of press time) wasn't much better. Drought areas in Colorado retreated somewhat-albeit not in the southern part of the state. That week, a few tenths of an inch was recorded across much of western Colorado and southeastern Idaho, but the declining snowpack and substantially below-normal precipitation for the previous 2-6 months led to some significant deterioration across the southwestern quarter of Montana and adjacent sections of Idaho.

Beneficial precipitation (a half-inch to 2 inches) fell on portions of southwestern Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, west-central Iowa and parts of southern and eastern Nebraska. As a result, conditions improved by one category. And much of eastern New York and New England to the south and west of central Maine recorded 2-5 inches less precipitation than normal over the previous three months.

What does all this mean? Prayers are definitely at the top of the list of strategies going forward, followed closely by smart irrigation.

July is celebrated as Smart Irrigation Month, an Irrigation Association industry-wide campaign to raise public awareness of water-use efficiency. First launched in 2005, the campaign provides a platform for the industry to promote the benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services.

In this issue, we've got three articles involving smart irrigation. The first is how you can take part in the Smart Irrigation Month campaign, promoting efficient technologies and positioning yourselves as leaders in water stewardship. Next, University of Idaho Extension Water Management Engineer Dr. Howard Neibling explains how regular and preseason maintenance to repair leaks, replace worn nozzles or replace older center pivot application packages can help you make the best use of a limited water supply. Finally, Mark Leitman, Propane Education & Research Council director of business development and marketing, explains how growers can lower fuel costs and increase efficiency by using propane to run irrigation pumps.

In the meantime, here's to hoping we'll soon find ourselves complaining that the rain will stop.

Tyler J. Baum Signature