Why ATMs? And Why Not Much Yet? What Do Colorado Farmers Face? (November 2017)
This is an update of an earlier survey of some of the problems for irrigated farming now, with national and climate context, and the arguments for much stronger alliance between urban and farming interests. It includes some notes from November 2017 climate science releases. As with the other presentations, this is intended to make information available easily. All advice for additional information or ideas is welcome.
DARCA Workshop at Colorado Water Congress
This is almost all recent materials on the Colorado agricultural situation, with updates to topics in the "Getting ATMs Right" Powerpoint essay, and some alarming new material from climate science. New issues are rapidly emerging, in tipping points, and rethinking the economics. Because this is in ferment, on the Reports page, there is a list of selected references, and a recent update of a handout for the workshop and DARCA meeting.
Getting ATMs Right - Saving All the Pieces: An essay (in powerpoint) on what and why to try!
This presentation is about how to get past the very slow progress in alternative water transfer mechanisms (ATMs), which are incremental steps to enable transfer of agricultural water to other uses while avoiding ending the irrigation productivity and economic vitality of the areas of origin of transfers. The extended presentation includes references and discussions in the speaker's notes as well as on the slides, and an unusually comprehensive look at the problems now resulting in rapid loss of small and medium-sized farms in Colorado (and the irrigated West and Plains in general). It is organized to enable a quick "cut to the chase" or the full ride.
Solving the water transfers issue will not stop the losses, unless the solution is designed to get farms off the treadmill of unwinnable competition and into more long-term viability with a stabilized agricultural economy. Taking the full picture into account, water transfers may be the critical leverage on this problem, so they may be necessary but insufficient. This essay is the result of two decades of considering the problem and hundreds of helpful conversations. Now is the time to go ahead so the losses won't be faster than the gains! All comment is welcome.
Strategic Planning for Ditch Companies - Options and Opportunities for Protecting your Resource Base - with an emphasis on land issues and future conditions
Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance workshop series, June 2016
"Strategic Planning for Ditch Companies - Options and Opportunities for Protecting your Resource Base - with an emphasis on land issues and future conditions" is an hour-long presentation for the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance, which was part of a series of workshops promoting the idea of long-term planning for irrigator groups. Some of the large operations are very business-like, but a majority of small ditches are "shoe-string" operations which are used only as water conveyances. We have argued in the past that expanding the uses of ditches might help with farm viability, and here the effort was to introduce land issues as well as the more widely-appreciated water issues. The short-term economics for farming versus sale of senior water rights and land for other uses are rapidly taking the best land out of production, just as there is the appearance of a strong preference for local food, and the increasing recognition of the values of farming beyond food alone (see especially for superb reports on this). This presentation out of the foregoing context may seem oddly designed, but the context was a day of workshop with people all too well aware of the problems of irrigation water transfers to urban growth, for the farms, ditches and rural communities.
Transformational Change in Agriculture and Land Use: Old Tribes, New Tribes… Some Speculations on the Social Roots of Sustainability
National Adaptation Forum, St. Louis, MO, May 14, 2015
From May 2015, National Adaptation Forum, a presentation that introduced the topic of transformational change and why it is needed in agriculture in the U.S., and some ideas about starting places and major issues. One focus is the ever-stronger case of landscape scale design of farming systems, and the need to preserve landscapes and "get off the rectangular grid" imposed by the land survey system. This was part of a two-session sequence that included also a panel of excellent presentations on "The Roots of Adaptation: US Agricultural Policy Issues Now" - all of the two sessions will be posted approximately end of June by the National Adaptation Forum, and subsequently indexed and archived in the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange portal.
Increasing Water Supplier Leverage on Land Use
A presentation to the Universities Council on Water Resources 2014 meeting, Boston, MA
Universities can help mobilize the unusual capacity of municipal water utilities to act as both agents in the market and public servants to influence land use. New York City's defense of water quality in its supply watershed is likely not replicable, but the principles are transferable. The virtues of transition to more sustainable "agroecology" and landscape-scale agricultural management, particularly in peri-urban areas, will be briefly noted. Universities can help water suppliers overcome several obstacles to this transition. The need for closer integration of water quality and water quantity is sharper with increased climate variability and soil management difficulties, making investment more compelling for utilities and the public. This may include avoiding total maximum daily load standards and increases in difficulty of water management. More sustainable and ecologically functional combinations of land uses serve many interests of water customers, which justifies expanding the "mission" of water supply to greater coordination with other public interests. Water infrastructure is traditionally financed over long periods, notably the use of 30 year bonding capacity to match costs and benefits with minimal capital costs. This is precisely the kind of finance lacking for the 68% of US cropland held by financially vulnerable operations which net only 7% of farm income. Water suppliers may be right people at this critical time to begin transitions, with academic support and promotion.
Out of Town, Not Out of Trouble: Becoming Unconventional: Adaptation Issues for Small Agriculture
For Webinar, EcoAdapt, 20 November 2014
Arkansas Basin Roundtable: Thanks and Think BIG! The view from an admirer...
"Thanks and Think BIG!" is a presentation to lightly summarize arguments for re-thinking ditch areas on the landscape scale, made in October 2013 to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. I had the pleasure of following that from the SWSI beginning through 2011 consistently, and serving on the Water Transfers Guidelines Committee, and wanted to thank the roundtable when I had a chance to visit again. This is the least dense presentation posted, and perhaps the easiest to look through quickly.
Symposium: Adaptation for Landscaping Diversity in Farming and Habitat: Introduction of Topics by Overview of Current Agricultural Adaptation Needs
This presentation was intended to wrap around those of panelists at our session on Agricultural Adaptation at the National Adaptation Forum in Denver in April 2013. It covers a range of issues, though not much depth where panelists were going deeper on food and ag sustainability issues, and farm adaptations in the past, from Dr. Richard Cruse, Iowa State, Director of the Water Center and Prof. of Agronomy, and Dr. Reagan Waskom, Colorado State, Director of the Water Center, and Prof in several departments. There was also a presentation by William Burnidge of The Nature Conservancy, on a project on adaptation to reduced water supply in the Republican River Basin in Colorado. This presentation has some overlaps with others in Spring 2013 to the American Water Resources Association, Agricultural Hydrology meeting, Universities Council on Water Resources, and another to the Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop. Those are available from me or the meeting websites where public.
National Security is Dirt… and Knowledge
Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop, Miami, March 13, 2012
Climate Information Applications for Resilience: Opening Wedge or Just Plain Sledge?
Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop, Des Moines, Iowa March 1-4, 2011
Keeping it Together in Destabilized Times: Looking Past the Near Term
US Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, Conference on Sustainability of Irrigation Districts, Reno, NV; 4-7 June 2009
NOTE: There is substantial overlap in the USCID, AWRA, and DARCA presentations, as each was directed to a different audience but urging parts of the same message. An additional rendition was presented, for yet another audience, at the Universities Council on Water Resources, in July 2009. The argument about looking far enough ahead and avoiding making choices in the present which limit future potential was the main subject of a presentation to the Climate Prediction Applications Science Workshop in March 2009, listed below.
Saving All the Pieces, Staying Grounded.(Climate, Water, Soil, Cities).-- a policy argument, with news…
American Water Resources Association, 2009 Spring Specialty Conference, Anchorage, Alaska, 04-06 May
Transfer Mechanisms for Alternatives to Buy-and-Dry -- More than Just Water
This is the full set of materials that was far too long to present at the Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance meeting in February 2009. In 2002, at the first annual meeting of DARCA, I urged taking leasing seriously, and development of institutions that would lower the transactions costs of organizing leases, as a way to relieve pressure on agricultural water. We've all come a long way since then, and this is the current set of recommendations from my experience and observations. The references -- sources for information -- are in the "speaker's notes" which are accessible through Microsoft Powerpoint (tm). If this material is inaccessible, please contact me. This is also a very large file, so downloading a copy may be a problem; contact me about that, also.
National Security is Dirt (and water, and climate responsiveness): Rethinking the Loss of Western Irrigation Water
"Ten years from now, Americans could be as concerned over the loss of the nation's prime and important farm lands as they are today over shortages of oil and gasoline."
Taking Water from the Farm: A Framework for Considering Water Transfers from Irrigation
This presentation was made to the Universities Council on Water Resources meeting July 2008. This is an effort to go beyond the "considerations for water transfers" which were developed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Water Transfers Guidelines Committee. The Committee report is a great advance for Colorado, but I want to get beyond only thinking of the reduction of adverse impacts, to working on long-term agricultural capacity and rural economies. The references and some discussion in "speaker's notes" have been updated in some cases.
Moving Water in the Urbanizing West: Riparian Issues in Agricultural Areas in Colorado -- Quick Tour* (modified for posting)
This presentation was part of a session organized by J. Wiener and K.A. Dwire for the American Water Resources Association Riparian Issues Conference -- "Working at the Water's Edge" in June 2008. This presentation works from the same general set of information on the water transfer problem, but reports on issues discovered in a large literature review. Some are summarized in the Wiener et al. 2008 paper in Water Resources Impact, and more will be described in a larger publication in preparation as of October 2008. This presentation offers graphics illustrating the biological issues as well as the water transfer problem, so there is some but not at all complete overlap with the other presentations posted here.
Toward Better Water Transfers in Colorado and Cumulative Cost Avoidance
Presentation to US Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, Conference on Urbanization of Irrigated Land and Water Transfers, Phoenix May 2008. This is intended to cover a lot of issues and try to give the full set of concerns in one place, so it is more balanced than the others posted. There is, as one would expect, some overlap with each of the others, but not the emphasis on the way to think about the future as well as the present that is in the UCOWR 2008 presentation, or the on the biological issues in the AWRA 2008 presentation.

Selected Presentations on the Internet