The Lugert Altus Irrigation District recently completed a study that identified tremendous efforts by local producers to increase efficiency in water use. The study showed that farmers in the Irrigation District have taken action to increase the efficiency of water use and delivery systems. The results of the study have been reviewed by members of the Agriculture Affairs Committee at the Altus Chamber of Commerce, and Chamber officials were pleased with the positive outcome.
Chamber CEO Brian Bush said these efforts were undertaken during the drought, which shows just how forward thinking our local producers are, and he said the timing is perfect as we start to see water flowing through the irrigation system in this area. “One of the primary functions of the Lugert-Altus Lake is to serve the needs of irrigated agriculture, which is a critical part of our local economy. It is encouraging to see this level of conservation and a desire on the part of the farmers to be as efficient as possible.”
Chamber leaders say this information is critically important as they continue to study water in our area and how best to prepare for any future water shortages. Lugert-Altus Lake has a capacity of approximately 135,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot is the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land at a depth of 1 foot, and it equals over 325,000 gallons. The primary uses of Lugert-Altus Lake and the purpose for which it was built are actually to serve the needs of irrigated agriculture in this area. In addition, a percentage of the water is designated for municipal use by the City of Altus, and the lake provides outstanding recreation opportunities and serves an important role in flood control for this area. On an average year, the irrigation district will use roughly 50,000 acre feet of water, leaving more than 2/3 of the lake for recreation and municipal supply, and regular rainfall amounts are more than enough to replenish the supply. In the recent drought, rainfall amounts were far below normal, which decreased lake levels halted irrigation. Now that the rains have refilled area lakes, irrigated agriculture is restarting, and that means good news for lots of local businesses.
However, the study shows the farmers have a desire to update their practices and be responsive to the recent drought and any future water shortages that may come to the area. Tom Buchanan of the Lugert Altus Irrigation District said these recent efforts are simply the latest in a long line of great practices by local farmers. “I have worked with producers in this area for years, and I have always known them to be great business people, great producers, and responsible users of our natural resources. No one understands better than the farmer just how important water is to the economy in southwest Oklahoma, and I am proud to see their efforts to conserve as much as possible,” said Buchanan.
The Irrigation district is actively involved in Oklahoma as the discussion about water use, development, and conservation takes place, and their study focused on three main areas, all of which will help farmers maintain and increase production while reducing water use where possible.
First, the study identified additional installation of drip irrigation systems, which are more efficient than common flood irrigation techniques. In recent years, there have been 64 of these systems installed within the irrigation district, and those systems provide water to 10,000 acres of District land. These systems can decrease the amount of water needed to irrigate those acres. Second, members have established 64 tail water pits that catch and retain runoff from almost 12,000 acres of cotton fields. By capturing and reusing this water, farmers are able to make certain they get the most out of every drop. Third, an additional 4,500 acres are being serviced by 36 newly installed water pumps. Collectively, these measures reduce waste as irrigators use 100 percent of the water that is delivered to their fields. This results in not only a cost savings to the farmer, but they say it allows them to be better stewards of the precious resources they need to grow their crops.
Bush applauded the conservation efforts and said the results of the study came as no surprise. “Growing up in this area, I always felt our farmers were leading the way in how to properly care for their land. They are constant innovators in finding ways to get the best possible crop production. This study shows they are also leading the way in water conservation, and I am incredibly proud of the work they are doing,” said Bush.
Reach Brian Bush at (580) 482-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org