Summaries of Past USCID Meetings

The Struggle for Efficiency — Actions and Consequences
San Diego, California — Novermber 15-18, 2011

The irrigation and drainage world is changing rapidly in response to both internal and external pressures. These pressures come from numerous directions, such as from new state and federal regulations, urbanization, changing on-farm irrigation practices and reduced water supplies. Professionals in the industry are engaged in a Struggle for Efficiency when addressing these demands, and applying both new and established technologies. Policies such as volumetric allocations and tiered water pricing are commonly seen as desirable. Farmers use drip irrigation to conserve water on farm. Actions are implemented within an atmosphere of large uncertainty — such as eventual impacts of global warming, new environmental standards and FERC relicensing impacts. Furthermore, when these policies are implemented, the cost/benefit ratio may not be what was anticipated and there may be unintended Consequences — both good and bad, and local and basin-wide. The Conference provided a forum for presentation and discussion of these issues and others.

Emerging Challenges and Opportunities for Irrigation Managers
Albuquerque, New Mexico — April 26-29, 2011

Irrigation managers must continuously seek to improve efficiencies as well as identify and exploit sources of water supply, water conservation and district revenues. Technology at all irrigation water management levels is changing, and accountability for water resource use is improving, in response to increasing demand and competition. The potential for water districts to generate hydro power, the need to upgrade infrastructure for existing and emerging multiple uses, and urbanization of water districts present both challenges and opportunities for irrigation managers. The Conference was designed to provide information on a wide variety of topics of critical interest to irrigation and water resource managers, researchers, and both technology users and developers.

Meeting Irrigation Demands in a Water-Challenged Environment
Fort Collins, Colorado — September 28 - October 1, 2010

In today’s economy, it is easy to forget about looking ahead to implementing state-of-the-art technology and instead focus on "just getting by." However, continual improvements in technology provide the backbone in processes and systems to increase efficiency and provide protection from the vulnerabilities caused by antiquated methods. Technological advances affect all aspects of irrigation and water system operations, from engineering, planning and finance, to system operations and environmental protection. This Conference will provide a forum for presentation and discussion of advancements in technology, and demonstrate its application to all areas of irrigation and water resource system planning, engineering, operation and maintenance.

The Conference incorporated a one-day session dedicated to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. The session was designed to continue exchange of ideas and information regarding state-of-the-art SCADA systems, building upon previous USCID conferences on this subject.

Upgrading Technology and Infrastructure in a Finance-Challenged Economy
Sacramento, California — March 23-26, 2010

The Conference was held in Sacramento. Financing infrastructure and technology, a challenge in normal times, has become even more difficult for irrigation water supply providers as a result of the recent tightening of the credit markets. Irrigation districts, and other water providers, face a continuing need to upgrade technology and infrastructure even in these tight credit markets that complicate financing. Response to droughts, climate change and increased scrutiny of water management practices continues to drive upgrading of irrigation infrastructure and technology.

In response to these challenges, irrigation districts are developing innovative financing and funding solutions. These include developing partnerships with other agencies, applying for grants, loans and other sources of financial assistance, along with consideration of rate increases. Some are entering into agreements to transfer water. Others are agreeing to share facilities. Some districts are utilizing wastewater for irrigation or recharge. Irrigation districts and other agencies are using these and other strategies to maintain and upgrade the services they provide in these challenging financial times.

Irrigation District Sustainability — Strategies to Meet the Challenges
June 3-6, 2009

The Irrigation District Specialty Conference was held in Reno, Nevada. The success or failure of today’s irrigation districts rests with the long and short term decisions made by the management staffs of those institutions. Often those decisions are predicated on the direction provided by elected officials — officials who, again, rely upon the expertise and professional judgment of district staff and consultants. That responsibility demands the continuing development of tools, knowledge and skills to make good decisions.

The diversity and complexity of issues facing irrigation districts today seems at times to be overwhelming. Many irrigation districts are celebrating 50- and 100-year anniversaries and are faced with rebuilding and modernizing their aged infrastructure. Most districts are facing legal challenges to their water rights or water supply contracts, dealing with changing, ever-tightening water quality regulations, and wrestling with environmental issues. Water marketing has surfaced as a means for some districts to insure financial security, while other districts with less plentiful supplies are having to achieve higher levels of operational efficiency to cut costs and accomplish more with less. While dealing with all that, districts must address the everyday tasks of managing personnel, ensuring worker safety, managing district assets, addressing urban encroachment and controlling costs.

Managing Water in a Climate Changing World: Implications for Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control
September 17-20, 2008

The Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, was designed to acquaint managers with the methods used by scientists to project the coming water environment, the nature of the impacts on water to be expected, and the ways in which global and regional changes affect Western irrigation, drainage and flood control.

Urbanization of Irrigated Land and Water Transfers
May 28-31, 2008

The USCID Water Management Conference, held in Scottsdale, Arizona, provided a forum to address urbanization and water transfer issues facing irrigated agriculture.

Urbanization is a fact of life for many irrigation districts. Some have been impacted for many years; others are just beginning to face the challenge. As a result, irrigation districts faced with encroaching urbanization are learning to change the way they do business.

The Conference also focused on water transfers, an issue related to urbanization, but also an issue affecting water districts seeking to augment their water supplies in the face of increasing competition. The Conference brought together water resource professionals with experience and interest in both technical and policy issues regarding urbanization and water transfers.

The Role of Irrigation and Drainage in a Sustainable Future
October 3-6, 2007

The USCID Fourth International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage was held in Sacramento, California, in conjunction with the 58th International Executive Council Meeting of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage.

Developing and managing the world’s water resources has become more complex and more challenging than ever before. In addition to the fundamental need for water to support life and the environment, humans use water as an essential input in producing food and fiber and in many other productive processes. The demand for water is increasing as the world’s population moves beyond six billion and as standards of living improve across Asia and in many regions. Higher incomes lead to increasing demands for goods and services that involve water in their production. In addition, we are belatedly realizing that human uses of water can degrade water quality and damage the environment. As a result, the pressure on our finite water resources is immense.

Irrigation is the principal use of water in many regions. Around the world, farmers are being challenged to produce more food with less water, while also reducing harmful impacts on the environment and sharing water with cities and industries. These goals can be achieved with improved management of irrigation and drainage systems.

SCADA and Related Technologies for Irrigation District Modernization, II
June 6-9, 2007

This Conference, held in Denver, Colorado, was the second USCID Conference dedicated to SCADA applications, following the October 2005 Conference in Vancouver.

Ground Water and Surface Water Under Stress: Competition, Interaction, Solutions
October 25-28, 2006

The USCID Water Management Conference, held in Boise, Idaho, provided a forum to discuss issues relating to surface and ground water supplies.

Competition for surface water and ground water continues to increase in the western United States and in many other regions. The demand for high- quality water in agriculture, industry and recreation, and for environmental and municipal uses, is increasing, while the supply remains largely fixed. Moreover, ground and surface water interact in complex ways that require that management of the two be considered in an integrated way. Persistent drought conditions in the American West have generated intense consideration of many technical and policy issues regarding surface water and ground water resources. Key issues include modeling the interaction of surface water and ground water, implementing conjunctive use programs, allocating and adjudicating water rights, and developing long-term strategies for optimizing the use of limited water resources.

SCADA and Related Technologies for Irrigation District Modernization
October 26-29, 2005

The 2005 Water Management Conference was held in Vancouver, Washington. Today’s irrigation and water districts face ever-increasing challenges in their daily operations. These include increasing demands for flexible and efficient system operation, new regulatory and reporting requirements, the need to maintain and archive historical operations data, rising costs of energy, limited water supplies and more limited and costly labor resources. To address these management concerns, many districts are pursuing modernization projects that will improve delivery and distribution system infrastructure and enhance operational monitoring and control capabilities utilizing Internet applications and state-of-the-art Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA).

Third International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage
March 30 - April 2, 2005

USCID organized the Third International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage, held in San Diego, California. The Conference Theme was Water District Management and Governance.

Water Districts are the most crrigation and drainage management in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and a growing number of other countries. District management brings decision making to the level of the farmers the District serves, enhancing accountability, transparency and responsiveness. In the western U.S. and other industrialized countries, Districts are facing a long list of new management challenges related to increasing water scarcity, urbanization and expanding environmental awareness and concern. This Conference provided an opportunity for District managers, policymakers and others to share their experiences in dealing with these challenging issues.

As a part of a global trend toward decentralization, countries worldwide are introducing and implementing District-based management of agricultural water supplies. Often these organizations are called by other names — Water User Associations (WUAs) or Irrigation Unions — but in fundamental respects many are similar to the Water Districts of the western U.S. These organizations are facing a set of first-generation problems related to governance, financing, system maintenance and organization — problems familiar to district managers in the U.S., many of whom have developed effective strategies for addressing these issues. The one-day Symposium on District (Water User Association) Formation and Strengthening brought together District managers and staff from the U.S., and their counterparts and supporters from countries where this form of management is just getting underway.

Water Rights and Related Water Supply Issues
October 13-16, 2004

USCID organized a Conference on Water Rights and Related Water Supply Issues, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 13-16, 2004.

An issue facing water users nearly everywhere is who has the right to use water when available supplies do not meet all the demands for that water. Since the earliest pioneers in the Western U.S. first appropriated water for irrigation, water users, suppliers, governments and legal entities have endeavored to develop a system of water rights that can serve the public interest while also protecting vested rights, water quality and the environment. A key component of any discussion of water rights is how best to conserve, distribute and use limited supplies of water.

This Conference provided a forum to discuss the myriad issues relating to water rights and the appropriation and distribution of water, including the application of technology.

Concurrent technical sessions focused on the following topics:

  • Water Rights
  • River Basin Specific Issues
  • Ecological and Conservation Issues
  • Application of Technology
  • Irrigation and Water Quality

Second International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage
May 12-15, 2003

USCID organized the Second International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage, held in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 12-15, 2003. The Conference Theme was Water for a Sustainable World — Limited Supplies and Expanding Demand.

Water supplies in many areas of the world are under stress and some current uses are not sustainable. At the same time, demand for water is increasing as populations increase, industries grow and as environmental needs for additional water are recognized and accommodated. This suggests that less water will be available for irrigation in the future, while the world demand for food is expected to exceed current production some time early in this century. At the same time, irrigated land is increasingly taken by urban expansion. This results in many changes in how water projects for irrigation are operated and managed. The Conference focused on the need for irrigated agriculture and irrigation projects to adapt to this changing environment and provided experiences and practical guidance for water resources professionals who are addressing these issues.

Concurrent technical sessions focused on the following topics:

  • Future Trends
  • Changing Irrigation and Drainage Infrastructure
  • Integrated Water Resources and Basin Planning
  • Reservoir Operations
  • Water Quality and Drainage
  • Canal Operations
  • Urbanization
  • On Farm Irrigation

Helping Irrigated Agriculture Adjust to TMDLs
October 23-25, 2002

A USCID Water Management Conference addressing TMDLs was held in Sacramento, California, on October 23-25, 2002. The Conference was organized and sponsored by USCID and co-sponsored by the Association of California Water Agencies.

A significant challenge facing irrigated agriculture is the regulation and management of contaminants and pollutants that make their way into streams and reservoirs. Increasingly, the development and enforcement of TMDLs (total maximum daily loads, or the amount of a particular pollutant that a water body can safely absorb on a daily basis) will affect many stakeholders, including farmers, water districts and environmental constituencies.

The Conference goal was to help irrigated agriculture address and respond to the scientific, environmental, economic and political/social issues related to TMDLs, including pollution sources, regulations, costs and impacts.

Conference on Energy, Climate, Environment and Water —
Issues and Opportunities for Irrigation and Drainage
July 9-12, 2002

Irrigators are facing new challenges as competition for water supplies, coupled with significant increases in energy costs and environmental considerations, threaten the economic viability of irrigation. Climate changes, whether natural or a result of human activity, are providing additional concerns. The Conference provided a forum to discuss and evaluate these issues, with a focus on the technology being applied to meet the challenges.

The Conference, held in San Luis Obispo, California, was Sponsored by USCID and the Environmental & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Irrigation Training and Research Center, California Polytechnic State University was the Co-Sponsor.

Irrigation Water Management in a Changing Energy Environment

The first in a series of three Energy Workshops was held in Rapid City, South Dakota, on November 27-28, and the second Workshop was held on December 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in conjunction with the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Meeting. The third and final Energy Workshop was held in Reno, Nevada, on January 22, 2002, preceding the Annual Meeting of the Mid Pacific Region Water Users Conference.

Conference on Transbasin Water Transfers
June 27-30, 2001

The USCID Conference on Transbasin Water Transfers, Co-Sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation, Garrison Diversion Conservancy District and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, was held on June 27-30, 2001, in Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.

The Conference provided a forum to evaluate the issues involved with Transbasin Water Transfers, including water supply and water requirements; environmental concerns; biota transfer; legal, political and diplomatic aspects; and risk management. Case-study presentations and analyses of existing and proposed U.S. and international transbasin projects were be featured.

International Conference on the Challenges Facing
Irrigation and Drainage in the New Millennium
June 20-24, 2000

The International Conference on the Challenges Facing Irrigation and Drainage in the New Millennium was held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. The Theme of the Conference was Meeting Human and Environmental Needs through Sustainability, Rehabilitation and Modernization.

The Conference provided an opportunity to learn of the latest solutions, innovations and technological advances practiced in the United States. The newest developments in research and practical applications in the international arena were discussed.

The Program is online.

Workshop on Modernization of Irrigation Water Delivery Systems
October 17-21, 1999

The Workshop on Modernization of Irrigation Water Delivery Systems provided a state-of-the-art review of issues related to the improvement of irrigation delivery system operations, including such issues as automation and rehabilitation, and was held in Phoenix, Arizona.

Conference on Benchmarking Irrigation System Performance
Using Water Measurement and Water Balances
March 10-13, 1999

The Conference was held March 10-13, 1999, in San Luis Obispo, California. The meeting provided a unique opportunity to examine irrigation system performance from both conceptual and practical view points.

Conference on Shared Rivers
October 28-31, 1998

The Conference on Shared Rivers, was held October 28-31, 1998, in Park City, Utah. The Conference Theme was River Basin Management to Meet Competing Needs. The Conference was a multi-disciplinary review of how river basins are managed to meet the needs of all of the water users in the river basin.

In five half-day sessions, the Conference featured in-depth examinations of issues involving U.S. and international river basins. A Poster Session offered an additional opportunity to examine river basin management activities. A one-day study tour of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District was also featured during the Conference.

14th Technical Conference on Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control
June 3-6, 1998

Four noted experts on Western water issues were featured speakers during the 14th Technical Conference on Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control, held June 3-6, 1998, in Phoenix, Arizona. The Conference Theme was Contemporary Challenges for Irrigation and Drainage.

David N. Kennedy, Director of the California Department of Water Resources, delivered the Keynote Address on Wednesday, June 3. Rita P. Pearson, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, discussed Arizona water issues during a dinner talk Thursday evening. Lunch speakers on Thursday and Friday were David S. Wilson, Jr., Central Arizona Water Conservation District, and Maurice Roos, California Department of Water Resources.

The Conference provided water resources professionals their first opportunity to hear results of irrigation management activities implemented under the 1988 Water Conservation Agreement between the Imperial Irrigation District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Conference participants heard professional papers addressing the following Technical Session Topics:

  • Improving Irrigation Management and Modernizing Irrigation and Drainage Systems
  • Drainage and Water Quality
  • Institutional, Environmental and Economic Issues Affecting Irrigated Agriculture

Conference on Best Management Practices for Irrigated
Agriculture and the Environment
July 16-19, 1997

A Conference to address issues related to irrigated agriculture and its effects on the environment was held July 16-19, 1997, in Fargo, North Dakota. The Conference Theme was Best Managment Practices for Irrigated Agriculture and the Environment. USCID and the Bureau of Reclamation were the sponsors of the Conference.

The purpose of the Conference was to develop a broad understanding of how management practices can be economically applied to allow agricultural operations to approach optimum production and at the same time reduce the potential for adverse impacts on the environment. The Conference focused on the development and implementation of Best Management Practices that provide for a sustainable ecosystem encompassing the quality and quantity of surface and ground water resources.

The Conference addressed three topics:

  • Development and Application of Best Management Practices
  • Irrigation Water Management
  • Water Quality

Competing Interests Conference
December 4-7, 1996

USCID organized a Conference to examine the growing problem of competition for water. The Conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 5-7, 1996. The theme was Competing Interests in Water Resources -- Searching for Consensus.

The objective of the Conference was to address and improve understanding of the problem currently facing all water users and water suppliers -- the problem of competition for sufficient water supplies to meet all needs.

The Conference addressed four major topics:

  • Environmental Needs
  • Demand Management
  • Water Marketing and Water Transfers
  • Social and Economic Impacts

Wetlands Seminar
June 27-29, 1996

A USCID Seminar to address wetlands issues related to irrigated agriculture was held June 27-29, 1996, in Bismarck, North Dakota. The theme of the seminar was Water for Agriculture and Wildlife and the Environment -- Win-Win Opportunities. The Seminar was cosponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The objective of the Seminar was to bring together professionals of the disciplines involved with agriculture and wetlands, to exchange information and seek solutions to competing issues that will satisfy the needs of all interests.

The Seminar included sessions on four major topics:

  • Agriculture and Wetlands Compatibility
  • Wetlands and Water Quality
  • Water for Wetlands: Appropriation/Allocation
  • Fish and Wildlife Diversity and Productivity

Each session featured an invited speaker to set the stage, followed by technical presentations and case studies. A Poster Session was also held. The Seminar concluded with a discussion of future actions to be taken by USCID and cooperating organizations. A Study Tour on June 29 gave participants an opportunity to see wetlands conservation activities.

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