WAID meets in Casper for first conference
The Wyoming Association of Irrigation Districts (WAID), a newly established nonprofit organization dedicated to progressing the interests of irrigation districts across the state, held its first annual conference Nov. 8-9 at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Casper.
The organization’s vision is to cultivate effective water resource management at the local level and stand as a collective voice for Wyoming’s emerging network of irrigation districts.
WAID plays a vital role in sustaining water-related initiatives which contribute to the well-being of communities while sharing information to find solutions to common issues.
The WAID conference promoted sustainable water and collaboration among irrigation professionals. Attendees at the conference shared knowledge and exchanged ideas to address current challenges and opportunities irrigation and water management face.
Attendees at the WAID convention had the opportunity to listen to keynote speakers State Sen. Dan Laursen and State Rep. Cheri Steinmetz and attend open forum discussions on the latest technologies in irrigation.
The convention also had exhibits showcasing cutting-edge irrigation products and services, plus opportunities to network with fellow policymakers, suppliers and professionals.
Those attending the First Annual WAID Conference heard from guest speaker Pat O’Toole, a former member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives and the current Family Farm Alliance board president.
The Family Farm Alliance advocates for farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and similar industries in 17 Western states and focuses on ensuring the availability of water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.
discusses future of water
O’Toole, a cattle and sheep rancher with a strong background in irrigated agriculture and Wyoming politics, discussed recent water issues with attendees.
“We have to fight for our resources,” he said. “Farmers and ranchers need to keep irrigation water on the land so we can produce food for the nation. We can’t lose any more farmers and ranchers.”
In 2018, O’Toole testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. During the hearing, labeled “Improving American Economic Competitiveness through Water Resources Infrastructure,” O’Toole highlighted the fact water is the lifeblood of America.
“Without reliable and affordable water supplies, every sector of our economy would suffer,” he stated. “Food cannot be grown, businesses cannot operate and homes and schools cannot be built or operate without water. Critical water infrastructure must be maintained and modernized to ensure the delivery of water today and for future generations.”
basin in crisis
The Colorado River Compact of 1922 divided the river into two basins, – the upper and the lower basin, including Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada.
The compact established allotments for each basin and provided a framework for managing the river for years to come.
Over the years, additional agreements have been introduced to manage Colorado River Basin water, but in 1968 a historic piece of legislation was constructed – the Colorado River Basin Project Act.
It allowed for the construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP). CAP is a 336-mile system which diverts water from the Colorado River throughout southern and central Arizona via aqueducts.
However, there is no longer enough water along the Colorado River Basin and agricultural users are facing a crisis.
O’Toole noted, “Las Vegas wants to grow from 2.2 million people to 3.8 million people and needs water to grow, and Phoenix turned down 100,000 new homes because they have no water to support them. This is a reality check,”
“Large cities along the Colorado River Basin want to take agricultural water, and they are driving farmers out, which is jeopardizing U.S. food production,” he continued. “There is a lack of understanding of what is happening.”
“Resolving these issues without destroying what we worked so hard to achieve is the challenge we all face,” he concluded. “But to be successful, we must work together to find a solution to support the continued growth of irrigated agriculture.”
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.