GMD offering tech cost-share

By Rod Haxton, editor

Groundwater Management District No. 1 is initiating a cost-share program to assist landowners with the purchase of moisture probes.

The GMD board recently decided to allocate $140,000 this year toward the purchase of probes.

Landowners within a Water Conservation Area (WCA) will receive a $1,500 cost-share for the first probe and $1,000 for each additional probe.

Landowners outside a WCA will receive $750 cost-share for each probe.

Probes cost approximately $2,000 each. There’s no limit to how many probes an individual may apply for.

The application process will begin March 9 and continue for about 90 days, according to GMD Director Kyle Spencer.

“We’re initiating this program to see what kind of interest there is in the district,” says Spencer. “If the number of applications exceeds what’s been budgeted, then we may have to look at increasing our assessment to provide more money.”

Probes have been gaining in popularity as a means of determining whether there is adequate subsurface moisture. That data is valuable in determining the timing and amount of irrigation required.

“The effectiveness of a probe comes down to how well a farmer uses the information it provides,” emphasizes Spencer. “The big push we’re seeing is to get more technology savvy and to use that technology to improve irrigation efficiency.”

Spencer is hopeful this added information will assist producers in altering some irrigation practices

 

“Producers often feel that because they’ve been doing the same thing for years, they know the soil. They check their soil on a regular basis that they have a good understanding of if and when they need to irrigate. For those reasons, it can be difficult for some guys to adapt and to utilize information that’s gathered through these probes,” Spencer says.

“Hopefully, we can save a half-inch or an inch of rain here and there. But, it all comes down to the producer.”

While the $140,000 allocated in this year’s budget is a significant investment by the district, Spencer points out that it will only purchase about 140 probes, and possibly less.

“If we have more interest than money, we’ll have to look at other ways to fund the program,” notes the GMD manager.

Additional funds could be acquired by increasing the water assessment. The district can assess a maximum fee of $1 per acre foot of water rights held by an owner. The current assessment is 60 cents.

Spencer says the district is also looking at other potential funding sources, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service and possibly moisture probe manufacturers.

A similar cost-share program has been in effect in GMD No. 4, in northwest Kansas, for the last couple of years. The district limits cost-share to $1,000 per probe and 50 probes per year.

This year, GMD No. 1 is limiting the cost-share to moisture probes, but it could pursue other forms of conservation technology in the future.

“The board felt this was a program that could address water conservation and is affordable for the district and the landowner,” adds Spencer.

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