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TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. -- The Elephant Butte
Irrigation District believes it can save water by laying 16 miles of
underground pipeline in 21 sites to replace open ditches.
The district has applied to the Border Environment Cooperation
Commission for a $10 million cost-sharing grant to develop its new
water conservation project that would lay pipeline over five years.
The commission is an agency of the North American Development Bank.
The irrigation district board is negotiating with the commission
to pay its share with in-kind service, labor and equipment, said
district manager Gary Esslinger.
The project would save 10,700 acre-feet, or 3.5 billion gallons of
water, through faster delivery and reduced seepage, the district
estimated. That would equal the irrigation for 2,500 acres of pecans
or 4,000 acres of cotton.
The 16 miles represents less than 5 percent of the irrigation
district's total system, said district engineer Henry Magallanez
Esslinger said the pipeline project will eliminate mowing and
herbicide spraying for weed control and reduce bank maintenance for
the sections that would have pipeline instead of open ditches.
The 21 sites were chosen because they are in areas that have only
intermittent water delivery, which can lead to problems such as
excessive weed growth, said Valerie Beversdorf, resource engineering
The pipelines will not affect the aquifer, which farmers use for
``The aquifers still will be recharged by water that is turned
into the fields,'' Beversdorf said. ``This way we'll be able to
direct water where it'll do the most good, in the farmers' crop
Esslinger has been working with Craig Runyan of New Mexico State
University's Extension Service Plant Sciences. Runyan said the
pipeline project fits with the university's irrigation efficiency
``When you combine the efforts of individual water users to
conserve with a project like this for systemwide savings, the net
results can be substantial,'' he said. ``We've thrown in our support
for the work EBID is doing with this and all its conservation
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