Better Water Management and Conservation Possible, but Constraints Need To Be Overcome

CED-79-1: Published: Oct 31, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1978.

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Previous GAO reports identified improvements needed in the Bureau of Reclamation's implementation of agricultural water management and conservation practices, but it was recognized that institutional and legal constraints would affect the Bureau's ability to implement recommended changes. In 1977, the Bureau began a study to accelerate the identification of its projects and those of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in which opportunities existed to make better use of water supplies.

The Study does not deal adequately with constraints and, therefore, has limitations as a basis for ranking projects. The following categories of constraints impede efforts to promote better water management and conservation: the legal right to water saved by irrigators, high cost and repayment requirements of improving irrigation efficiencies, adverse effects on other water uses due to water-saving practices, rights of irrigators under long-term contracts which do not provide for adjustments of water rates and quantities, and lack of data on the nature and extent of the Federal role for achieving irrigation efficiencies. Water banking, the temporary transfer of a user's right to unneeded water to an intermediary who would make it available to a user who needs it, can overcome some major constraints to carrying out improved water use practices.

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