To achieve impact for water resources conservation enhancement and agricultural crop water productivity (CWP) per unit of input for meeting the food, fiber, feed, fuel, finance, and farmstead (6Fs) needs of the rapidly increasing global population, societies must find innovative ways to enable the transfer of research- and science-based data, knowledge, information, technology, and strategies for adoption in agricultural production fields. The objective of this study is to present historical perspectives on the evolution of agriculture and agricultural water management in different parts of the world and present a modern-era agricultural water management network, its objectives, and functions in achieving large-scale impacts to enhance water resource management. The Agricultural Water Management Network (AWMN) was established in 2005 to integrate science, research, and education/outreach principles into producers’ practices to help them make better-informed decisions, conserve water and energy resources, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance CWP. Through coordinated research, demonstration, and education programs, the AWMN significantly enhanced water resource management and the protection of the environment. It contributed to the sustainability of natural resources and the agricultural economy through the adoption of innovative methodologies and strategies. Since the beginning of the AWMN, over 18,000 producers, crop consultants, state and federal agency personnel, irrigation district personnel, agricultural industry personnel, and other professionals have participated as learners and adopters in over 800 Extension, education, and/or outreach programs conducted by the AWMN team between 2005 and 2020. The irrigated land area represented by the Network partners and collaborators reached over 1.20 million ha in 2020. Water withdrawal for irrigation was reduced from 119 mm/ha per growing season in 2006 to 163 mm/ha per growing season in 2020, with a 16-year average of 144 mm/ha, due to the adoption of technologies and management strategies demonstrated and taught in the Network. Between 2005 and 2020, the AWMN is estimated to have reduced water withdrawal for irrigation by over 5 billion m3 (5 km3; 4.1 million acre-ft). Due to the reduction in irrigation water withdrawals, conservatively, over $304 million was saved by consuming less diesel fuel for pumping irrigation water. The AWMN has effectively reduced CO2 emissions due to a reduction in diesel fuel use, which was over 125,000 tons in 2020 alone with a total reduction of about 900,000 tons from 2005 to 2020. Due to the AWMN’s efforts, tools and technologies introduced in the AWMN are being cost-shared by the Natural Resources Districts for the producers, up to 50% to 70% of the total cost. The AWMN has become the largest and most impactful research-based water management program in the United States that has accomplished substantial adoption of technology and information/knowledge transfer in agriculture through the strong and dedicated partnership of universities, private industry, state and federal agencies, producers, irrigation districts, and crop consultants. The Network is an excellent example of a large-scale program that successfully integrated science, research, and Extension/outreach/education to have significant positive impacts on irrigation agriculture.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Soil Science
- Biomedical Engineering