Alternative agriculture for water conservation in the Walker Basin

In the West, the demand for limited water resources often exceeds availability. Because agricultural water use is a significant portion of all water used, the search for water savings is commonly directed towards irrigated agriculture. Reducing water use while maintaining a sustainable agricultural economy is a significant challenge.

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute are actively studying the potential use of alternative crops, biomass production, restoration, soil management, water use efficiency and irrigation scheduling to conserve water in the Walker Basin. Crops such as Basin wildrye, grain amaranth, teff and buckwheat, hold promise in reducing the amount of water needed to raise economically viable crops. Reducing water use would create the potential for growers to lease or sell remaining water rights to help replenish and restore both the Walker River and Walker Lake.

Scientists working in the Walker Basin have shown that growth rates of some plant species exhibit a potential for water savings. Scientists tested 24 varieties of 22 crop types to determine which non-traditional crops might be agronomically and economically feasible in the Walker Basin. New, economical methods for water use monitoring can also help prevent overwatering and conserve water resources.