Agricultural Water Optimization

Agricultural Water Optimization Task Force

The Agricultural Water Optimization Task Force was formed in 2018 to identify critical issues facing the state’s long-term water supply, to optimize agricultural water supply for future needs and to sustain Utah’s vital agriculture industry and heritage. The task force identified obstacles and constraints to optimization and recommended ways to improve the quantification of agricultural water use.

In 2023, the Utah Legislature passed SB 277, which appropriated $200 million for agricultural optimization and created a new committee housed within the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

This page archives the work completed by the task force over its lifespan from 2018-2023. This research helps the state evaluate ways to improve agricultural water use practices, create benefits for farmers, optimize water use and protect water quantity and quality for all uses in the system.

Alfalfa image

Aaron Austin
Agricultural Water Optimization Task Force Admin Support


HB381 Agricultural Water Optimization

Initial legislation forming the task force and providing funds for research.

HB39 Agricultural Water Optimization Task Force Amendments

Legislation amending the makeup of the task force and clarifying funding.

Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) Water Optimization Funding Program

A partner program created by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to implement agricultural water optimization projects with Legislative funding.

Research Plan for Agricultural Water Optimization in Utah
(February 2019)

This memorandum takes a look at what water and agricultural management practices can maintain or increase agricultural production while minimizing impacts upon water supply, water quality and the environment. The report outlines a research framework at both the basin and on-farm scale in Utah.

Research Needs
(December 2022)

The task force identified research needs directly linked to its three objectives and that encompass four focus areas. Immediate action to optimize the use and management of our finite water supplies is needed.

Annual Summaries

Ag Water Optimization Task Force Overview 2018-2023

(June 2023)

This overview of the task force’s work from 2018-2023 was provided by the facilitator at the task force’s last meeting on June 9, 2023.

Ag Water Optimization Task Force Annual Report

(November 2022)

This annual report gives an update on the UDAF Ag Water Optimization Funding and the ongoing projects funded by the task force. It includes recommendations for agricultural water optimization investments going forward and notes key obstacles. The additional documents included identify potential research studies and important policy questions to be answered.

Ag Water Optimization Task Force Annual Report

(November 2021)

This annual report gives an update on the recent progress made by the task force and recommendations for agricultural water optimization studies and investments going forward.

Ag Water Optimization Task Force Summary

(June 2020)

Task force facilitator provides an overview of progress and next steps for the end of fiscal year 2020 in this video summary.

Research Studies

Case Study: Validating Methods for Measuring Evapotranspiration and Accounting for Actual Depletion in Utah

(June 2023)

The objective of this study was to validate ground-based and remote-sensing methodologies for measuring evapotranspiration and calculating depletion from an irrigated alfalfa field near Modena, Utah. Results were promising, however, further study should be completed to validate the results in other geographies and climates within Utah. 


Utah Agricultural Water Optimization – Water Savings from Drip Irrigation

(December 2021)

Agricultural water optimization is important in Utah due to increased water needs, limited water supply, and uncertain climate changes that may affect water supplies. Water shortages can dramatically affect agricultural, municipal, and environmental users. Agriculture diverts about 80% of all diversion in Utah. This Agricultural Water Optimization study, which began in 2019, is to determine differences in consumptive water use or depletion between drip and surface irrigation onions. Onions were selected because Utah growers currently use both drip and surface irrigation.


Literature Review of Current & Upcoming Irrigation Technologies and Practices Applicable to Utah

(November 2020)

Irrigation is essential for economical agriculture production in western semi-arid regions such as Utah. The effects of droughts and competition for water due to population growth will mean more effective use of agricultural water supplies will be needed in the future. This literature review examines the historic, current and upcoming irrigation technologies and practices applicable to the state of Utah. Irrigators in the state continue to make steady improvements towards adopting technologies that enable them to both improve water use efficiency and improve overall crop productivity while protecting the environment.


Depletion Accounting for Irrigation Water Rights in Utah
(June 2020)

Producers have asked the Utah Division of Water Rights to consider new means of administering water rights by depletion rather than the historic method of irrigation diversion duty and number of acres irrigated. Administering irrigation rights by depletion requires accurate, effective, and defensible means to measure and account for actual depletion. With numerous available and emerging methodologies to do so, the Legislative Agricultural Water Optimization Task Force sought to evaluate and identify the most practical, effective, and defensible means of measuring and accounting for actual depletion in Utah.


Case Study of Emery County Agriculture Water Quantification System Implementation
(March 2020)

The overall purpose of this project is to engage stakeholders in Emery County (including water managers and producers) and to understand, document and evaluate the drivers, methods, costs, benefits and lessons learned from the implementation of a network of flow measurement structures with transparent, Real-Time Monitoring and Control System.


Long-term Water Optimization Trials: Stacking Conservation Practices

(2019 - ongoing)

This is an ongoing study being completed by Utah State University with multiple partners to investigate how different combinations of crop genetics, crop types, tillage, emerging irrigation technologies and irrigation levels can both benefit agricultural production and reduce water consumption.