Colorado underground irrigation test aims to improve farm efficiency, free up water for cities

Associated Press

A Colorado water broker and a university researcher are testing underground crop irrigation, hoping it can make farms more efficient and reduce competition between cities and agriculture for the state's scarce water.

The first crops will be planted this summer on a 165-acre test plot on the 70 Ranch in Weld County. Research will be overseen by Colorado State University professor Ramchand Oad (OHD).

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Copying a technique used in Israel, tubes buried 10 to 16 inches underground will deliver water to plant roots, avoiding evaporation and other problems associated with surface irrigation.

Water broker Bob Lembke owns the ranch. The ranch and two water districts that Lembke heads are among the initial funders.

He says project budget is $3.5 million for five years but expects the research will continue longer.