Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande Basin

Dr. Askarali Karimov of BAEN is Co-Principal Investigator on Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande, a 4-year project with estimated budget of $5 Million based on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2017-68007-26318.

The three men are standing in a line smiling for the photo wearing suits.

Drs. Allen Berthold of TWRI (first, from left), Askarali Karimov of BAEN (middle), and Robert Flynn (far right) of New Mexico State University are attending Two Nations One Water, US-Mexico Border Summit in El Paso, Texas on March 1-2, 2018.

The Rio Grande extends 1,900 miles from Southern Colorado through New Mexico and Texas to the Gulf of Mexico and is the fourth longest river in the U.S. It is listed, however, as one of the world’s most endangered rivers. The Rio Grande Basin’s water resources plus the societies, economies, species and ecosystems that depend on them, are seriously threatened by drought, climate change, and rapid population growth.

Population growth and demand for municipal water supplies in the basin are expected to double over the next 50 years while agriculture uses 80% of the water from the Rio Grande. Climate change is projected to increase temperatures and decrease net available water. Higher temperatures will result in increased evapotranspiration and increased crop irrigation requirements, further stressing water supplies.

Many other arid-region river systems are facing similar crises and there is an urgent need for innovative responses. The Rio Grande is an ideal place to better understand these issues and test technology and management approaches.

The Diversifying the Water Portfolio for Agriculture in the Rio Grande Basin, a Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP), seeks to explore various water management strategies by evaluating the use of alternative technologies, such as treated wastewater and desalination, and improved crop mixes and agricultural practices, to identify the most efficient and cost-effective use of water.

The project’s long-term goal is to optimize water resources to help sustain agricultural production while enhancing regional water use efficacy and economic and employment opportunities, and improving ecosystem services.

This integrated, multi-state project will be valuable to stakeholders, producers and communities throughout the Rio Grande Basin.


• Evaluate water sources, including nontraditional sources, for urban, agricultural and
ecosystem use under changing climate, water management and demographics
• Demonstrate the appropriate use of saline and reclaimed water resources across
agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.
• Develop research and demonstration tools focused on improving the management of
water at all scales (on-farm, M&I systems, canal operation and irrigation district) within
the basin.
• Broaden outreach, demonstration, teaching and tools to facilitate efficient use of all
available water resources for regional stakeholders.
• Evaluate performance of appropriate crops/cultivars under alternative irrigation on saline soils under arid conditions.
• Determine the effects of alternative water irrigation on soil salinity and sodicity.
• Develop realistic estimates of crop productivity under elevated salinity conditions, potential for alternative waters and appropriate salinity management practices.

Project Collaborators

Texas Water Resources Institute
Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Service
Texas A&M University
New Mexico State University
New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute

Four men are standing outside on dirt with yellow wildflowers in the background.

Mr. Robert Sabie, Jr. (first from left), Dr. Robert Flynn (second from left) of New Mexico State University, respectively, Dr. Girisha Ganjegunte (third from left), Associate Professor of Texas A&M AgriLife Research at El Paso, Texas and Dr. Askarali Karimov (far right) of BAEN are touring research experimental plots of canola and various switch grasses (on the background) to test and monitor their yield in saline soils.

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