Fewer than half of the Mississippi Delta counties being asked to enroll in a voluntary metering program for irrigation wells have met the 5 percent goal, according to figures released May 7.

Counties that have reached or exceed the goal are Coahoma, Desoto, Holmes, Issaquena, Sharkey, Tate, Washington, and Yazoo.

“We hope that every farmer will strongly consider placing meters on wells and report usage,” says Gibb Steele, president of Delta Council. “If we don’t reach the 5 percent goal in each county prior to July 1, we will lose the opportunity to demonstrate that we can succeed at voluntary water management measures.”

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For all the counties combined, a total of 833 flow meters are needed; as of the May 7 report, 757 had been signed up. Beyond that, a total of 10 percent of wells — 1,700 — will be needed in the voluntary metering program by January 2016 in order to avoid a mandatory metering program.

In a letter earlier this spring from the president and chairman of the council’s Soil and Water Resources Committee, it was noted that the voluntary metering program offered by MDEQ “is a reflection of the cooperative spirit which the Delta region enjoys with the state agency charged with the responsibility to protect the ground water and surface water of the state.

“The agency has included Delta Council on a task force that includes the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Delta F.A.R.M., Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District.”

The MDEQ-led task force is promoting research and on-farm conservation measures, analysis of aquifer recharge, and the potential introduction of additional surface water supplies to the Delta.

“The voluntary metering program is but one of the first steps being taken in order to accurately estimate current water usage,” the council’s letter notes. “We hope you will subscribe to this voluntary metering approach … so we can meet this voluntary goal by July 1.”

The Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force, in urging voluntary compliance by Delta farmers, noted that “having sustainable water resources for current and future generations is our goal.”