As of mid-March, only six of 17 Mississippi Delta counties had met the goal of 5 percent voluntary metering of irrigation water wells under a compliance option offered by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

There is a deadline of June 30 to obtain the required commitments.

“We believe this goal can be met, but with the crop season getting under way we are concerned that land owners and farm operators will be preoccupied with farming operations and will be unable to focus on the voluntary approach toward installation of flow meters,” the president, Gib Steele, and chairman, George King, of the Delta Council’s Soil and Water Resources Committee said in a letter to farmers.

Producers who haven’t already done so are being urged to install flow meters and provide forms agreeing to voluntarily report water usage.

Counties that had met the 5 percent goal as of March 17 were Coahoma, Holmes, Issaquena, Sharkey, Tate, and Yazoo. Two others were close, Tunica and Washington, with 4.1 percent and 4.7 percent respectively.

For all the counties combined, the goal for 5 percent voluntary compliance is 828 flow meters installed by the deadline; at mid-March, the number installed was 607. 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.

“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 Delta Council letter said.

“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 June 30.”

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.”