Water conservation

Water conservation

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
University of Idaho Extension educator Terrell Sorensen served as district manager of Falls Irrigation in American Falls for more than 25 years. In view of what appears to be chronic drought in the West, Sorensen has several tips for farmers seeking to conserve their water without sacrificing yields and profits.

First, he recommends changing cropping systems to prioritize low-water crops and short-season crops that can be harvested earlier in the year.

He finds using probes to track soil moisture can help growers avoid overwatering during the heat of summer.

He also suggests that growers remove their pivot end guns, which are large sprinklers on the outer ends of pivots that spray water up to 120 feet to cover field corners.

Former UI Extension irrigation specialist Howard Neibling once estimated that farmers grow about 18% less crop on pivot corners due to uneven distribution of water by end guns.

Wind and evaporation also play a large role in the reduced efficiency of watering those areas.

Sorensen suggests that farmers who remove end guns enroll their field corners in the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which pays farmers to stop irrigating fields throughout the duration of a 10-year contract.

Sorensen’s advice to irrigators following a dry season: “The main thing is you’ve got to be conservative on water use.

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