Notes from the Field - Touring Farms Slated For Irrigation Efficiency Improvements

February 15, 2022
Notes from the Field - Touring Farms Slated For Irrigation Efficiency Improvements

By Lisa Seales, DRC Programs Manager

DRC staff recently joined NRCS staff on a tour of four farms in the Smith Rock Area, which are slated to receive funding for irrigation efficiency improvements under the National Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

While the purpose of the tour was to survey the properties for cultural and historical resources -- a required part of the process of receiving federal funding -- the tour provided an excellent opportunity to see how water is currently delivered and dispersed across these properties. Most are currently using flood irrigation and the plan is to upgrade them to modernized water delivery systems using a variety of sprinkler applications.

Irrigation across the western US, including here in the Deschutes Basin, is often a relic of the past, following many of the same processes that have been in use since the beginning of the 1900s, around the same time the Ford Model T was introduced to the world.

Back then, many people perceived water as a limitless resource, and early settlers set out to drain the rivers and wetlands to make the desert productive. However, today, living in the wake of prolonged drought, a changing climate, and a rapidly growing human population, we have a much better understanding of our limited resources, along with an increased understanding of the value and importance of healthy rivers. We also have the technology to use our water resources much more efficiently, with metered water deliveries, moisture sensors, and smartphone-controlled sprinkler systems designed to precisely deliver the amount of water that crops need.

As Teslas and other electric, auto-piloted vehicles take to the road, the DRC, NRCS, and other on-farm program partners are helping to modernize on-farm irrigation water in the Deschutes Basin.

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