Farmers in California are benefiting from federal funding that is going to help pay for a state-of the-art irrigation project that will help conserve water.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $13 million and includes the building of two small reservoirs to catch irrigation runoff for reuse and installing drip and sprinkler systems on farms west of Ripon, Calif.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is providing $1 million toward the project. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Services has an additional $5 million to help with farmers’ costs in this project and four others in the California San Joaquin Valley, reports the Modesto Bee. The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is providing the majority of the funding.
While the majority of the farms in this water district are tree and vines, 42 dairy farms call this water district home.
The dairy farms in this area will see two main benefits from this new water conservation project, says Jeff Shields, general manager of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. “This new project will reduce the competition for ground water and relieve pressure on the water table as other farms make the switch to drip and sprinkler irrigation which will utilize surface water.” Most dairy farms don’t use surface water for irrigation.
Benefits will also be seen from the building of a second reservoir. “Currently, there is no reservoir in this area, and when we put it in, we will be able to capture water that has previously gone into the river. This will eliminate the possibility of polluting the river through run-off,” notes Shields.
In addition, any dairy farm that irrigates by sprinkler irrigation could tap into this new system.
The majority of the farmland in this district has historically been irrigated through flood irrigation. Through this new project, farms will be able to switch to drip and sprinkler irrigation, which will reduce water used to grow crops by half.
“The project is intended to protect the water rights of the farms in our district and going forward demonstrate environmental stewardship,” notes Shields. Water conserved will also help ensure that there is water available in dry years.
The project is expected to start construction this July and finish in March of next year.