Water - the focus of countless issues, headlines, and studies - is arguably a more precious resource than gold.
Dependence on water application ranges far and wide in today's thirsty society – from drinking to sanitation to agriculture. This valuable resource needs to be managed efficiently to ensure each drop is spread the furthest.
Water is transported to SFREC through BVID canals, originating at Collins Lake.
Individuals involved with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are actively evaluating management practices to ensure and develop water-wise irrigation methods. At the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, many research projects have focused on water quality, runoff, and irrigation efficiency. A current project led by Livestock Farm Advisor Larry Forero monitors surface runoff and soil moisture content in flood irrigated pastures at SFREC.
The goal of this project is to ultimately estimate the efficiency of a “wild flood” surface irrigation system so practical opportunities for reducing irrigation water use can be suggested without impacting production. Gary Childers, staff member and key irrigator at SFREC for over 30 years, frequently collects data from watermark sensors located at various points across two pastures. The sensors are at depths of 6”, 12”, and 24”. A key component of this project compares the amount of water delivered to the site with the amount of tailwater leaving the pasture. All irrigation water at SFREC is received via pipeline or channeled through ditches by the Brown's Valley Irrigation District, fed from Collins Lake.
Gary Childers has operated irrigation systems at SFREC for over 30 years.
Although over 100 miners inches (2.5 cf/s) are purchased annually by SFREC, sustainable water utilization methods are executed. “Nearly every application of irrigation water is used at least twice, but as many as four times – just on this property. Once the water leaves, additional uses occur but are unknown,” explained Childers.
Watermark sensor data helps determine irrigation efficiency.
Gold may be in high demand - with the current value exceeding $1320 per ounce - but once water becomes scarce, it is truly priceless. By taking the initiative to research innovative water management practices and develop a better understanding of sustainable irrigation methods, SFREC and the entire UCANR division are enabling water availability and conservation for the future.