Conservation at Work: Benefits of Irrigation Water Management

Brian German USDA-NRCS

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide valuable assistance for producers looking to improve irrigation water management. NRCS staff can help craft an efficient irrigation plan to maximize the value of an irrigation system. The ‘Irrigation Water Management’ episode of NRCS’s Conservation at Work video series details some of the benefits that can be gained by refining water management in an agricultural operation.

State Conservationist Engineer for California NRCS, Greg Norris said that irrigation system replacement can help provide a good starting point for better water management. Ensuring there are no leaks in the system and confirming that water goes where it is needed it a critical first step. The next step is to ensure the water that is delivered is what the plants actually need. “Our end goal on irrigation water management is for the producer to fully understand what is happening in the soil. So, when they apply that water, what happens?” said Norris.

Part of that understanding comes from monitoring. NRCS can also assist producers with their monitoring techniques and equipment to get a better idea of what individual areas of an operation may need. Even smaller operations can have variations in the field, which creates different water needs in different areas.

“You can have different soils in that field, you can have different elevation. That impacts how much of that water is delivered to the plant which is usable to the plant,” Norris explained. “So that differentiation, if the system’s not set up to handle that, that could cause over irrigations or under irrigations.”

Adopting conservation techniques and installing equipment to increase conservation helps the environment, but it also helps the grower. Implementing conservation practices such as improving irrigation water management most often results in better yields, more profit, and less spending on behalf of the producer.

“From NRCS’ perspective, our mission is conservation, so that’s our focus. That’s why we help these producers put these types of efficient systems in and help them put in the right equipment to monitor soil moisture and that type of thing,” Norris noted. “The secondary benefit from a producer standpoint can certainly be improved management that’s easier to operate…there’s many secondary benefits that really help the producer.”

Listen to the full interview below.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation at Work video series documents how producers and landowners are using individual practices to improve their land and save time and money. Each episode tackles one subject in a short and easy to understand format. Watch the episodes at Farmers.Gov and contact your local NRCS office for more information.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West