Rickert Ranch Irrigation

DanIndustry News Release, USDA-NRCS, Water

Prather Ranch is owned and managed by Jim, Mary and James Rickert. Located in Northern California, Prather Ranch is a sustainable, 30,000-acre cattle, hay and farming operation. Cattle are raised on certified organic pastures.


Jim, Mary and James Rickert

The project includes approximately 2,700 feet of 18” PVC pipeline with valves installed to replace open spreader ditches in the “Five Way Field.”  In combination with land leveling and three water control structures, the project has resulted in major irrigation efficiency improvements on 40 acres of irrigated pasture.

Before the project there was an existing open ditch system. Spreader ditches carried flow into the field in an attempt to adequately cover all the ground with irrigation water. The result was under-irrigation and over-irrigation and poor uniformity. Before improvements were made there was poor irrigation efficiency and limited pasture production and the delivery system continued to degrade.

Five Way Field before land leveling in 2014 (looking south at left and looking west at right).

Conveyance ditch used for irrigation before the project in 2014.

Land leveling and piped irrigation improved both water conservation and pasture production significantly. This alternative was chosen because it addressed field grades as well as accurate water delivery. Both are instrumental in improving distribution uniformity, water conservation and maximum pasture production.

The “Five Way Field” got its name from the multiple directions of irrigation previously needed and the network of spreader ditches required to apply flow.

Land leveling and buried pipeline in 2017.

Because of the topography, major savings in earthwork resulted from leveling the field at about a 45 degree angle from NE to SW. Although an additional 460 feet of pipe were required, overall the project savings were significant. Also, recovery of pasture productivity was greatly accelerated by limiting the movement of topsoil.

Diversion setup on upstream intake, field crossing, and outlet box installed in 2017.

The project was completed in late 2017. Now, when irrigating the water spreads slowly and evenly across the field. Much less water is needed, and the landowner has much more control.

Note: Water is the limiting resource in the state, and investments to maximize water efficiency pay big dividends. Because northern watersheds are an area of water origin, increased water efficiency in the north helps the whole state.