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Flood irrigation and contouring

 
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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I am looking for resources on combining traditional flood irrigation with water conservation contouring and catchment. Our water right gives us 12 hours access every 11 days to water from the town canal. Keylining, swales, hybrids, I'm interested if it helps me spread my water across the field and maximize its potential utility. The land in question is about 3 acres, old alfalfa pasture that we are going to convert to a sustainable orchard with an ag-tourism angle. I have planted out an acre on a nearby parcel, but this one is lying fallow while we get a grip on how water flows on it in its current shape (badly). The solution has to be better than midnight excursions, setting and moving tarp dams for 12 hours. That's not sustainable in terms of human inputs.

Anyone know of any flood irrigation models or examples to study or true experts to consult?

Thanks.
 
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Are you saying you have one 12 hour period every 11 days and that the hassle is moving the tarp during that 12 hour period?

If the tarp could be set in one place, and the resulting flood collected by a drainage swale that would direct the water into a holding pond would that cure the hassle element and provide a basis for more regular watering systems for the planned orchard?

You may find these 2 videos should be of some help
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhATikyzLOo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X-BMbLBozA&feature=relmfu
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Thank you, had not seen the Don Tippetts video, and his flood irrigation strategies give me hope and some ideas. Looking for more like this, but the zig zag approach was my first thought too.

Right now on the parcel we are actively irrigating, we have to set and move dams very three hours to spread the water around to all the trees in this drought. Call me lazy but I don't want to do that at 3 am. If all you wanted was to grow hay and alfalfa like has been done here prior, you could just set the dam in a different spot every 11 days, so nobody cared about innovating. I will invest in the earthworks to do it right for our trees. We have the opportunity to do it better before the next planting, which I hope to configure with a proper head gate that I can open when I am 70+ in a few decades. (I should start a thread for aging in place on the homestead....). If you haven't set a dam tarp in a weedy ditch before, it's not as simple as it looks. I got a lesson from an old timer around here, which helped, but it's hard won experience that really teaches. If we can get the next 3 acres keylined/terraced/swaled, then I'll go back and fix the first acre. We are also looking at some siphon tubes to simplify the first parcel so we can use one head gate and no tarp. But no head gate installation until the canal is empty for the season, so at least three more months of tarp.

I need to find out if it is legal to collect the water into a pond at the head of our canal entry point. Luckily I just met a water rights attorney at the fire dept fundraiser. I believe we can store the take out at the bottom. Remember that Utah only legalized domestic rainwater collection 2-3 years ago, and only 100 gals of above water storage. All the rain belonged to the state before then. Like the idea of a solar pump to move water uphill. Or a small wind turbine. Wind, I've got.

 
Robin Hones
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I realize that logic and water rights don't necessarily coexist, but I would have thought that if you have the right to flood your land on the timing you gave, then what is the difference to divert the same amount of water into a holding pond for more dispersed or targetted use? You would be taking the same amount of water at the same time, just ultimately delivering it to your crops when you wanted to not on the basis of someone else's schedule.
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Logic vs legal: that conundrum has vexed us for time immemorial.

Off to set a dam, my share starts in 20 min.
 
Posts: 724
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Ann,
I was registering to start this same topic, so im glad to see im not the only one trying to figure out a more efficient way to flood irrigate..

i was wondering if the type of swale talked about in vol2 of Brad Lancasters water harvesting book (http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/books/volume2/ ) would work. I cant seem to find the name, but im referring to the type of swale that is only a few inches tall, but has a deep channel cut uphill of the berm to allow water to pool below the surface (most of the times, filled in with something to prevent twisted ankles) and thus inundate the subsoil.

Im not sure how that would work with existing trees.

also, is it possible to use gated irrigation pipe? Our water is delivered via 8in pipe to our water box, we then send it to the field via gated irrigation pipes. i am told this is the most efficeint way, and a large improvement over the tarp dam type setup (although the person who told me this may have been referring to my area specifically)

i hope you get something figured out, and please let us know what you end up doing.

thanks


 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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here is some more info about "Contour-furrow irrigation" that might help:
http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6245/

looks sort of like a bunch of mini swales to me. they could be set up ever so slightly off contour (1 ft drop per 100 ft furrow for example) to keep water moving in them.

 
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