Conservation Practices That Save: Irrigation Water Management
As agricultural water supplies emerge as a critical natural resource issue, efficient irrigation practices and management strategies are essential in helping to meet our food and fiber production needs. As the nation’s largest water user, agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s annual water consumption. One tool for helping producers decrease water consumption while optimizing production is Irrigation Water Management ( IWM). IWM plays a crucial role in the conservation of water, and it can also save a producer time and labor.
IWM encourages the application of water in an amount that meets the need of the growing plant while avoiding extended soil saturation and runoff. By increasing application precision and reducing unneeded applications, water can be conserved and energy can be saved.
IWM is managing the rate, amount, and timing of water application according to a certain crops needs. IWM can help irrigators determine the effectiveness of irrigation practices, help to make good management decisions, and provide justification for any adjustments to an existing system through the use of soil moisture sensors, tensiometers, and real-time data loggers. It can also help improve management of salts in the crop root zone, manage soil moisture to promote desired crop yields, as well as helping to manage the air, soil, or plant micro-climates.
While IWM has benefits for the producer and crops, it also leads to many environmental benefits. Some of those benefits include: Minimizing irrigation induced soil erosion, decreasing non-point source pollution of water resources, and improving air quality by managing soil moisture to reduce wind erosion.
A properly operated, maintained, and managed irrigation system is a valuable asset to any farm or ranch. Besides the obvious benefit of delivering water to crops, an irrigation system can help a producer optimize the use of available water supplies. A producer can take things one step further by integrating IWM into their routine and really get the most “bang for the buck” out of his or her irrigation system. If you are interested in what IWM can do for your operation, please stop by or call your local NRCS office.