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Front Page » June 13, 2006 » Local News » Salinity control program, conservation association manage...
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Salinity control program, conservation association manager defines benefits of pressurized sprinkler irrigation system

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For nearly a century, farmers and ranchers near Ferron have been flood irrigating.

In the arid region, the practice has resulted in large salt accumulations in Ferron Creek, a tributary to the San Rafael and Colorado River, and caused damage to agricultural soils.

But today, a pressurized system allows sprinkler irrigation equipment to water nearly 9,000 acres of farmland, indicated Colorado River Basin salinity control program and state conservation representatives.

Funded by the salinity control program, the system has prevented nearly 30,000 tons of salt annually from entering the Colorado River.

Salt accumulation has been decreased by reducing deep percolation, eliminating canal and ditch seepage while improving efficiency of surface irrigation by installing the pressurized sprinkler system, pointed out the program and conservation district representatives.

Prior to the initiation of salinity control efforts, the overall efficiency of floor irrigating agricultural soils was about 30 percent.

After the development of control measures, efficiency has increased to 67 percent.

The basin-wide effort to reduce salt mobilization and transport to the Colorado River is the goal of the salinity control program.

Since the Colorado is the primary source of domestic water for approximately 27 million people and provides irrigation for more than 3.5 million acres of farmland, keeping concentration of salt in the river as low as possible is important.

"The program is a great example of cooperative conservation at the grassroots community level," noted Roger Barton, a manager with the Utah Association of Conservation Districts. "Ninety-seven percent of the farmland has replaced floor irrigation with the sprinkler irrigation."

The reduction in salt has also provided another benefit to Ferron agriculture producers, a continued water supply in the the fall, explained Bartor. By late summer in years prior to salinity control efforts, the supply of water for the farming would typically be depleted.

In 2005, irrigation water remained in the reservoirs until late November.

And not all of the water stored in the reservoirs was used.

The surplus water was something that had never been seen by longtime residents of the community, according to salinity control program and state conservation districts representatives .

"This is a win-win situation for everyone - the producers to the fish and wildlife services, to the local community and the economics of the area," said Tracy Behling, president of the Ferron Canal and Reservoir Company. "Everybody wins with the completion of the Ferron project through the salinity program."

The program is a partnership effort between agricultural producers, federal agencies, the seven Colorado River Basin states, water users and the salinity control forum.

Collectively, the program is reducing the amount of salt in the Colorado River while allowing water use to continue to be developed.

The effort is a partnership under the Colorado River Basin salinity control program.

The Ferron project received sponsorship from the United States Bureau of Reclamation, the federal department of agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with support from the Colorado River Basin salinity control forum.

The reclamation bureau sponsored the off-farm improvements and the NRCS sponsored the on-farm improvements, with funding from the environmental quality incentives and basin states programs.

Environmental quality incentives and basin states parallel program funding was provided through the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

A celebration was presented at Millsite State Park to commemorate completion of the Ferron irrigation project and the success of the Colorado River Basin salinity control program, pointed out the state and local officials.

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