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title image: Huntington-Cleveland Project Chronicle

Agricultural Production

The Huntington-Cleveland Irrigation Company, as currently organized, serves approximately 20,000 acres. The century-old distribution system and the low application efficiencies of the non-improved on-farm irrigation systems limits the number of acres that can be fully irrigated in any
given year.

Agriculture in the project area is livestock-based and requires a substantial and continuous supply of forage, either as fed-hay or for grazing. Producers without livestock supply hay for the local market as well more distant markets. In this arid area, all forage is grown with water applied by irrigation systems.

On soils conducive to agricultural production, rotations of 6-8 years or longer of alfalfa followed by one to two years of small grain have been common. The small grains are rarely allowed to ripen but are harvested as hay. Most often the small grain is oats harvested as hay and used to prepare the rotation for succeeding alfalfa plantings. Some producers include corn for silage in the rotation.  Some will leave the corn standing in the field and turn the cows in for fall and winter pasture.  Fields are usually aftermath grazed during the fall and winter.

Some fields are planted to tame pasture mixes and hayed and grazed.  Livestock often are not confined during the winter but fed hay on the pastures and hay fields during the winter.  Many areas of irrigation induced wet meadows are also grazed but production and quality is generally poor.

A very high percentage of producers work full time at other jobs, particularly in the local coal mines and power plants. This off-farm work prevents them from tending their irrigation water as intensively as needed for optimum efficiency and production. The irrigation application efficiencies on some older systems is often 25% or less. Put another way, only one quarter of the water delivered is utilized by growing crops. The remainder runs off the field, deep percolates below the root zone, leaks from ditches or is consumed by non-crop plants.

photo: sprinklers on crop land
New efficient sprinkler system

Construction of a state-of-the-art conveyance system, implementation of high-efficiency in-field application systems, and the ability and knowledge to apply a high level of water management will reap many benefits for the water-users in the project area. In addition to significant water savings due to increased application efficiency, significant reductions in salt loading to the Price and San Rafael Rivers, hence the Green River and ultimately the Colorado River will provide water quality benefits to downstream users. Closer to home, agricultural producers will have the opportunity and ability to improve forage quality and quantity, decrease their labor requirements and increase profitability.

 

Last updated: August 5, 2008