Message from the Board Chair: Efficient Watering and Drip Irrigation
The California drought, along with the consequences of climate change, has put a major squeeze on the state’s water supply, particularly its disappearing groundwater. The efficient use of water has become a necessity and all sectors of the economy have been tasked with using water with conservation in mind.
I became personally aware of the importance of water conservation when living in northern Israel on Kibbutz Ramot Menashe in the 1970s. I was taking a year off from teaching and my wife was hired there as a kindergarten teacher. My job in the kibbutz water meter factory was to test and calibrate refurbished water meters. Israel then suffered from a scarcity of water and the accuracy of water meters was a critical conservation measure. By law, domestic and commercial water meters had to be refurbished and calibrated every three years.
My years in Israel also introduced me to many different kinds of water saving measures, from the reclamation of sewage for agricultural purposes to the pervasive use of drip irrigation, particularly drip irrigation made by the Israeli firm Netafim (a Hebrew word meaning “to drip”).
Netafim is also the drip irrigation product frequently used by River Partners in those instances where drip irrigation is appropriate. Because River Partners irrigates for only three years, when undertaking a restoration project we generally utilize the existing flood irrigation system on the property. In those instances in which there is limited water available or the topography is not conducive to furrow or flood irrigation, a drip system is used.
In its early years River Partners utilized a flat sub-surface product called T-Tape, irrigating plants from below the surface. Root intrusion into the lines along with other problems led the staff to switch to above surface drip tubing with in-line emitters inside the tubing.
However, the relatively short period in which we irrigate makes the use of drip irrigation an efficient but sometimes costly undertaking. For example, in the Colusa State Recreation Area Habitat Restoration Project, where the terrain precluded flood irrigation, we used twenty miles of quality drip hose with a 20-year lifespan and then took it up after the three-year irrigation period ended. We try to reuse the drip line if it isn’t too damaged or else it is recycled.
Israel now has a sufficient water supply but continues to require the refurbishment and calibration of water meters. The years of scarcity led it to develop a water culture that is reflected in its present water related practices. California may now be facing years of scarcity and time will tell whether or not this will lead to the adoption of a sustainable water culture that shapes its water related practices.
The above article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of the River Partners Journal.