The Verde Natural Resources Reserve will hold a local working group meeting at the Camp Verde Community Library on May 12 to discuss community resource concerns and to inform the NRCD’s long-term funding recommendations for future projects. Helped set goals.
The meeting brought together members of the community to decide which issues were important to them, such as irrigation efficiency and conservation of rural space.
John Ford of The Nature Conservancy gave a presentation on irrigation efficiency and best practices for surface water use in the Verde Valley. Only 2% of Verde Valley is riparian, but those areas are important for 80% of wildlife, Ford said.
The Verde Valley has about 40 irrigation canals, most of them small, that divert surface water from the rivers. Mr. Ford argued that ditch irrigation management is difficult and stressed the importance of smart agriculture.
Ford’s presentation also detailed the different ways water diversion, transport and on-farm stages can achieve greater efficiencies. Diversion efficiencies include using automatic headgates to enhance water management and permit recreation and fish passage in diversions.
To increase transport efficiency, we modify our pipes to move water faster and with less loss. Efficiency on farms includes using more efficient irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation. The least efficient irrigation method is wild flood irrigation, which is 30% to 50% efficient, surface drip irrigation is 75% to 90% efficient, and underground drip irrigation is 85% to 95% efficient.
Conservation groups are considering introducing a soil moisture meter program to help residents assess how much water they really need to be productive.
University of Arizona Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Director Matt Halverson discussed available farm programs for residents to participate in. The farmer apprenticeship program in this extension matches farmers with apprentices and pays farmers $10,000 a year to accept and mentor apprentices. Halverson noted that many people want to start a career in agriculture but lack a background in that field.
The Water Efficiency Improvement Program pays up to $1,500 per acre when growers achieve a 20% improvement in efficiency by switching to more efficient methods of flood irrigation, such as sprinklers, drips and pivots.
Sierra Frydenlund, Soil Conservation Activist for the Department of Natural Resources Conservation, spoke about the NRCS project, which provides financial and technical assistance to farmers, including soil surveys and water conservation plans, and how snow depth determines snowmelt. She shared the research she has done, such as calculating the
Carter Benton of Salt River Projects provided an update on water arbitrage in the Verde Valley. The Verde Valley is subject to the Gila River ruling, with 87,000 individual claims. Benton argued that groundwater withdrawal remains a problem, along with lack of data and lack of regulation.
Erin Cody, Director of the Verde NRCD Environmental Education Center, gave participants a demonstration of the permeability of different soils. After showing that while gravel allows water to pass through easily, sand slows flow, and sandy clay loam, which is common in the area, completely blocks flow, Cody explains the porous nature of clay loam. He pointed out that the lack is the cause of many floods. Verde Valley.
He also pointed out that flood irrigation does not absorb water, meaning more water stays on the surface, allowing it to evaporate, increasing inefficiency. Also, as Cody demonstrated using a rainfall simulator, clay loam lacks porosity, which reduces absorption and allows for greater erosion. In the improved sandy clay loam, he had an inch of mulch on top which greatly reduced runoff and increased the amount of water that penetrated the ground.