Farmers describe irrigation costs, benefits: Labor costs may offset water savings of sprinkler systems
Dennis Wichelns, University of Rhode Island
Laurie Houston, Rhode Island
David Cone, Broadview Water District
Qiming Zhu, California Health Foundation
James E. Wilen, UC Davis
California Agriculture 50(1):11-18. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v050n01p11.
In recent years San Joaquin Valley farmers have improved irrigation methods to reduce subsurface drain water and make more efficient use of limited water supplies. Water-saving methods include sprinklers and gated pipe. However, these methods involve higher labor and energy costs, which may exceed the value of water saved when switching from surface irrigation methods, such as furrow irrigation with siphon tubes. Although more expensive, when sprinklers are used correctly they provide better leaching of salts while generating less subsurface drain water than surface methods. Public policies that reduce the capital cost of investing in sprinkler systems, and research to develop better surface irrigation methods, will assist farmers in continuing their efforts to improve irrigation water management while maintaining economic viability.
D. Wichelns is Associate Professor, Department of Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island; L. Houston is Natural Resource Economist, Kingston, Rhode Island; D. Cone is Manager, Broadview Water District, Firebaugh, CA; Q. Zhu was Graduate Student, University of Rhode Island, and now is Research Scientist, California Health Foundation, Sacramento; J. Wilen is Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, UC Davis;
This research was supported by the California and Rhode Island Agricultural Experiment Stations, the USDA Cooperative State Research Service and the Water Conservation Office in the California Department of Water Resources.