market-farming digest/fwd: Irrigation System

FranksFarm at FranksFarm at
Mon Jan 15 08:22:42 EST 2001

Hi All:)

This reply was written by Marc on the market-farming list to my question on 
irrigation. I thought this discussion might be of interest to others as well 
so I'm forwarding to some of my favorite lists for their comments. Hopefully 
the answers will help others faced with similar decisions! 

Marc, I appreciated your lengthy reply.

I'll try and answer some of the very pertinent questions you have raised.

<<First thing is check and see if you can take the water.>>  I can:)  About a 
mile of the  creek is within my western boundary. 

<<If you intend to water 70 acres that's a lot of water
and pump.>>  Yes, I realize this. But hopefully will only need to use the 
system for irrigation occasionally. Primary purpose will be for watering 
pasture fed cattle. I'd like to move water storage tubs around to spread 
field use. So flexibility is a key. I now have 35 head but plan to expand to 
100. Three or 4* 300 gallon tanks per day should be sufficient.

I'd like to somehow automate the system. Perhaps pump to a larger storage 
tank where the water can flow by gravity to where needed. However I'm 
concerned about details on piping, and pump required. Plus the bulkiness, 
transportability, set up time of the hoses.

Cost is also a major consideration.

2. <<Is the stream polluted? Pesticides and fertilizer from ag
runoff, industrial waste.>>  I'm fortunate. Stream is so clean, and pure that 
it is one of the few designated Trout Streams in the state of Kentucky.  And 
it never dries up! There is a wide, deep stream bed. But I'm told heavy 
rains, and swift run off from the surrounding hills can cause stream to rise 
10-15' and overflow it's banks.
This has not happened in last 3 years.

Width and depth of stream, flow rate varies quite a bit depending on 
rain/snow run offs.

I'd say maximum average on my property is around 60' minimum average around 
Depth too will vary. From several feet deep, to sometimes a foot or two with 
several deeper pools along it's length of around 4-5'.

3. <<What is the minimum to maximum rise in land away from the
river where your pumping system will have to lift the water?>> On west bank 
of the stream there is a steep, sloping, high ridge that runs the length of 
the creek on my property. This ridge falls to the creek on both it's northern 
and southern edges on my property. Land on west bank will remain as is. No 
water needed there.

On the east bank, once over the primary banks which are close to 10' above 
water at 2'-3' water level there are a number of channels carved out by the 
stream that vary in depth and height, but that are mostly lower than the 
primary bank or at most only a few feet above it.

Bottoms on the east bank are fairly flat. Length is ca 5000' running north to 
south . Width varies but an average of 600' or so for these bottoms would not 
be too far off.
There might be a drop of a few feet from the extreme southern end to the 
northern, but it is fairly gradual.

So depending on system chosen. I might have to raise water to a tank situated 
above the fields, or simply 20' or less if just pumped to the tanks. 

The closest elevations to the creek would be the ridge on the western edge, 
which is fairly steep but only rises perhaps a 100' on that side. On the 
bottom side on the extreme sw edge there is a steep hill that rise perhaps 
200' or so. But that places it a long way from Northern edge...over 5000'.

4. <<What do you intend to grow? Not all crops use the same
amount of water.>>  Mostly grass, perhaps some corn, and a small market 
garden of 2-5 acres that can grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs. 
Possibly a strawberry patch. Strawberries need lots of water.

5. <<How often will you need to water them?>>  That depends primarily on 
rainfall, ground moisture and requirements of specific produce/crops. Thus 
certain areas may need more water than others. I'd like to use drip system 
for market garden area. But need some expert advice on best system, proven 
field tested products available at reasonable cost.

6. <<A smaller pump can be used if run constantly and it's output managed 
around the
fields.>> I'd prefer a pump that can be easily moved from spot to spot a few 
times a week, is relatively maintenance, high quality at lowest cost, is easy 
to connect and disconnect and that will last.

I've also thought about having a few ram pumps like the Amish use and put 
them in strategic locations along creek. Of course then I'd need to find a 
way to store and distribute the water. 

7. <<Larger pumps -- especially turbines -- can exhibit
much higher efficiencies than centrifugals.>> I'm aware of the efficiencies 
but unfortunately don't know much about them in terms of sizing, water 
volumes needed, pressures and other important details beyond my ken:)

8. << Have you researched the various techniques used for irrigation?>> To a 
degree. But those large guns, and huge overhead sprinkler systems are 
definitely NOT what I have in mind.

 I'm looking for a system that would be suitable for a small farm, that is 
relatively inexpensive, offers maximum flexibility, little maintenance, is 
not expensive to operate, does not rely on electricity and that does the job 
with only one person! A tall order...but I'm hoping some folks on the list 
have actually worked out such systems.

Whew...this post has gotten long. Hopefully others may also be able to 
benefit from this discussion. Look forward to your comments.

All the best.  Frank

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