What is SIEP?
The Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project is a permanent research facility on a 165 acre parcel of land donated by the 70 Ranch in Weld County, The facility conduct experiments on subsurface irrigation that can be used by farmers in the South Platte River Basin to conserve irrigation water and improve their ability to withstand droughts, while improving productivity, crop quality and overall profitability.
SIEP will also study and offer innovative solutions to urban homeowners and farmers who want to continue to enjoy green landscaping by using subsurface irrigation technologies to reduce their water bills and preserve natural resources.
The premise of SIEP is that Colorado water policy does not have to be an either/or proposition, where water is available for either agricultural use or municipal use, but not both. SIEP seeks to develop a basin-wide solution that provides a sufficient amount of water to maintain a thriving agricultural sector while satisfying the needs of growing municipalities.
What is Subsurface Irrigation?
First-century Chinese farmers practiced a form of subsurface irrigation by filling clay pots with water and burying them in the ground so that gradual water leakage from the pots would irrigate the roots of nearby crops.
Today, Netafim has turned the primitive clay pot technology into a high tech system where dripline, or "tape." is buried below the soil’s surface, supplying water, fertilizers, and pesticides directly to plants’ roots. This allows the user to only supply the consumptive portion of the water to the plant, nearly eliminating waste due to evaporation. For similar reasons, the quantity of fertilizers and pesticides are greatly reduced as well, creating economic and environmental savings.
Subsurface drip irrigation systems have been credited with enabling parts of the Negev Desert to support sizeable successful farming operation. United Water & Sanitation District and Jewish Colorado have cooperated in sponsoring public official tours of Israel’s water efficiency projects and Negev research facilities.
What makes SIEP unique?
The concept of subsurface irrigation is not new to Colorado. E.B. House, a researcher at Colorado State University, published a study of “Irrigation by means of underground porous pipe” in 1918 and the Fagerberg Farms won the 2010 Colorado Association of Farm District’s Farm Conservationist of the Year and the 2015 Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year awards for the successful use of subsurface irrigation at their Eaton operation.
SIEP will add to the existing body of research on subsurface irrigation with the permanence of its research mission, the amount of acreage dedicated to the project and its unique plan to study the impact of drought-like situations on crops irrigated with subsurface irrigation technology.
The SIEP research facility will allow farmers in the Platte River valley and other semi-arid regions to make informed decisions related to the optimum level of irrigation that will result in desirable water savings and increased revenues but not reduce crop yields beyond a certain target.
The SIEP research facility will also provide a real-time demonstration of sub-surface irrigation on common suburban lawns and the water savings that can be achieved by residential homeowners through the use of this technology.