Why is SIEP
If Colorado is to meet the growing demand for both agricultural and municipal water, we must develop new ways to improve the efficiency of water use, both on our farms and in our urban/surburban corridors.
Subsurface drip irigation – the practice of applying water directly to the root of the plant – presents the opportunity for rural landowners, farmers and ranchers, and municipal users to efficiently use one of Colorado’s most valuable resources and conserve significant amounts of irrigation water (between 25 and 60 percent) compared to current irrigation practices. It may not end water fights, but the technology could potentially ensure that all of Colorado’s geographic regions and economic sectors get the water they need.
They say, “Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting.” In Colorado, water fights between different regions of the state and different economic sectors are legendary.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the agricultural sector of the economy reasonably consumes around 90 percent of available surface and ground water in Western states. At the same time, Colorado’s Front Range municipalities are expected to attract one million new residents in the next few decades and those residents will need domestic water.
Advantages of Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Farmers
A study by Dr. Freddie R. Lamm of Kansas State University (read it here) identified enough advantages to subsurface drip irrigation to make it an intriguing irrigation option for Colorado farms. According to Dr. Lamm’s study, the advantages of subsurface drip irrigation include:
More efficient water use - soil evaporation and surface runoff is greatly reduced
Reduction of water quality hazards - less nutrient and chemical leaching due to deep percolation
Enhanced plant growth, crop yield, and quality
Decreased energy costs
A significant portion of the net worth of Colorado farmers resides in the value of a farmer’s water holdings. Preserving the ability to sell his or her water rights to other users, including municipalities, is critical to a farmer’s financial planning and economic well-being. Finding the solution to supplying the water needs of growing municipalities while simultaneously providing the ability to sustain traditional crop yields is the hope of this project.
Advantages of Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Colorado Urban and Suburban Homeowners
Irrigating lawns and landscaping consumes most of the water used in a typical Colorado home. Subsurface drip irrigation systems can reduce domestic water use and create an exonomic windfall for homeowners and municipalities.