Irrigation: Ranch Water Management

Aug 15, 2017 -- Posted by : admin

The journey of a single water droplet, funneled to your field, pond, or reservoir begins right around closing day of your local ski area. As temperature increases and winter secedes to make way for spring, snow melt trickles downhill, navigating to a luxury ranch like High Plains Ranch. A nearly prehistoric tradition dating back to the Egyptians, irrigation proves to be a prolific practice thousands of years later.

In the United States, irrigation developed out of necessity. Farmers needed a way to capture water for cash crops. Similarly, ranchers of the Rocky Mountains needed a way to supply and store water for livestock.

Magnificent sunset over a mountain lake and snowcapped peaks.

Depending on the intent of your irrigation initiatives, take crucial considerations before digging ditches. One mistake many ranch owners make, is not properly researching a property’s water rights. With any parcel of land, the Appropriation Doctrine outlines parameters of water rights. For example, how much water usage is allotted or if water can be stored in mass quantities on the property.

If entitlements are limited, ranch owners can opt to purchase water rights from someone else. While it is possible to excavate wells for irrigation purposes, in Colorado it is uncommon to drill a well deep enough to reach the aquifer. For this reason, flood irrigation is the most common practice in the Rocky Mountains.

Corrugated irrigation tubes.

The process of flood irrigation begins with diverting snow melt from natural creeks or rivers with man made ditches. If your main water source is far away, a trench (deeper and less wide) is used to funnel the flow to your desired endpoint. Once the water reaches it’s destination, i.e. field, lateral ditches are used to disperse the water from a high to low area. Ideally, you catch the superfluous water in a low damned area. Typically, an irrigation reservoir or pond.

Restricted water usage may call for the installation of flow sensors and water meters. These tools can help you maintain proper water usage and reduce water waste in the event of a leak or blockage from a beaver dam.

Irrigation duct.

While beavers and their dams are a nuisance we’d rather do without, plastic and nylon dams strategically placed will improve your entire irrigation system. By harnessing water flow, you can proactively catch and store snow melt to ensure a continuous supply of irrigation water.

Typically placed at the start of a culvert, headgates help control where water flows and are essential to your water management system. Today we see efficient, modernized models, welded together with strong metals. Whether winged, pull-handle or drop-in, there is a headgate option for your needs.

Irrigation encourages rich plant growth crucial for a well-rounded ranch property. However, if water management is ignored, sagebrush and other wasteland plant material would take over, turning the Rocky Mountain region into a high planes desert. Irrigation attracts a diverse array of wildlife species, indirectly improving certain habitats – including your own.

Water control gate.

For more information on irrigation practices or to inquire about available properties, please contact Ranch Sellers.


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