One of my great concerns about starting a garden is having access to enough water. Even with permaculture techniques, which help to reduce water usage through the use of grey water, swales, lasagna layers, etc, the very dry mountain desert climate I live in needs water to grow anything and keep growing.
The irrigation water comes from the snow melt from the Sawtooth National Forest that my town of Boise, Idaho is nestled at the base of.
So, a big summer project for my husband, D, and I has been setting up an irrigation pump system to water our garden, trees, and remaining yard. The neighborhood we live in has access to pressure irrigation. In Boise, pressure irrigation means using water diverted from the Boise River and distributing it through large irrigation canals and smaller irrigation laterals to local neighborhoods throughout the city. We have a small ditch that runs through the back of our half-acre property and we pay each year for the use of water one day each week. We can use and store as much water as we are able to hold during our designated day. It costs significantly less than using city water which is our only other option as we don’t have a private or community well.
Here are some pictures of what we have done so far:
One issue we have noticed over the summer is a significant drop in the water level in our ditch. It would not be enough to back fill the can in the ground when the pump is running at its current levels. After talking with several neighbors who access water from the same ditch, we realized that we are not alone. We reached out to our neighborhood irrigation manager, who agreed to look into the issue and invited us to join him as he literally walked the ditch line to see if there are any blockages. We quickly discovered that several homes above us have not properly cleaned out their ditches of grass, weeds, etc., which quickly impair the flow of water over the years.
We spent about four hours yesterday trimming the grass and weeds growing along the ditches as well as clearing out the overgrowth of moss in the ditches we were able to access, and trying to build good relationships with the neighbors to hopefully help the irrigation manager as he works to keep all the neighbors happy (an impossible job in itself). It is likely we will need to repeat this at least once a year in order to keep the water flowing through the neighborhood.
It can be a tricky thing, working with neighbors, some of whom are renters and homeowners who do not use irrigation water to water their lawns and therefore do not care about whether their section of the ditch is cleared. By law, the irrigation manager is allowed access to the ditches, and there is supposed to be a 5 foot easement on each side of the ditch, so it is not technically on someone’s property, but in order to access it he needs permission to walk through their yard.
We are hoping to see an improvement in our water level this evening as a result of the clearing we did yesterday when they turn the water on for our section of the ditch. And, we will be working on the pump this afternoon, so I may have an update for this topic by this evening!