Reducing Sediment Loading into the San Joaquin River from Westside Agricultural Lands

Project Lead: West Stanislaus RCD

Potential Project Partners:
NRCS, irrigation districts, Westside Coalition.

Short Project Description:
Improve irrigation technology with buried drip and sprinkler irrigation systems that allow for the capacity to irrigate a variety of crop types and effectively eliminate erosion of sediment off of farm fields when compared to traditional, flood irrigation practices. Sediment loading results in reduced capacity of and increased flooding in Westside Creeks and the San Joaquin River.

Long Project Description:
Sediment erosion into Westside creeks and the San Joaquin River from agricultural land on the west side of Stanislaus and Merced Counties has been an ongoing problem since the inception of agriculture in that region. The sediment loading results in reduced capacity of and increased flooding in Westside Creeks and the San Joaquin River as well as diminished farm land productivity and increased pollution and costs.

Recent improvements in irrigation technology for large acreages allows for significant reductions in the amount of sediment eroding off of farmland. The improvements include buried drip and sprinkler irrigation systems that allow for the capacity to irrigate a variety of crop types and that effectively eliminate erosion of sediment off of farm fields when compared to traditional, flood irrigation practices.

These irrigation systems are in high demand because of increased crop production and reduced costs to growers allowing for more precise application of amendments. But, the systems remain cost prohibitive if producers must shoulder their full cost. NRCS and Proposition 84 State funds have cost-shared with producers to fund these types of irrigation systems but demand and need significantly outstrips funding capacity and State funds are no longer available.

Approximately 45% of the irrigated land on the Westside of the San Joaquin River has been converted to either drip or sprinkler systems in the last 10 years. Along with improved irrigation management, the use of PAM, sediment retention ponds and tail-water recirculation systems there has been an approximately 50% reduction in sediment loading to the San Joaquin River over the last 35 years. Our goal is to reduce sediment loading by 95% when compared to 1979 figures and convert over 80% of the agricultural land to drip or sprinkler irrigation systems (a total of approximately 65,000 acres).

Along with the implementation of recent advances in irrigation technologies we will also look at the feasibility of developing wetlands in strategic places on the Westside that further reduce sediment loading to the creeks and the river. Reducing sediment loads to the San Joaquin River has the added benefit of improving water quality by also reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides reaching surface waters.

Unique Project Characteristics:
Reduces sediment loading to the San Joaquin River, reduces the buildup of choke points and flooding potential in the San Joaquin River, improves farming practices that come with economic and environmental improvements, increases acreage of wetland habitats.

Project Status Ongoing with an existing list of interested producers.
Project Cost $65,000,000
Project Timeframe 15 years
Cost-sharing NRCS 33%, grower 33%, RFMP 33% or development of funds for low interest loans to growers, repaid and available indefinitely for farm improvements that conserve water, protect water resources and reduce flooding risks.
Multi-benefit Project Yes
Types of benefits The project would improve flood risk management, improve operations and maintenance, and promote multi-benefit projects.
Source of Project West Stanislaus Resource Conservation District

 

Background Information:
None provided.