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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flood Irrigation - Orange Groves

I was approached by a orange grove owner with 10 acres of orange groves to possibly grow vegetables in between the trees.    I don't have experience with oranges and was aware that they are watered from the Gage Canal.   The Gage canal was built between 1885 and 1889 to supply water to the newly planted Orange Grove in Riverside CA.   This provided a steady source of water and allowed the citrus industry to flourish.   The Gage canal is still in use today providing water for over a 1000 acres of orange groves in Riverside.  

Here are some images of the canal as it looks today

The landowners retain their water rights and  can purchase the water for their groves at a lower price than city water.  

This orchard utilizes Gage canal water and get its water about  2 times a month.  The water turns on and runs for 48 hours.  This allows the trees to get a deep watering which is what citrus trees need to thrive.    
Here's a picture of the water running along furrows along the tree's drip line.

The downfall of flood irrigation is that there tends to be a lot of runoff.    This is where I am working to retain as much water in the orchard as possible and reduce runoff.

Here are some pictures of the runoff, and finally the end of the road for all the run off.  A city storm drain so the water ends up wasted and becomes what is called urban drool.  

Part of the solution.   I have been digging retention basins between the trees to keep as much water in the orchard as possible.   We plan on planting vegetables in the basins to take advantage of water that would otherwise go to waste.  The wire around the basins is to keep the rabbits out when we plant vegetables.   Here are some pictures of the basins.  Some haven't filled up yet, some are partially filled and some are flooded.   Keeping more water in the orchard is also better for the trees.   This isn't a commentary on whether flood irrigation is good or bad, just my thoughts on reducing runoff.