United States Department of Agriculture

                            Natural Resources
                            Conservation Service
                  Helping People Help the Land


       United States Department of Agriculture

A                   Natural Resources
"=II                Conservation Service

        Helping People Help the Land
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is the USDA agency that provides
technical assistance to individuals, groups, and units of government. These custom­
ers develop and implement conservation plans to protect, conserve, and enhance
their natural resources.

Conservation planning helps farmers make more effective decisions based on sound
conservation planning principles and plans. Land management decisions by land­
owners are more important than ever for addressing water resources for water
quantity, water quality, and erosion concerns.

Today's irrigation farmers strive to implement the most efficient irrigation systems
available. Micro subsurface drip irrigation meets the needs for many producers
looking to achieve less soil surface evaporation and to attain more uniform wetting

NRCS Engineer Greg Sokora said, "In accordance
with NRCS technical standards and specifications,
subsurface drip irrigation systems are designed to
meet a 96 percent efficiency rating and have been
proven to meet this standard through field testing.
"From a water-wise perspective, subsurface drip irrigation systems operate at field
efficiencies which are near the maximum achievable limit for cropland applications:'

He said, "When properly designed and managed, subsurface drip irrigation systems
can exhibit a yield advantage over other types of irrigation systems due to the crop
response to daily irrigation and micro nutrient application:'

Many customers contact the local NRCS and soil and water conservation districts
because they want professional advice for managing the natural resources on their
land. While conservation cost-share and land management practices are beneficial,
they serve no purpose without conservation technical assistance.
Drip irrigation is a system used to deliver frequent
application of small quantities of water on or below the
soil surface as drops, tiny streams or miniature spray
through emitters or applicators placed along a water
delivery line.
Subsurface drip irrigation uses buried lines and emitters
to apply slow, frequent applications of water to the soil
surrounding plant roots. Water losses from surface
evaporation and runoff are eliminated and this can help
the producer achieve higher irrigation efficiencies.
This conservation irrigation practice is appropriate for
vineyards, orchards, field crops, windbreaks, gardens,
greenhouse crops and residential and commercial
landscape systems.
Micro or subsurface drip irrigation systems properly
designed, installed, and maintained use less water and
can increase crop yields.
There are several key points for producers to consider if
they want to upgrade their existing irrigation system to
subsurface drip irrigation.
Management is the major cause of success or failure of
a micro or subsurface drip irrigation system and has a
significant impact upon crop yields.
Monitor the system flow rate by using an accurate and
reliable flowmeter to maintain desired irrigation appli­
cations to growing crops.
Monitor system pressure(s) both at the filter station and
zone valves; pressure variations from the design values
can signal potential problems
It is essential to monitor preseason applications to
avoid over-watering, which causes deep percolation
losses and limits moisture for seed germination.
Know the soil moisture-holding capacity of your soil
and the consumptive use of the crop at various growth
stages to accurately apply the irrigation water to the
crop root zone.

Routine maintenance is essential to keep drip lines and
emitters from clogging. Regular flushing of the drip
lines, along with chlorination or acidification at the end
of the crop season, helps the drip lines stay clean.
Make sure that the filter system is working properly;
even if it is automatic, it needs constant monitoring.
Clean filters and make adjustments if needed
Rodents often gnaw the drip tape, which necessitates
When not in use, drain and place the removable part of
the system in an area where it will not be damaged
from freezing weather conditions.
Check and assure proper operation of the backflow
protection devices when injecting fertilizer and chemi­
Check chemical injection equipment regularly to ensure
it is operating properly.
EQIP was reauthorized in the Food, Conservation, and
Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) to provide a voluntary
conservation program for farmers and ranchers that
promotes agricultural production and environmental
quality as compatible national goals.
EQIP is a continuous sign-up program that allows
landowners or operators to apply for financial and
technical assistance for the application of specific
conservation practices. Higher priority will be given to
those applications that address national, state and local
priorities and provide higher cost efficiency.
NRCS in Texas supports the locally led process through
local work groups and provides EQIP funding to every
county. The State Technical Advisory Committee and
Local Work Groups have concurred in the practices
eligible for financial assistance to treat identified
resource concerns.
In Texas, financial assistance funds will be used to
address both the local high priority practices identified
by the Local Work Group and the statewide resource
concerns identified by the State Technical Advisory
Committee. Landowners and operators will choose the
practices and system that best fits their needs.
For more information, contact the NRCS field office in
your local USDA Service Center.

Irrigation Provisions through EQIP
For applications that include water conservation or
irrigation efficiency conservation practices, the 2008
Farm Bill requires NRCS to give priority to applications
that demonstrate a reduction in water use by the
agricultural operation. As a condition of receiving a
higher ranking with the grouping of water conservation
applications, the producer agrees not to use any associ­
ated water savings to bring new land under irrigation
production, excluding incidental land needed for
efficient operations.
        Conservation Planning & Technical Assistance
                                                             Helps Make Every Drop of Irrigation Count
                                                                                                by Quenna Terry

Burt and Eric Heinrich were impressed enough with the
subsurface drip irrigation system they installed with
assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation
Service they put more in on their own nickel.
Working through the Lubbock Soil and Water Conserva­
tion District and the NRCS in Lubbock County, the
Heinrich brothers used Environmental Quality Incen­
tives Program (EQIP) funding two of the last five years
to upgrade row water irrigation systems to micro or
subsurface drip irrigation on 100 acres.
After managing their first subsurface drip irrigation
systems, they wanted to add more drip on more of their
irrigated farms. They made additional applications for
EQIP, but did not receive the funding. So they decided
to install the subsurface drip irrigation at their own cost
because the systems had been so successful.
Improvement has been significant.
In 2007, their cotton yields ranged from 1,460 pounds
to 1,940 pounds per acre. Yields on the subsurface drip
irrigated acres topped out on the high end. "With
better management of fertilizers and the elimination of
runoff or evaporation, we are accomplishing more than
we have in the past using drip irrigation;' Burt said.
Currently, they manage 550 acres of subsurface drip
                                                                   "With the irrigation planning and
irrigation, about one fourth of their total farming acres
in the Lubbock, Texas, area.                                       designs being approved through
Since available irrigation water is their limiting factor,         the NRCS, I know our systems are
the Heinrichs continually strive to implement the most             meeting better standards and
improved and efficient irrigation systems with precision
                                                                   we are utilizing our water more
"Our primary objective is to utilize our irrigation water
                                                                   efficiently. "
better with drip irrigation systems;' said Burt. "With the
irrigation planning and designs being approved
through the NRCS, I know our systems are meeting
better standards and we are utilizing our water more
Eighty percent of total irrigated acreage in Texas is in    The Heinrich's drip irrigation system applies irrigation
the High Plains and South Plains regions. Many produc­      water to the crop below the ground surface at a 14-inch
ers in this region look to the Natural Resources Conser­    depth in precise amounts. As a result of precision
vation Service (NRCS) to help plan irrigation systems       application of irrigation water, the Heinrichs contend
that make the most efficient use of their water.            that with one good planting rain, they are on their way
Landowners and managers like Burt and Eric Heinrich         with drip.
have worked with NRCS to plan and install micro or          They say drip irrigation offers more flexibility in manag­
subsurface drip irrigation for 10 years.                    ing the crop and allows more time for foliar application,
Irrigation water management is just one of the conser­      growth inhibitors and late season irrigation.
vation practices funded through the EQIP program,           "NRCS systems are designed to meet high levels of
which enables the NRCS to assist private landowners         uniformity and field efficiency;' Namken said. "When
and managers, like the Heinrichs, with water conserva­      properly managed, micro irrigation can exhibit a yield
tion.                                                       advantage over other types of irrigation systems due to
                                                            the crop response to daily irrigation and micro nutrient
A conservation plan takes all the                           application:'
components of an operation into
account, merging production,
economics and conservation into
a workable plan specific to each
operation and individual.
Conservation planning options include additional
benefits for farm bill program participation. Local work
groups for the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program (EQIP) will recommend a conservation plan
development for EQIP contract ranking. By agreeing to
a conservation plan, a producer's contract will be
placed as a high priority in the application process for
"As available irrigation water in the region continues to
decline, producers have to use their water more
efficiently while trying to maximize production;' said
Cleon Namken, NRCS irrigation specialist. "Precision
application promotes better use of irrigation, which is
what the Henirichs are looking for to maximize water
use efficiency:'
With the increased demand for subsurface drip irriga­
tion, NRCS engineers are working to ensure USDA-NRCS
standards and specifications for system designs are
being met by the subsurface drip irrigation industry.
                                 Bridging the Head Gates

                                                                                        by Dee Ann Uttlefield

Wise use of natural resources is one of the primary goals
of the USDA-f\IRCS.ln areas where these resources are in
limited supply, sometimes a new, creative approach can
address a historic problem.
With the help of the NRCS and the Tom Green Soil and
Water Conservation District (SWCDj, San Angelo, Texas,
residents are getting a handle on drought. Recognizing
a need to save water, representatives from various
groups and agencies in Tom Green County formed a
"Bridging the Head Gates" partnership to find a solution
to address water shortage for the city of San Angelo.
The Bureau of Reclamation was the major financial
partner and the NRCS served as technical service
provider for the project.
Through an agreement with the City of San Angelo, the
Tom Green County Water Control and Improvement
District #1 voluntarily traded their fresh water supply to
the city for use by San Angelo residents. In return, the
water district receives a greater volume of treated
wastewater for farming purposes. This is the first known
demonstrations of this kind in the United States.
Improvement has been significant.
Brothers Ralph and Glen Kellemeir farm cotton in the
community of Veribest, east of San Angelo. They agreed
to have the project implemented on their farm.
The NRCS designed a drip irrigation system to achieve
an adequate delivery rate, and manage impurities such
as algae and debris. The water is delivered to the
cotton plants through 43 miles of irrigation tape
and one-and-a-half miles of PVC pipe, all buried
about 12" underground.
                                                        Subsurface Dri
While serving as Water District Manager and                      USING TREATED WASTEWATER FROM CANAL
chairman of the Tom Green SWCD, Clayton
                                                                   . Bridging the Head Gate Partnership.

Friend initiated the partnership for the program                           BUREAU OF RECLAMATION &

in Tom Green County.                                         TOM GREEN CO. WATER CONTROL & IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT

                                                                     NRCS • Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board

                                                         Tom Green County Soil & Water Conservation District. Texas Cooperative Extension

                                                                                           Ralph & Glen Kellermeier

                                                                                              I'M ~I"n' Inf"rmallon.

                                                              1'f'm Gr'...·11 \\'('11) I: I "·nb.·,!. T"xa ;{2.'·fi:;.'· 71j(JI I~C\\'l'id" llPIlt'l.U~

"This program has saved 8,000 acre-feet of water for use
by the city;' Friend says. "In addition to increased water
savings, farmers are producing higher crop yields with
this system:'

Seventy percent less water is used
to water the crop and virtually no
water is lost to evaporation or run
off. Water savings for the surround­
ing community is also significant.
As a result, the Kellemeir's cotton crop is thriving and
they are looking forward to many great crops in the
years ahead. The City of San Angelo is equally pleased
with the fresh water they have gained for their citizens.
This successful use of wastewater in drip systems can be
used as a model to help stretch scant water resources in
other arid parts of the United States where every drop
of moisture counts.
Conservation Notes from High Plains Underground Water District #1

"In today's agricultural economy, many producers are using the most efficient irrigation systems
available to provide supplemental irrigation to their crops;' said Jim Conkwright, manager of the High
Plains Underground Water Conservation District in Lubbock.

"Irrigation application efficiency is the relationship between the amount of water pumped and the
amount of water delivered to the soil by the irrigation system. Proper management of subsurface drip
irrigation can help producers improve their irrigation application efficiency by reducing costly water
losses. These losses can take many forms: evaporation from the surface of water in an open ditch or
set of furrows, evaporation of water sprayed above the soil surface by a center pivot system, irrigation
tailwater escaping from a field, or deep percolation/runoff that occurs when more water is applied
than the soil plant root zone can hold:' he says.

Data shows that with proper management, subsurface drip irrigation can achieve higher efficiency
rates with limited water to maximize yields. Poor irrigation application efficiencies force producers to
pump more groundwater in order to deliver the desired amount of water to the crops they grow.

                          For more information contact:

                          High Plains Underground Water

                          Conservation District No. 1

                          2930 Avenue Q

                          Lubbock, TX 79401-1499

                          (806) 762-0181


This brochure was made possible through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), local soil and water
conservation districts and the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.
Photo contributions -- Netafim USA

Commercial Endorsement Disclaimer
The use of trade, firm, corporation or manufactured equipment pictured in this publication is for the information and
convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement of the United States Department of
Agriculture or the Natural Resources Conservation Service of/or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.

To top