The Arch Hurley Irrigation District has used a three-year interruption in water deliveries to make more water available to customers when allocations return. If levels at Conchas Lake do not diminish significantly over the winter, allocations to the district’s 42,000 acres of farm land are expected to start again March 1, said District Manager Franklin McCasland.
While drought has shut off the water, Arch Hurley crews have been spending $400,000 in grants from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to make water go further when it does arrive, McCasland said.
Among the projects that have been completed:
• Removing sediment and debris from main canals downstream from Conchas Lake, the district’s water source, to their original depth.
• Lining the district’s Conchas and Hudson canals with bentonite, a clay material that prevents water seepage.
• Installing underground water pipes at some locations to replace open-air canals, which is expected to reduce evaporation and reduce water loss to woody plants growing by the streams.
• Clearing debris from laterals, the channels that carry water from the main canals to members’ fields.
The result, McCasland said, could be a reduction of water loss from nearly half of the water allocated to about 30 to 40 percent of allocations. Since the district parcels out 40,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of water in normal years, that could mean an additional 12,000 to 20,000 acre feet available in normal years. Each acre of land belonging to Arch Hurley members is allocated up to 1.5 acre-feet per year, McCasland said.
An acre foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre with water one foot deep. That’s 325,851 gallons, about the amount that four typical households use in one year.
McCasland said the district has given priority to high-loss areas in planning Water Smart grant funds.