West Cassia water project helps farmer conserve water, work more efficiently

He said the project won’t increase his yields, but It will allow him to conserve water.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:56 PM MDT
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CASSIA COUNTY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —A Cassia County farmer is getting some much needed assistance, thanks in part to a combination of state and federal money. He said the West Cassia Irrigation Efficiency Project will help him farm more efficiently and conserve water.

Farmer Craig Searle harvests sugar beets, potatoes, corn and grains on land he leases in Cassia County from Carson Farms.

On this land the farm’s conveyance system is being changed from a leaky, gravelly ditch to a pipeline. It is also converting from inefficient wheel-lines to pivots. In part it will allow Searle to irrigate his land more efficiently.

“To be able to come directly out of the canal will be able to save a lot of labor, instead of watching and regulating the ditches for the various farms,” Searle said.

He said the project won’t increase his yields, but It will allow him to conserve water, which is a precious commodity in the dry arid climate of Southern Idaho.

“It’s going to be about half of the water. It is going to take half the water than it did before,” said Searle. “I serve on the Southwest Irrigation Board that finds water south of the canal between Declo and Murtaugh. That water is getting harder to find because there are more uses for that water. Any water we can save and conserve is water than can be used across the valley”

Other positive outcomes from the West Cassia Project will be the decreased chance of water and nutrients leaching into the ground water or running off the field.

The West Cassia project lies within the Marsh Creek Nitrate Priority Area, which is rated #5 in the state of Idaho.

“Before that it was ranked #1 in the state. It is definitely a high priority area for ground water quality as far as nitrates go,” said Idaho Conservation Commission, Agricultural Program Specialist Carolyn Firth.

The total project is going to cost more than $320,000 made up of private, federal (NRCS), and for the first time in ten years state funds.

The state legislature dedicated roughly $5 million to the Water Quality Program for Agriculture Projects this last legislative session.

Searle said his project might not have been penciled without state funds..

“Because of the inflation, pipe prices, pivot prices. This really cushioned the blow on that,” Searle said.

Additionally he said the project has been in the making for several years, and now that it is a reality he hopes for it to be done in two weeks.