Early irrigation shutoff could impact fall harvest

Credit: Paul Boehlke / KTVB

Early irrigation shutoff could impact fall harvest

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on September 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM

GREENLEAF -- The long, dry summer we've experienced is causing a big hit to many Treasure Valley farmers.

Several irrigation districts have announced they will be shutting off the water several weeks early, impacting the harvest of long season crops.

Dave Dixon has worked at Greenleaf Farms for years.

But he says this season has been one of the most difficult for farmers in the Treasure Valley.

"It has been one of the harder seasons that we've had in probably the last 15 years, no question," said Dixon.

Dixon gets his water through the Wilder District of the Boise Project Board of Control.

He says in the spring, farmers were told their water allotment would be less than half of normal.

And now, he's learned the irrigation water will be shut off on September 5th, much earlier than usual.

"We desperately need rain, we will be praying for rain down here in the valley this fall."

Dixon says crops like sugar beets won't be harvested until mid-October, so in the meantime they'll pray for mother nature to supply the water.

"If we do not get rains first part of October, they'll be dry when we harvest it. That could hurt the yield a little bit and it'll make it difficult to to harvest them without damaging the crop."

Dixon says that's not the only bump to their bottom line this year.

He explains that less water, has meant more unexpected expenses.

"The short water year definitely increases our operating expenses. We're running wells, some are diesel powered, some are electric powered. That's an increased cost we normally wouldn't have," said Dixon.

Daren Coon with the area's largest irrigation district, Nampa-Meridian, says they will also be turning off the water on September 5th.

"Well, the availability of water is significantly less this year than it was last," said Coon. "The storage reservoirs are depleted and we're just simply not able to deliver the irrigation water because it just isn't there any longer."

Dixon says Greenleaf Farms will make it through, but it hasn't been easy, and it makes him nervous for next year.

"If we don't get a tremendous snow pack, we could possibly have fields that we will have to leave idle," said Dixon.

The City of Nampa will keep irrigation service to many of its customers through September 25th, despite losing canal water from two irrigation companies by September 5th.

This is the earliest the Nampa-Meridian District has turned off the irrigation water since 2007, when it was shut off on September 1st.

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