COLUMN: Get a drip and save some water

Drip irrigation deserves a thought, even on the West Coast.

During one of the recent choking-hot afternoons, I was driving past a Surrey farm and noticed sprinklers showering the field at full blast.

In 30-degree heat, from each sprinkler head, the water was making a high, misty arc before succumbing to gravity.

With all that water flying through the air, how much of it was evaporating before it hit the ground – and the road?

It got me thinking of something I saw on TV as a kid – Israeli engineers making the Negev Desert bloom using drip irrigation.

As I understood it at the time, it was just hoses on the ground with small holes doling out just the right amount of water to the thirsty crops.

It turns out the engineering was more complicated than that, but the basic idea is the same: A drastic reduction in water usage, while giving the plants – specifically their roots – what they need, and no more.

Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, using the new plastics that became available, they developed and patented emitters that dripped water from longer and longer hoses.

(Hoses with only holes weren’t as controllable and they just clogged up over time.)

Drip irrigation wasn’t just good there because of the arid climate, but because the soil was sandy. Small amounts of water in a targeted area meant less water loss.

I remember my grandfather using a basic system of drip irrigation in his own backyard grove. That red soil wasn’t great, but the apples, lemons and oranges grew nicely.

Over the next few decades, growers in places such as Australia and California began adopting and improving drip irrigation methods.

Farmers also discovered that there is a reduction in plant diseases when the above-ground foliage doesn’t come in contact with water.

On top of that, fertilizer can be mixed with the water – “fertigation” – and studies have shown drastic reduction in the amount of fertilizer used to do the same job.

Is there a cost to drip irrigation?

Yes, it’s called the cost – the sizeable initial outlay and the fine-tuning to adapt the system to a particular climate, soil and crop.

It’s a high-maintenance, and nowadays both hardware- and software-dependent endeavour for the modern grower.

Arguably, a few months from now, as we’re running for our umbrellas, few people in B.C. will be thinking about water conservation or drip irrigation.

Our reservoirs may fill back up, but nothing can be counted on – just look at California, which is entering a fifth year of drought.

Now, in B.C., it’s July. It’s hot. And it’s the time to think about it.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Construction underway for new Cloverdale elementary school

The $33 million school is to seat 655 students

George Garrett retires from Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society board

Society completes more than 58,000 trips since 2016

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Most Read