On the morning of January 24, 2005, my life changed forever. That morning I took a field trip to the Drumm Reservoir. At first it did not seem to be anything special. Three small canals and a few gigantic pumps were all I thought it consisted of. Coming from an agricultural back round I had seen bigger canals and more massive pumps before. In fact I was not planning to write this paper on the reservoir. The horticulture unit turned out to be a bust and I was stuck.
After some thought I figured out that I could talk about my experiences with canals and irrigation. I then went to visit Mr. Styles. He said he had no time to talk to me until I mentioned that I had a farming back round. He then proceeded to ignore the student he was tutoring and introduced me to the Water Science minor with an emphasis in irrigation. He talked for five minutes. I grabbed the paper that told me what I needed for the minor and went to my next class. That same week I had to plan my curriculum for the next four years. After looking at the classes for the minor I was excited. If not for this paper I would not have known that there was such a thing as a Water Science minor.
I chose to take the minor because water is a big issue in California. The Central Valley of California only averages ten inches of rainfall per year. The ability to manipulate water is the reason that California has the fifth largest economy in the world. Three hundred and fifty commodities are grown in the state as a result of water manipulation. Ten percent of jobs in the state are directly related to Agriculture made possible by water.
California is one of a kind in its manipulation of water. Huge canals traverse the state from north to south like blood vessels bringing life to the desert. The Drumm Reservoir along with the Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC) teaches people about the giant water systems. At the same time it provides opportunities for experts to study the systems and find ways to make them more efficient.
If not for a follow up visit for this paper I never would have learned about the complete Drumm Reservoir. The small canals are built to the scale of bigger canals and simulate water delivery. The facility’s main objective is to make the system more efficient. Wooden planks were once used as gates to control water flow. These gates control flow at various waterfalls throughout the whole canal system. Planks were an inaccurate way to control water. More precise gates that are screwed up and down have been developed thanks in part to the IRTC and Drumm Reservoir. Metering the water more precisely allows the ditch tenders, the people that are responsible for controlling water flow in the canal, to keep just as much water as they need. At the same time they can send excess water down the canal to the next section. Water is saved because of the gates.
Besides gates the IRTC and Drumm Reservoir are also developing and testing new technologies to make water transportation more efficient. The Supervisor Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system monitors the amount of water at a given spot. If a farmer opens a valve and draws water out of the system. SCADA will read the action and automatically compensate the gates for the decrease. This eliminates the human error in adjusting the water flow and in turn makes the system as a whole more efficient. Also in development is a way to remove debris, like algae, from the water way. Algae grows in the canal systems and constricts the water flow like cholesterol in an artery, t some places water cannot get to the farmers. At an experimental canal they are testing a conveyer that would take algae as well was other debris out of the delivery system. This will reduce the dependence on the use of herbicide to kill the algae.
On my follow up visit I also learned about the tools used to measure flow which include a volume metric tank and a weigh tank. Both of these tanks are located at the end of one canal and are over ten thousand gallons in volume. Water is let in the tanks and a computer keeps track of time and either volume or weight. The ITRC is trying to determine which method is better for measuring water flow. In addition to canals the IRTC also tests pipes, like the ones used to deliver water to the farmers, and pumps.
The ITRC was built adjacent to the Drumm Reservoir in 1989, and includes the John Merriam Practice Field, an office complex with conference rooms and computer facilities, and the multi-million dollar water delivery facility described earlier. Funding for the Drumm Reservoir and IRTC comes from the state as well as private donors. The facilities can also generate their own revenue by testing different products that private companies cannot test because they do not have sufficient resources.
As a farmer, I have witnessed first hand the cost of water rise over the years. I have seen wasteful practices on my farm and at my local canal. One such practice is letting extra water run into an open pasture. After a farmer is done irrigating his fields he lets any water that he does not need go down the pipe into an open pasture that has no need for the water at that time. That can equate to millions of gallons that serve no purpose to anyone, that water is called tail water. To prevent such waste my father tells me to account for the time it takes for the water to stop running after I shut the gate at the canal. Boards have also been placed in the underground pipe line that delivers the water to the farmer from the canal. This prevents some of the excess water from going into the pasture and getting wasted. The IRTC is developing a tail water retrieval system to assist in tail water conservation and combat the waste problem.
A multi-million dollar facility to study the habits of water is necessary because the current supply of water is spread thin. It makes sense to have a facility that provides opportunities to make the system more efficient. The Drumm Reservoir and IRTC are helping California move water more efficiently. Classes taught in Water Science stress this efficiency to the future members in the industry. Less water is going to waste and that means everyone will have more water in the long run. This is good news for the Central Valley because in a desert three hundred and fifty commodities could not survive without water.
After my second visit to the Drumm Reservoir I felt confidant that I had made the right choice for a minor. I now am hoping to find a job at the IRTC and Drumm Reservoir in the coming years. I am looking forward to contributing to the research at the facilities with my own experiences as a user of the water that is getting delivered.