Ag Today June 15, 2017

Local farmer using excess water to flood crops and improve his water table

By Dale Yurong

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 05:59PM

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) –ABC 30

An olive orchard at Terranova Ranch in western Fresno County is being flooded to recharge the aquifer.

“A lot of people didn’t think we could do it, or we’d injure the vines or crops long-term,” said

The water percolates underground where it’s stored and pumped back up at a later date– the olives still look healthy.

“We’re seeing how much water we can put on, how long we can leave it on without harming the crops,” said Don Cameron, Helm farmer.

Cameron is a pioneer in the process– a flood recharge workshop on his farm drew over 70 people, including UC researchers, irrigation districts, and farmers from around the state.

“I think there’s much greater attention to this concept now because water scarcity has such a direct economic threat to the viability of the Valley,” said Daniel Mountjoy, Sustainable Conservation.

Grapes hold the most potential– we were on Cameron’s farm in February when he started flooding this vineyard.

“It’s going to be a slow process but what that means is that our water table will probably increase in that region 35 to 40 feet.”

But the technique is now catching on with olive, almond, pistachio, and walnut growers statewide. Many came to learn more about the science behind flood recharge and how to best protect their crop.

“That excess water is going to benefit us by leeching the naturally occurring salts that we’re pumping through our groundwater on and getting our soil profile clean for our roots,” said Matt Efird, Caruthers grower

The technique works best in sandy soils because the floodwater has an easier time soaking through, reducing the risk of over-saturating roots. Heavy soils though pose bigger challenges.

This is the first year Cameron has tried flood recharge on his olives so he’s keeping a close eye on his crop, making sure the leaves aren’t turning yellow.