Saving Water is Serious Work for the Quincy Irrigation District

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QUINCY – Three million acre-feet.

This is the amount of water from the Columbia River pumped to the Grand Coulee Dam each year and sent to the three irrigation districts served by the Columbia Basin Project.

The Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District (QCBID) takes just over a third to provide water to about 275,000 acres.

That’s a lot of water delivered to a lot of land.

“Unless people see the ladder,” said Roger Sonnichsen, QCBID director-secretary, “from Soap Lake and Stratford to Royal Slope. The Western Canal is 88 miles long.

And there are thousands of miles of secondary canals, ditches and pipes all designed to distribute this water. This means, Sonnichsen said, that a lot of water is lost every year – something that QCBID is working to limit.

“There is a lot of infiltration and evaporation throughout the project,” he said. “It is estimated to be around 334,000 acre-feet in an irrigation season.

Over the past 15 years, Sonnichsen said, QCBID has succeeded in reducing infiltration and evaporation in its system by about 32,000 acre-feet by lining canals, patching concrete and replacing earth ditches. by pipes.

“Last year we added 3,700 acre-feet to that,” said Troy Freeman, deputy director of QCBID.

Saving that much water is a costly proposition, and Sonnichsen said QCBID sets aside around $ 2 million each year – partly offset by federal and state grants such as the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program – for improvements. water efficiency.

According to Sonnichsen, QCBID has a 2021 O&M budget of $ 23.5 million, which does not include the $ 2 million for system upgrades and improvements.

The WaterSMART program helps local governments, irrigation districts and Recognized Indian Tribes in the western United States meet the cost of water and energy conservation projects, according to the Bureau of Claim. The program focuses “on projects that can be completed in two or three years”.

Like the QCBID water saving measures.

Sonnichsen said the more expensive projects involve installing channel liners, which involves digging a section of a channel out of earth, laying a plastic membrane, and then covering it with earth or rocks and concrete. . QCBID is currently preparing to replace a 2,000 foot long section of the West Channel along the Royal Slope and the W61F side near Royal City.

The estimated cost of coating with the concrete cover of the western canal section is $ 750,000, of which $ 300,000 is covered by a WaterSMART grant, Sonnichsen said.

QCBID selects where it switches to plastic channel liner based on water loss, and concrete is usually added where channel breakage, or seepage, could cause significant damage.

“If a canal made a breach there, then there would be an orchard or a house or something where the cost of repair would be significant,” Sonnichsen said. “The membrane itself saves water; concrete adds this stability in the event of a problem.

A recent project involved lining the West Canal with a plastic and concrete membrane just north of the new Quincy High School, where a breach in the canal flooded a parking lot a year ago.

Less expensive than a plastic coating with (or without) concrete reinforcement, replacing small irrigation ditches with plastic pipes. This prevents evaporation and also limits the amount of ongoing maintenance – especially weeding – that QCBID teams must perform throughout the district.

“The piping in particular saves on maintenance,” Sonnichsen said. “Once it’s underground, you don’t have to worry about weed growing in the ditch. “

And the QCBID must constantly clean the weeds, stack them and burn them so they are no longer a problem, Freeman said.

“We had water in the ditch last Sunday,” Freeman said in early April. “The wind blew really hard and filled the ditches with weeds so we had a hard time removing all of these weeds. “

In places where the canals are already lined with concrete, Sonnichsen said QCBID also corrects existing concrete to limit leaks and continue to hold concrete in place.

“This is another effort that we are heavily invested in right now,” he said. “We’re looking at other ways to improve our system, including some automation, but we’re slowly approaching them. “

“Our main focus will continue to be on these three things – the liner, the piping and the crack sealing,” Sonnichsen added.

On top of all this, Sonnichsen said QCBID operates nine pumping plants that need to be maintained, along with the power lines and transformers to keep everything running. Enough to keep the 117 employees of the district busy all year round.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said.


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