Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project (SIEP) – On a 165-acre parcel of land in Weld County, donated by 70 Ranch, LLC, scientists from Colorado State University will examine using subsurface drop irrigation on crops commonly grown in Colorado and the impact of drought-like situations on crops irrigated with subsurface irrigation systems. Dubbed the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project (SIEP), the research station is sponsored by the Platte River Water Development Authority, United Water and Sanitation District, Netafim, Jewish Colorado, Colorado State University and 70 Ranch, LLC.
SIEP is the brainchild of Bob Lembke, owner of the 70 Ranch. "Water policy in Colorado is often based on an either-or premise, adequate water is available for either agriculture or municipalities, but not for both. We want to break that paradigm," said Lembke. The idea for a major study of subsurface irrigation in Colorado came to Lembke several years ago when he was touring farms in Israel's Negev Desert. "Subsurface irrigation was pioneered in the Negev and is credited with turning part of that desert into bountiful farming operations. Subsurface irrigation is not a miracle cure for Colorado's water challenges, but it could give us another way to alleviate the agriculture versus urban conflict."
Jason Scheibel, district sales manager for Netafim USA, a division of Netafim International Group, the entity that pioneered subsurface drip irrigation in Israel, explained that with subsurface irrigation farmers can apply water, pesticides and fertilizers directly to crop roots. Scheibel said that subsurface irrigation uses 25 to 35 percent less water than traditional pivot irrigation.
Construction for the SIEP pump and well house will be completed in March, 2015. The first crop - sorghum sudangrass - was harvested in August, 2015.
Additional information on the project is available at www.siepwater.com.