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SMRID seeing crops maturing and more water usage

Posted on August 14, 2018 by 40 Mile Commentator

Justin Seward
Commentator/Courier

Despite the scorching temperatures, St. Mary’s River Irrigation District (SMRID) has made moderate changes to the system and the reservoirs are being used more than normal with the heat.
SMRID’s focus has been to support community sustainability communities, environment and agriculture.
The annual water allocation was set at 16 inches per acre for each farmer, which is all they will receive, said SMRID chair Gary Franz.
It was only last year the normal allocation was between 18 to 20 inches.
“By the end of the season we were shocked at how much the reservoirs had gone down,” said Franz.
“Being that it’s their second year of dry conditions, the board is being a bit more conservative, (and) trying to make sure we have water to start next season.”
The reservoirs systems are secured in an area where service is accessible for our customers the next day, but the reservoirs are not the same levels or percentages, he added.
“Once it goes down, we can’t get it back to the top,” said Franz.
“Prudently, we tried to hold the water up and bring it down as we need it, so that we’re efficient and not wasting any at the end of the systems.”
With the heat, the crops have matured more and water will be less of a demand but once the crop come off, there will be a bit of a irrigation back on the hay and getting the weeds going, he said.
“Shockingly as late as we were in the spring with the later run-off and temperatures, the crops have matured ahead of last year even,” says Franz.
“But having heard from crop specialists, they say the lack of rain days means that there is more sun days. So those crops have jumped ahead because of the sun.”
During combining the yields are down from the heat and while in talks with irrigation dealers, Franz had heard it has been a record year for pivot maintenance because of the usage.
Irrigated crops including corn sugar beets and dry beans are maturing nicely in the County of Forty Mile and Bow Island.
Water levels are 73 per cent of summer designated levels, meaning more water is being used.

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