Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Niel Allen

Abstract

The landscape of water in Utah is changing due to population growth, conversion of agricultural land to urban development, and increasing awareness of water scarcity. The Utah Division of Water Resources forecasts that the currently developed water supplies will not be enough to provide for Utah’s future population, and is pursuing conservation and new development to meet the state’s anticipated needs.

Along with the urban growth Utah is experiencing a growing urban and small farm agricultural sector, but knowledge of water use in these operations is limited. Further research in this area aids in understanding the impact of land use change on the state’s hydrology, aids the state water authorities in water use estimates, assists farmers in moving towards wiser water management, and helps Utah State University Extension better meet the needs of small irrigators.

My research creates a clearer picture of urban and small farm agricultural irrigation in Utah. For the 2015 growing season I performed irrigation evaluations for 24 urban and small farms in Cache Valley, and I explore the results from both case study and statistical perspectives. My results show a great degree of heterogeneity with irrigation efficiencies ranging from 6% to 100%. In general, small fields had greater irrigation depths than large fields, and surface irrigated fields applied higher depths than sprinkle and drip irrigated fields. Yet a big influence on efficiency was management, as fields relying on a set schedule had higher depths than fields that were irrigated inconsistently due to other factors. Therefore, water conservation programs focused on reducing irrigated area or providing technological alternatives may not result in true water savings if the effect of management is ignored. In particular, urban and small farmers need increased awareness of how management can result in savings of time and money, and improved knowledge of how to measure application rates, improve application uniformity, and scheduling techniques. With improvements in these areas, water management on urban and small farms can be improved, therein helping the urban and small farm irrigators themselves as well as the state in meeting its future water needs.

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