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The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) announced that seasonal irrigation water is ready to flow. You might think of April 15 as tax day but, if you have a farm or ranch, you know it’s when NID turns on its seasonal irrigation water. Flowing through 500 miles of canals, NID water irrigates 32,000 acres in Nevada, Placer, and Yuba counties used for grazing and growing crops such as wine grapes, nursery stock, apples, rice, plums, citrus, grass, and alfalfa hay.

While it might seem like a simple cranking of a valve, it is actually a herculean effort to get the water flowing. Beginning in April, twenty (20) District staff began walking the 500 miles of seasonal canals. They inspect and flush each canal to get the winter debris of tree limbs, pine needles, and leaves out so they do not clog the system. Next, staff turns on each of the nearly 5,000 seasonal customers’ water boxes by flipping a board and adjusting it to allow for the amount of water ordered. Only after every customer box is set, can the signal be given to open the canal head gates allowing the water to flow. Even then the job is not done, as daily checks are made to determine if the flows are sufficient and to make necessary manual adjustments.

Nate Wasley, NID Water Superintendent, said this year was more difficult than most due to below average rainfall. Many of the canals were dry and considerably more of the water had to come from higher up in the system, taking longer and using more of the water stored in NID’s reservoirs. Nate indicated it can take up to four days for the water to traverse down NID’s delivery system to reach some of the irrigation canals.

While irrigation water is the lifeblood for local agriculture, the canals can be dangerous for people and their pets walking or playing nearby. Similar to a river in the spring, fast and changing currents can be dangerous. NID asks that no one play in the canals as they often have steep, slippery sides that are almost impossible to climb out of and culverts and gratings that can create a snag. This is why we ask parents to take time each year when the weather warms up to review canal safety and share it with their children.