As seen in the Tried & True Summer 2020 issue
We are the caretakers of our natural resources; they’re essential for survival. The two at the very top of the list are soil and water. Let’s talk about soil for a moment. It’s what we move to install pipe, enrich it to grow food and soil also holds within its layers the foundation of the places we call home. We also source materials from the ground to generate energy. Without it? Well, oxygen, heat and water in our ecosystem would alter and drastically tailspin the world as we know it. Speaking of water, that lands at the number-one spot of significant, all-natural resources. Life wouldn’t exist without it. We drink it, utilize it to grow food and we’re also depleting it faster than it’s being replenished.
According to the Water Education Foundation, agriculture as an industry is the largest consumer of water. In fact, 70% of the freshwater used is traced back to this industry alone. Predictions from researchers show that the year 2030 will bring a shortfall. And as our climate continues to change, scientists see the difference between available supply and demand for water having a 40% deficit on the supply side of things. A predictor that should give us all pause when areas of the globe are already experiencing a daily lack of access to ample water. Is it possible to put the brakes on and stop this from happening? How can we make changes now to avert the way the world is trending?
We’re entrusted with the land that must sustain future generations. How can we use less water to grow more? Moreover, how can we utilize what we have and unleash its potential in times of plenty and drought? Because we have a collective role in agriculture—from growers to installers—our say means something when it comes to responsible stewardship. Natural resources are just that—resources that come to us naturally. Not human-made, but by way of Mother Nature, meaning we cannot reproduce them synthetically. What we are given is finite.
There are many reasons why farmers do not solely rely on rain to water their fields. Automated pivot systems, drip or micro-irrigation, sprays and sprinklers, sub-irrigation, and surge flooding provide watering solutions when precipitation is sparse. Controlled application methods add additional hydration where and when it’s needed. The type chosen depends on the location, climate, crops grown, and access to excess water supplies. Depending on the type of system selected, crop yield can be affected no matter how efficient a system is. The beauty of installing drainage systems is water is at the ready when your land demands it and holds onto it for safekeeping when it doesn’t. Think of drainage systems as a method of water recycling. Water that’s harnessed and reused at its fullest potential is conservation in action, and that leads toward sustainability.
Jerry Hatfield, the director of the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa, spoke candidly in a piece for Successful Farming about climate change and its water-related impact. Hatfield notes that the Midwest’s system of agriculture is predicated on times when summer rainfall accumulation was something we could count on. “Our summer rainfall is going to become less reliable. Precipitation patterns are changing with more spring rainfall and more variable summer precipitation.” Forecasts of heavy, one-day rainfalls, as well as an increase in the average number of days with zero precipitation, are no longer an anomaly.
Drainage systems balance water quality and agricultural productivity. That’s no secret to those who not only want excess water off their site but also want an efficient way to utilize it on demand. Using pipe to reroute water prevents problems before they arise. You know exactly where water is needed and where it needs to be diverted. Conserving and saving water leads to the sight of success growing—literally—for some in their fields. Economically, it makes dollars and sense to get the most out of your site while improving the acreage already occupied. Transforming the way water affects your site puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to reaping the benefits of stored water. Better drainage means better use of the land’s functioning for your specific needs.
Protecting resources means dedication to all things water: rain, drainage and how much we use to fill our tea kettles or even take showers. Regions that are already water-stressed need solutions now as the issue will only continue to ramp up. Our drainage-utilizing community has worked in sync to provide tactical solutions for clients—a huge benefit to everyone from growers, to installers, to our planet.
Different soils have different needs. That’s why one Fratco pipe doesn’t fit all. There’s much to consider: soil quality and nutrients, the topography of the land, climate, along with the type of crops grown and how they’re rotated. Drainage systems reduce the work of farmers while increasing benefits to Planet Earth. Irrigation efficiency means every drop of water saved is a resource for later—a natural resource. Water scarcity is a real issue in the United States, not just for those living abroad. We can look to our friends in California to get a sense of what a lack of rainfall and torrential pours can, unfortunately, bring to a specific area.
Take advantage of storing more rainwater. Rather than it becoming an afterthought, install rain barrels to work in tandem with your pipe. Stretches of rainy days can quickly turn into periods of drought. When your redirected water stores begin running low, you have a backup plan for irrigation. Rain barrels are a small investment now that could fill a vast need later.
When we work together, collaboration brings motivation to work towards better solutions. It takes a collective effort to conserve precious natural resources. There’s a mutual, communal relationship between people and the Earth. Our planet provides a plethora of resources to sustain us, and in return, we care for our world so it will keep on giving. It’s how the cycle goes and grows. For some, water conservation is a natural part of their business practices. As automatic as reaping a harvest or installing a system. For others, it stretches preconceived ways of thinking and has become a new priority. One thing is sure: Saving water and using it responsibly is something that benefits not one, but all. Even the smallest of redirection now will have a positive effect on the future’s water supply—something we must provide for our not-so-distant future selves.