Local landowners have an opportunity to get their irrigation systems inspected free of charge as part of a summer irrigation evaluation program offered across Northern California.

According to Jay Thomas, engineering technician for the Irrigation Training Facility at California State University, Chico Research Foundation, the program is part of a mobile irrigation laboratory that services growers. 

The program is being coordinated by California State University, Chico, and is funded by the United States Bureau of Reclamation mid-Pacific Region. 

“Originally, Cal Poly was providing these services for the entire state of California,” said Thomas. “It soon became apparent that the distances the evaluators would have to drive from San Luis Obispo to many of the irrigated fields of Northern California were too great (so) we serve as the northern branch of the Cal Poly irrigation evaluation program.”

Two student employees based at the University Farm at Chico conduct the evaluations. 

“They attended the irrigation evaluation training at Cal Poly early in the Summer and have done a wonderful job of turning what they’ve learned in the classroom into practical skills in a very busy summer,” said Thomas.

According to Thomas, the students walk the field and look for any obvious problems with an irrigation system, including leaks, blocked emitters and broken lines.

“They spend a good amount of time trying to understand how the water moves through the irrigation system and sketch a map,” said Thomas. “Then they take pressure measurements and they take flow measurements along a few points in the lines. 

They will flush out a few of the hoses, if it is a drip irrigation system to check for any problems with biological or sediment matter collecting in the lines.”

The students then put the data into a database developed by experts at Cal Poly and determine the distribution uniformity of the system, said Thomas. 

“This is an excellent opportunity to evaluate your irrigation system and receive recommendations on how to improve your system’s performance, for free!” said Mary Fahey, Colusa County Water Resources manager. 

According to Thomas, the program will continue through irrigation season based on demand. 

“Since the evaluators are made up of Chico State and Butte College students, evaluation scheduling will change when the new fall semester begins,” said Thomas. “We are working out a plan so that we can continue to run these evaluations until the irrigation season ends.”

Thomas said evaluators try to be as non-invasive as possible while performing these evaluations and only ask for a few minutes of either the owner of the land or the person responsible for the irrigation system in order to answer a few questions regarding the system.

For more information, contact Jay Thomas at 898-5446 or email djthomas1@csuchico.edu.

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