Agricultural Uses of Ditch Water: Now

Agricultural Uses of Ditch Water: Now

The centrifugal pump has changed the way that Boulder County farmers use ditch water today.

With a pump, a farmer can do things today that he couldn't do 150 years ago, like:

Centrifugal pumps were perfected by 1851, but there was no easy way to power one on a farm at that time.

It was not until rural electrification in the 1940's that pumps came into common use.

A snap shot of Boulder County Farms in 2000

(from USDA)

  • 736 total farms in Boulder County
  • 107,629 farm acres (22% of total land)
  • $32.8 million total sales (~$305/acre)
  • Median farm size is 38 acres
  • 468 farms are less than 50 acres (131 of these are 9 acres or less)
  • 379 farms produce hay and forage crops
  • 252 farms produce animals for sale (cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry)

Only 30 farms produce vegetables for sale (636 acres total)

Boulder County Farms by Size

  • 25 farms: 1000+ acres
  • 25 farms: 500-999 acres
  • 61 farms: 180-499 acres
  • 157 farms: 50-179 acres
  • 337 farms: 10-49 acres
  • 131 farms: 1-9 acres

Right, clockwise from the top left:

Centrifugal pump driven by a steam-powered threshing machine, USGS Water Supply and Irrigation Paper #1, 1896. Courtesy of Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO.

Diagram of centrifugal pump.

Mike Munson opens an irrigation window in a collapsible plastic pipe, to water a zinnia field. Despite the lack of rain, Munson Farms had a better than average year because of abundant irrigation water. Daily Camera Photo, Chris Grassnick, 2008.

Cure Organic Farm uses a pump and drip system to water parsley and kale with the Jones & Donnelly Ditch.

Cure Organic Farm pumps ditch water from a cistern.

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