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A study of additional drainwater reuse for the Sutter Basin




Isbell, Brett M., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Farmers in the Sutter Basin, in the Sacramento Valley of California, do not have sufficient irrigation supply to meet crop needs during peak irrigation demand and during years with surface water allocation restrictions. To help meet these needs, Reclamation District 1500 examined the viability of expanding its existing drainwater reuse system. Drought and reduced surface water allocations, which are partly attributed to ever-more-stringent environmental concerns and regulations, have markedly increased the hard-to-quantify socioeconomic value of a reliable water supply. Basin farmers have a sense of urgency to establish a supplemental irrigation supply. Expanding the drainwater reuse system for a supplemental irrigation supply will increase water delivery reliability in the Sutter Basin. Approximately 68,000 irrigated acres and over 500 miles of surface drainage channels encompass the study area, where rice is the predominate crop. This study highlights the need to identify supplemental irrigation sources in the absence of extensive master planning data. This study relied on stakeholder input to identify operational and management constraints and to develop specific evaluation criteria. Drainwater availability was inversely proportional to downstream irrigation demand in the Sutter Basin, which required special engineering consideration. The study found that drainwater quality concerns can be mitigated by (a) reusing drainwater upstream of the connate water zone, (b) blending drainwater with surface diversion water, and (c) implementing water quality monitoring program tailored to the recommended alternative. Two service-area-scale drainwater reuse alternatives are recommended to collectively provide up to 20,000 acre-feet of supplemental irrigation supply annually. Project implementation would help offset surface diversion shortages and increase water delivery reliability in the Sutter Basin.


Presented at Irrigation district sustainability - strategies to meet the challenges: USCID irrigation district specialty conference held on June 3-6, 2009 in Reno, Nevada.

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