Utah farmer invests in irrigation now to save water for his family in the future

Mar 14, 2022, 6:47 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:22 pm

SYRACUSE, Utah – Drought has forced Utah farmers to make tough decisions as we head into spring and summer. 

One farmer has already invested in a new watering system so he and his family can save water for the future.

Willard Bay right now is about 60% lower than it was this time last year. Couple that with some less than stellar snowpack and this summer could be very similar to what we saw a year ago. 

We may take for granted the produce in our grocery stores that makes its way onto our dinner tables. 

“We’re definitely in a drought cycle and it’s really hard,” said Kenny McFarland. He is one of the many farmers who make up Onions 52, in Syracuse. 

Now that he is headed for a third year of drought he’s doing things differently. 

Willard Bay right now is about 60% lower than it was this time last year. (KSL TV) Onions 52 is a big onion farming cooperative. (KSL TV) Inside the Onions 52 farming cooperative. (KSL TV)

“We’ve changed the crops that we grow and we’ve also changed the way that we water our crops,” he explained. 

Over the past six years, he’s switched his hundreds of acres of onions to drip irrigation which cut down the amount of water lost through evaporation, sending it directly to the crops. It was expensive. 

“It depends on the crop, how much it conserves,” McFarland said. “A general number that I’ve come up with is about half of the water.” 

It works well with onions, but not with all crops.  

McFarland said tough decisions have to be made now in future housing developments and in how we water. 

“I’m young enough that I’m concerned for the next 35 years. That’s really what keeps me up at night – is what are my kids going to do to be able to farm successfully,” he added. 

McFarland believes homeowners should be able to use their water, just as farmers have their water rights. But he said, better planning needs to happen before Utah’s growth gets out of hand. 

“It is really up to state and local governments and also water providers to make sure that in 20,30, 100 years from now, we are sustainable as a community,” he said. 

Many water districts still have to decide on water restrictions for the season, and it could still change depending on how the next several weeks develop. 

Still, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has said they anticipate cutbacks in agriculture watering of around 40%. 

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Utah farmer invests in irrigation now to save water for his family in the future