Water Conservation Belle Fourche Irrigation District
Improving water-use efficiency using an overall water management system.
The Belle Fourche Irrigation District (BFID), located in western South Dakota, delivers water to 57,183 acres of farmland through its 94 miles of open main channel and 450 miles of open lateral ditches. RESPEC has been working with the BFID for several years to help them implement best management practices (BMPs) that were recommended in the Belle Fourche River total suspended solids (TSS) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The BFID was identified as a significant contributor to TSS loading, and BMPs are being implemented to reduce the amount of unused irrigation water flows entering the river. RESPEC is helping the BFID reduce return flows by designing an overall water management system. The components of this management system include automating several check structures, head gates, and flow-measuring devices along the main canals and laterals; software to automate the water order and billing system; and water-master software used to calculate a water mass balance needed to support water orders and compare to actual measurements. The water management system resulted in significant improvements in the water-use efficiency within the BFID. The BFID personnel also had a better understanding of how the overall system interacts, and the amount of time and effort required to perform their daily tasks was substantially reduced.