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Diversion of surface water for agriculture through low impact, habitat friendly methods; an integral part of an irrigation system designed to conserve soil and water resources.

How it works

With a diversion, landowners with water rights transfer surface water to irrigation systems using environmentally sensitive and sustainable methods. The practice generally consists of an in-stream structure of rock, gravel or large wood that diverts water while meeting fish passage considerations. This practice is used to mitigate push-up dams or other structures that span the channel and restrict fish passage.

How it helps

  • Conveys water for on-farm use
  • Accommodates fish passage and allows migration
  • Reduces annual operation and maintenance
  • Provides unrestricted movement for aquatic species, sediment and wood throughout the stream

Planning ahead

  • Have you worked with the local watermaster to identify your water right?
  • Will a stream crossing be needed for livestock?
  • What fish species do you have in your stream?
  • Will a fish screen be required?

Technical notes

  • The size of the irrigation diversion will depend on stream hydrology and the landowner’s water right.
  • Hydraulic analysis will likely be required.
  • Ask your conservation planner for design and construction specifications.
  • The landowner must obtain any necessary easements or permits.
  • Are Endangered Species Act (ESA) considerations or special permits required?


  • Keep headgates clear of sediment and debris.
  • Maintain good vegetative cover on all slopes and water courses.
  • Control livestock access to adjacent streambanks and keep fences repaired.
  • Maintain erosion control measures around the structure, headgate and ditch.