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Building Quality Irrigation Reservoirs Through AWEP

Conservation Showcase


AWEP Pond construction in Coffee Co.

AWEP pond construction in progress in Coffee County.

By Alberto Atienza, Agricultural Engineer, NRCS, Troy, AL

Irrigation is becoming a more vital part of Alabama's agriculture. Irrigation  not only increases yields but also increases the probability of a successful crop. 

There are two major components in irrigation -- water source and some type of irrigation system to convey water from the water source to the plant.

A storage reservoir is a water source which can be used to capture runoff and/or store water pumped from other sources (wells or streams). These storage reservoirs need a site specific evaluation and design depending on water needs and the size of the farming operation. 

The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) in Alabama is an avenue for producers who are struggling to find enough water to irrigate, to apply for and get technical and financial assistance from NRCS to construct irrigation reservoirs. 

There are many factors to be considered when designing a quality reservoir. Some of them are the topography of the area, soils, drainage area, rainfall data, land slope, ground cover, reservoir storage, and construction materials.

Soils are the most important because they will determine if the reservoir will hold water or not. The first thing needed to build a quality reservoir is a good engineering design that evaluates all the above factors. These designs will include a set of drawings, construction specifications, and operation and maintenance guidance.  NRCS and professional engineers have been developing such designs for AWEP.

Once designed, a qualified contractor must be hired to construct the reservoir. The compaction and borrow material selection are critical for a successful project. A qualified inspector will be needed in critical stages of the project to ensure the quality and placement of materials.

The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) is a voluntary conservation initiative that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to implement agricultural water enhancement activities on agricultural land for the purposes of conserving surface and ground water and improving water quality. As part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), AWEP operates through contracts with producers to plan and implement conservation practices in project areas established through partnership agreements.

AWEP pond in Geneva Co.

AWEP pond in Geneva County

AWEP Pond in Coffee Co

AWEP pond in Coffee County

AWEP pond in Lee County.

AWEP pond in Lee County

AWEP Pong in Houston County

AWEP pond in Houston County

All photos by Alberto Atienza, Agricultural Engineer, NRCS, Troy, AL