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Drought-Related Conservation Practices

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Water Management

  • Evaluate all types of irrigation systems appropriate for your operation and choose the one that will help you lose less water to evaporation, percolation, and runoff. For example, drip irrigation allows water to infiltrate the soil directly at the root of the crop with minimal amounts of evaporation and runoff.
  • Make your existing irrigation system more efficient and easier to maintain. 
  • Build a water storage system that holds water for use during irrigation season in storage ponds or tanks.
  • Store water in ditches along fields.
  • Install water measurement devices that keep track of water use.
  • Use water from deep aquifers in addition to surface water to ensure you always have at least one source of your crop or livestock’s most needed ingredient.

Land Management

  • Use conservation tillage (crop residue left on your field after harvest) and no-til to minimize disturbing the soil. These techniques reduce moisture loss and runoff and encourage infiltration of water into the soil.
  • Closely monitor soil moisture to make more strategic water and crop management decisions. (Ask your local NRCS office for a complimentary copy of the agency publication "Estimating Soil Moisture by Feel and Appearance.")
  • Maintain and establish riparian buffers, filter strips, grassed waterways, and other types of conservation buffers near streams and other sources of water. Storing water in vegetation is a great way to keep your water on the land for use later.
  • Know your animals' forage needs. Contract early to make sure you will have enough hay during dry times or find alternative feed sources.

Crop Management

  • Plant a variety of crops that withstand dryness, hold water, and reduce the need for irrigation. 
  • Rotate crops in ways that increase the amount of water that enters the soil. 
  • Shift to cropping systems that are less water dependent than your current system. 

For more drought-related conservation tips and help preparing for drought in the future, contact your local NRCS field office today.