Hopkins Canal Piping Project
In 2018, Rogue River Valley Irrigation District (RRVID) began constructing its largest irrigation infrastructure improvement project since the 1950's. The Hopkins Canal Pipeline project converted over 3 miles of open canal, 3 old concrete flumes, and an old inverted siphon to a new pressurized pipeline. The goal was to conserve water instream for fish habitat in the highly productive Rogue River tributary of Little Butte Creek, replace aging, leaky and unsafe infrastructure, to improve conveyance efficiency and to provide clean, pressurized water to over 700 acres of farmland classified as farmland of statewide importance. The project completed all its goals in 2019 for water conservation and conveyance efficiency and is now considered the largest pressurized irrigation pipeline in Jackson County. Many partners were involved in making this project a success of which JSWCD was one; JSWCD provided design, planning, and grant writing assistance.
Bradshaw Drop CIS
At the same time as this project, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and JSWCD developed a Conservation Implementation Strategy (CIS), the Bradshaw Drop Agricultural Water Quality Improvement Project, to address water quality in this area via conversions of flood irrigation to sprinkler or drip irrigation systems. On-farm irrigation improvements were made possible by the installation of the Hopkins Canal Pipeline Project and the delivery of clean, pressurized water to irrigators. These changes allow for more water-efficient production for farmers and improved water quality instream.
Antelope Creek Water Quality Monitoring
In 2017, JSWCD developed our Antelope Creek water quality monitoring program to track water quality parameters before, during, and after the implementation of these projects. Antelope Creek receives irrigation return flows from the project area and is a tributary to Little Butte Creek, a highly important tributary to the Rogue River for both drinking water and salmon and steelhead habitat; both waterbodies are water quality limited for a variety of factors including sedimentation, bacteria and temperature. There are four monitoring locations for this project: one in Yankee Creek and three in Antelope Creek (sites upstream and downstream of Yankee Creek and at the mouth of Antelope Creek).
Overall, we have seen significant changes in two of our water quality parameters: there has been a reduction in E. coli and total phosphorus concentrations at all of our four monitoring sites. We are excited to see that there has been a 71% reduction in E. coli concentrations and 27% reduction in total phosphorus concentrations at one of our monitoring sites, the one closest to the project implementation area and most likely to reflect changes directly related to these projects. This same site has also experienced a significant decrease in flow during the irrigation season. This can likely be attributed to the large number of acres that switched from flood irrigation to drip irrigation as part of the Bradshaw Drop CIS. This conversion led to more efficient water use, which means less flood irrigation run-off flowing back into Antelope Creek. While there is now less flow instream in Antelope Creek during the irrigation season, there is also less pollutant inputs to stream waters, including E. coli and phosphorous, and improved water quality.
We will continue our monitoring efforts here for the next several years to further our understanding of how canal piping and irrigation conversion projects such as these impact water quality.