A Watershed Moment in Agriculture: Assessing Real Drainage Management Solutions

A Watershed Moment in Agriculture: Assessing Real Drainage Management Solutions

The farming industry is largely a family-owned industry in the U.S., which also means land stewardship is of great importance for the continuation of tradition. In recent years, the industry has seen a fair share of technological advancements in equipment, feedstuffs, fertilizers, and plant protection that keep costs manageable and help ensure lasting value on the farm.

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However, the sustainable implementation of drainage water management systems remains insufficient and often outdated. New advancements in drainage management mean that we must find ways to move beyond antiquated methods. So, why do approaches in drainage water management remain somewhat obsolete? And what can be done to innovate in a way that allows farmers and landowners to have more control over drainage for the long-term?

A trend we have noticed in our time as farmers is that drainage water management has often been approached with a lack of understanding about watershed hydrology. The result for farmers is a drainage system that marginally improves water management on a single farm rather than recognizes the holistic issue. Identifying drainage solutions in an entire watershed assists in preventing excess nutrient runoff, soil erosion, and inconsistent water tables. Too often, the expense of a new drainage system is incurred by a landowner for their farm property just to find out it could be compromised. As other neighboring farm properties make capital improvements, a farm’s existing infrastructure is subject to outlet access. Furthermore, the cost appropriation of a community drainage system allows farmland owners to implement more effective solutions with an added cost-benefit.

So, what can be done to prevent these drainage pitfalls? For maximum value, it is becoming necessary to have a third-party assessment to evaluate the watershed options from an objective and neutral perspective. It requires experts that understand water resource engineering and can advise with integrity on the best design, technology, and products – while overseeing implementation and long-term management. A trusted partner that understands hydrology and the intricacies that surround agricultural drainage is the key to success in today’s drainage water management environment.

Our belief is that an engineering expert in drainage water management is able to advise, investigate, and manage needs while understanding and identifying the watershed through an engineering lens. A watershed approach allows science-based analysis of the needs of the stakeholders while holistically addressing water management challenges. Qualitative and quantitative data is used for assessing water resources and for planning long-term strategies – not guesswork. Engineering experts can advise on the best product systems that provide efficient designs and accurate data to make educated decisions; ones that conduct a comparison of fields to maximize yield, determine the timeline of the yield, minimize risk, and keep costs manageable. Third-party consulting and engineering, for long-term watershed solutions, is the answer to the concerns that arise from short-sighted drainage design and implementation.

Unfortunately, some of the unprincipled practices that can occur in our industry include overbilling or inequitable design and implementation, which are detrimental to farmers’ bottom-line and the reputation of the discipline. Honest third-party engineering consultants develop ways for their clients’ businesses to flourish long after the contract ends. For example, they encourage cooperation with other farmers, counties, townships, and drainage districts that make the solution equitable and sustainable. The collaboration between multiple stakeholders and jurisdictions can become quite complicated without a professional third-party to facilitate. By coordinating and leveraging a network of professional contractors, material suppliers, and technology, trustworthy consultants can ensure stewardship for farmers; and provide a turnkey solution for management during the planning, implementation, and lifetime monitoring of a project.

As farmers, we know that preserving the land through proper drainage water management must be a priority for the betterment of our income, land, and families. We want other landowners and farmers to know that there are better options to explore when it comes to best management practices in drainage water management. Improving engineering knowledge in hydrology is one of the main solutions for a better yield on drainage water investment. Remember to seek scientific, honest, unbiased, watershed-level engineering experts that can help you provide equitable solutions through honest assessments. Understanding and utilizing the watershed with integrity is agriculture’s new watershed moment!

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