Tag Archive for: Flood Irrigation

Today’s post is from my sister (Chicken Farmer) and resident of Double S Farms.

As a California transplant living in the desert of Arizona, there are a few things that really trip me out and one of them is flood irrigation. Every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the fall, winter, and spring months, we irrigate our yard with a “flood.”

flood irrigation

Very few homes in Arizona actually have this type of irrigation. It’s usually found in older neighborhoods and neighborhoods zoned for agricultural use. My sister, who is an expert on all things garden/desert/plants blogged about flood irrigation here and explained that the water sinks deeply into the soil which makes for deep roots for both grass and trees. It also helps to flush out salts that accumulate in the soil.

flood irrigation

Best seat in the house on a hot summer day.

Snow melt and rain water is accumulated throughout the year in a system of reservoirs and canals. One of these canals runs right behind our backyard. We sign up to irrigate through our local utility company. We are allowed up to 3 hours of constant flood irrigation but we usually sign up for just an hour and a half to two hours. The utility company then sends out a schedule with our irrigation time (which lately has been in the middle of the night!). When it’s our time, I drive to the end of the street to open the flood gates and turn on the valve that you can see above to get the water flowing.

flood irrigation

Although it looks wasteful, if done properly, flood irrigation is a very efficient way to water. Because of the heat where we leave, a lot of the water from daily sprinkler use evaporates before it has a chance to soak in. A once a month deep water is much better for plants in the desert than a daily, light sprinkle. The key is to figure out just how much water you need and order the right amount. It’s also important that your yard is nice and even or a little hill or slope will send that water right into the street. Sadly, I have seen some neighbors water their driveways on occasion. 

flood irrigation

Our first irrigation -we hadn’t figured out how much water we needed and obviously ordered too much.

My dog Sodapop goes crazy over the irrigation. As soon as she sees the water flowing, she runs up to the valve and lays right next to it. The boys love it too. They think it’s a blast to take a pair of my flip flops and have “boat” races. I love the irrigation because it brings a ton of fun critters to the backyard – ducks, snakes, toads, and all kinds of cool shore birds.

flood irrigation

Yesterday was irrigation day and we are fortunate that it wasn’t scheduled for the middle of the night. It was scheduled for late afternoon which is the hottest time of day. The boys were stoked!

flood irrigation

We’ve been irrigating this way for over a year now and I still think it’s kind of bizarre (although we have the happiest fruit trees ever). Almost as bizarre (but not as scary) as the scorpions out here – which I’ll never get used to. But that’s an entirely different post.

Noelle here again – UPDATE:

Guess what also came in with the water?


Yes, that is a fish.  Actually the fact that it made it’s way into the backyard isn’t really all that strange.  Fish are released into the canals to help to eat the algae that can build up along bottom and sides.  This particular fish made it’s way from the larger canals to the smaller ones and into the backyard of Double S Farms.

The fish was released back into the canal by Farmer Dad.  I wonder if it will wind up in someone else’s garden?

Double S Farms

Please visit my sister’s blog FinleyandOliver to read more about her adventures in the desert southwest.

One of the most interesting things I encountered when I first moved to Arizona was driving down a residential street and seeing front yards full of 3 inches of water.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that this was done on purpose to water the front and backyard. 

Desert dwellers do like to do things differently so why shouldn’t that apply to how some of us water our landscapes?  To view some ‘flooded’ landscapes, please join me for a visit to Double S Farms.  Actually, Double S Farms is the home of my mother,  my youngest sister & her family and they live only 5 minutes from me.

flooded landscapes

Farmer #1 and Little Farmers #1 & 2 (my nephews) opening up the flood irrigation valve.

Now, Double S Farms isn’t actually a typical farm.  It is actually a home on 1 acre, which is called a ‘ranchette’ in our area because it is kind of like a little ranch.  Double S Farms has citrus, plum, apple and peach trees as well as a vegetable garden.  A chicken coop is currently going up and chickens will be moving in in a few weeks. 

*We will be posting visits to Double S Farms in the near future, especially when the chickens move in and to show more cute pictures of Little Farmers #1 & 2.

flooded landscapes

There is nothing more fun then cool water to play in in the middle of summer.

Okay, now back to irrigating – this type of irrigation, known as ‘flood irrigation’ is very inexpensive and therefore cost effective.  Our first home in Phoenix had this type of irrigation back in the 1990’s and it only cost us $56 a year to irrigate both our front and backyard – my current garden uses drip irrigation and sprinklers.

Now not all homes in the Phoenix area are irrigated this way.  Actually only a very few are and you have to live in certain areas where this is available.

flooded landscapes

Addy, Little Farmers # 1 & 2 and Farmer #1 going inside after turning on the irrigation valve. In the background are their numerous citrus trees and an apple tree.

In the summertime flood irrigation occurs twice a month and in the winter time only once a month.  Water sinks deeply into the soil which makes for deep roots for both grass and trees.  It also helps to flush out salts that accumulate in the soil.

Okay, you may be wondering how the water gets from the mountains down into the yard.  Well, the water comes from a series of reservoirs that collect water from snow melt and rain.  Water users (homeowners) sign up each time that they want water and then only the amount needed is released from the reservoirs through the dams.  This water then runs through one of seven major canals where a ‘zanjero’, (Spanish word for ‘water master’), opens a gate from the canal to allow water to flow into smaller lateral waterways that serve certain neighborhoods.

flooded landscapes

This is how deep the water is when the valve is turned off, about 2 – 3 inches deep. Behind their fence are cattle.

omeowners are told at exactly what day and time they can turn on & off the water.  Each property has a certain allotment of water they can use.   

I can tell you from experience that it is not fun when you have to get up in the middle of the night in January to open up the flood irrigation valve and then wait to turn it off.  I have vivid memories of having to walk through freezing water to turn off the water in the middle of winter.  However, nothing can beat how refreshing it is to irrigate during the summer months.  Dogs and kids alike look forward to playing in the water.

my dog, Missy

What could be more fun then playing fetch in the water? *Sodapop is the daughter of my dog, Missy.

Many of you were so kind to comment on my previous post “What Planet Have I Landed On?” and had a lot of questions regarding the photo I posted of flood irrigation.  I hope this has answered some of your questions.  If you would like to learn more, please click here .