How do You Manage the Water on Your Farm?

How do You Manage the Water on Your Farm?


The proper implementation and management of conservation practices can help keep soil and nutrients in the field and away from waterways.

Trust In Food in collaboration with  American Public Media’s The Water Main, recently conducted research into farmers’ perceptions on water. Analyzation of responses from more than 900 farmers across 43 states yielded some incredible insights into farmers’ water-related concerns and the actions farmers take to conserve and protect water resources their operations rely on.

Among others, farmers were asked to respond to these two questions:
•    In your day-to-day life, do you try to do things that conserve water or protect water from pollution?
•    What is the most meaningful thing you do in your day-to-day life to save or protect water?

96% of respondents stated that, yes, they do take action daily to conserve or protect water from pollution and provided several, concrete ways they take action to do so. Many respondents shared actions such as:
•    “Only start the washing machine when it is full”
•    “Turn off the water when it is not in use”
•    “We have a low-volume toilet”

While we have heard from more than 900 farmers in this research, we’d love to hear what you do on your farm! Here's a link to a short, three-question survey about water quality improvement practices. Click the link and tell us how you save or protect water on your farm.


Farmers surveyed to date noted at least six additional water-saving approaches they take in their farm businesses:

1. Developing nutrient management plans
As each farm operation is unique, so is their nutrient management plan. These plans focus on the proper timing, placement and amount of nutrients and soil amendments farmers add to their fields. The intention of this practice is to reduce costs while minimizing unintended environmental degradation.

2. Establishing irrigation plans
When irrigating or applying inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, the more planning, the better. By applying the right amount to the right area at the right time, farmers can mitigate runoff, reduce input costs, and increase the overall efficiency of a farm operation.

3. Minimizing soil disturbance
No-till or reduced till limits soil disturbance and protects the soil from excessive erosion, encourages the accumulation of organic matter in the soil, improves percolation and improves general soil health.

4. Using rotational grazing and fencing
Livestock exclusion fencing helps keep livestock out of waterways, and rotational grazing allows farmers to optimize land use while minimizing negative soil impacts.

5. Increasing technology use
Soil moisture sensors and variable rate technology (VRT) allow farmers to increase the efficiency of the rate they irrigate and add soil amendments, saving time and money while reducing the chance of runoff.

6. Establishing conservation buffer areas
Buffer areas between cropland and waterways or environmentally sensitive areas act as filters that filter nutrient runoff and reduce soil erosion, protecting farmers’ soil and input investments as well as mitigating the impact of nutrient runoff. Conservation buffers include field borders, filter strips, vegetated or grassed waterways, and riparian buffers.

The proper implementation and management of practices such as these can help keep soil and nutrients in the field and away from waterways. This helps farmers protect their investments, the water resources their operations rely on and helps protect water quality for downstream users as well.

This article was written by  Kinsie Rayburn, Conservation Knowledge Officer, Trust In Food.