Ditching the Ditch-Walking Way of Life


Answering an emergency call in the middle of the night to remove another bundle of sticks and leaves from a ditch by hand is the tiresome and relentless work of a ditch walker. But without ditch walkers, water doesn’t make it to farms and the system gets damaged.

As critical as ditch walkers are to these century-old systems, they also exemplify their tremendous inefficiency. Before Farmers Irrigation District (FID) modernized, they had to employ Elias and a dozen other ditch walkers to tend their canals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—an enormous expense for farmers.

Today, Elias keeps regular hours and helps to operate the district’s 4.8 megawatt green hydropower plants. Paired with an innovative fish screen and underground, pressurized pipes, the district has reduced its water use by 50%, lowered its operating costs by over $100,000 per year and saved hundreds of thousands of fish.

FID was one of the first districts to modernize their entire system and has inspired FCA’s commitment to promote irrigation modernization across the western U.S. The Irrigation Modernization Program is helping irrigation districts walk confidently into a more efficient and secure future.