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Water continues to be in headlines more and more as we face droughts across the world. Thankfully, Indiana is generally an area that receives a lot of rainfall each year relative to some of the western states.
About 15 years ago, we installed a water system on our farm that provides fresh drinking water to all of our fields via underground pipes and concrete water troughs built into the ground. These troughs are fed entirely by a pond on our farm that is filled by very little runoff (picture below). The water input is ~2 feet from the surface of the water where the cleanest water is (free from sediment on the bottom and floating leaves/sticks/etc. on top of the water). About half of the farm's water troughs are 100% gravity fed, water for the remaining troughs is pumped "over the hill" to the parts of the farm that are unable to be gravity fed. By using natural rain-collected water, we are able to avoid using treated "city" water.
We built a network of seven ponds, strategically placed across the farm to capture runoff from nearby fields. These ponds are connected via creeks that allow the water to slow down. Our goal is to slow down the movement of water so that sediment and any other runoff (e.g., manure) is captured and has a chance to be cleaned before it leaves our farm. At the end of this network of ponds is a man-made wetland (picture below) that is the final step of cleaning before leaving the farm. Wetland grasses and duckweed use the nutrients in the water to grow and filter the water, visibly cleaning it before it leaves. We have had our system reviewed by environmental government agencies and other water sustainability groups and they are very supportive of our system and resulting clean water!
Another important component of water conservation is that by increasing our top soil and subsoil depth, we are increasing the water holding capacity of each of our fields. It is estimated that for each inch of topsoil and subsoil that is added, you increase the water holding capacity by 1 day. Through our corn silage / ryegrass rotation we have increased the depth of our top soil and subsoil by 13 inches! We have seen this in action by noticing how much more drought tolerant our fields are relative to other fields in our area. Additionally, these soils are more flood and erosion resistant because the soil can absorb the water.