Northern Nevada farmers are used to long, dry summers. In fact, long dry summers are so predictable here that some are investing in ways to stretch what water we have further.
Churchill Vineyards went to a special drip system for its crop of grapes a decade ago. They say it was a big investment at the time, but it's one that's paid off.
"We grow a lot of different crops out here," says Colby Frey, who owns the vineyard and the farm. "We still flood irrigate the corn and the alfalfa and the barley. But for the grapes we have a specific drip system that puts the water just on each individual vine. And it uses 10% of the water used in flood irrigation."
Every farm is allocated water by water rights and the amount of storage in our reservoirs. At Churchill Vineyards, some of that water is put into a holding pond they've built. It's filtered and run to the drip system when it's needed.
Rick Lattin of Lattin Farms in Fallon took a valuable lesson from history. After our last big brush with drought in 1992, he decided to invest in a reclamation system and a drip system for certain crops.
"We have a series of underground perforated pipes that collects the run-off from flooding the alfalfa and the corn. We filter that and then use it to drip the crops like melons and pumpkins that are more spread out. It saves us about 50% of the water. So we can make it last," Lattin explains.
Lattin even covers his drip system with plastic so that it doesn't evaporate off the fields. Because every year, every drop counts.
"When we run out, they turn it off," Lattin says. "So learning to stretch it across the growing season really can make you or break you as a northern Nevada farmer.