Property irrigation and the miner’s inch

Property irrigation and the miner’s inch
Date Published: May 29, 2009

Dear Sue,
I appreciated the information you provided in your article on buying country property. I have been looking for a piece of land where I can plant an orchard and a good-size garden.
I am told that it would be best to find a parcel that has irrigation water so that I don’t have to use the well. I was also told that not all country properties have access to irrigation water. Where do I find properties that do?
In my search I discovered that irrigation water comes from the Nevada Irrigation District or Placer County Water Agency. I have heard that I can buy irrigation water by the miner’s inch. I have no idea what this means.
Can you enlighten me?
~ Farmer Fred
Dear Fred,

The picturesque and meandering canals that wind their way through the foothills carry raw irrigation water to approximately 750,000 acres of agricultural land.
The source is the snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada.
During the Gold Rush days, all of the major rivers and streams from the snowmelt were diverted into canals to be sold to the mining companies for hydraulic mining.
The turn of the century brought the agricultural era to the foothills. The mining canals were converted to serve the foothill farmers.
After World War II and well into the 1960s, licensing districts were formed to control and convey the water. Local companies include the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and Placer County Water Agency (PCWA).
These districts sell the water by the “miner’s inch.” A miner’s inch, described by one source as a quantity of water that will flow through a 1-inch opening in a 2-inch plank, with a steady flow of water standing 6 inches above the top of the hole. A miner’s inch does not represent an exact quantity of water flow. Different ditch companies have different standards.
A miner’s inch amounts to a flow of about 1.5 cubic feet per minute. That’s 11.25 gallons per minute if you live in Northern California and only nine gallons per minute if you live in Southern California.
The water is sold by the season. It is possible to get summer or winter water or both.
Irrigation water is less expensive than treated city water. The use of irrigation water also prevents over use of one’s well. It’s used for fire suppression, filling ponds, irrigating lawns and crops.
The water districts have maps available that show the parcels that they serve. It’s very important that you check in with PCWA or NID to make certain that the water will be available.
Just because there is a canal running through a property does not mean that it can be tapped into.
Irrigate with gravity whenever possible. I once lived on a property that had NID that was piped from about a mile from its source. The water was under pressure due to the fall and distance. By the time it reached my house the pressure was measured at 90 pounds per square inch. I never once had to use electricity to irrigate.
I now live in an area where the NID canal actually runs through my property. The NID water gravity flows into a pond. I pump water from the pond for irrigation.
Visit your local NID or PCWA office for more information including availability and cost of irrigation water. It’s a matter of good Home $$$s and Sense.
Sue Thompson is owner and sales manager of HomeTown Realtors.