Open house a hit as kids, adults learn about water efficiency

By Lynn Bartels

KERSEY — Food, fun and facts about water dominated at an open house sponsored by the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project, which undertakes experiments geared toward conservation. 

Those who appeared  at the SIEP facility on Saturday, Oct. 5, were treated to a tour of surrounding alfalfa and hemp fields, and an explanation of how the crops are watered.

“You can do dry land farming but its not really sustainable,” said Jason VonLembke of the Platte River Water Development Authority.

He oversees the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project, a permanent research facility on a 165-acre parcel of land donated by the 70 Ranch in Weld County. 

The facility, at Colorado 34 and County Road 63, conducts experiments on subsurface irrigation that can be used by farmers in the South Platte River Basin to conserve irrigation water and improve their ability to withstand droughts, while improving productivity, crop quality and overall profitability. 

Close by is the 70 Ranch Reservoir, which opened in May. When full, the lined reservoir will hold somewhere around 5,500 acre feet of water. Visitors to the open house also drove around the reservoir, which was about half full. 

Colorado State University is a partner with SIEP, and its students were on hand during the open house to help young kids who conducted experiments with water. 

“We got water from a cup through straws to a beaker without any leaks,” said Jaxon Sullivan, 12, who attends Weber Middle School in Fort Collins.

SIEP provided a barbeque, cotton candy, bounce houses, door prizes and a hay-bale and pumpkin backdrop for photos during the event.  

Among the guests were local residents who worked on the 70 Ranch when it was a hog farm. Bob Lembke, president of United Water and Sanitation District, purchased the ranch in 2003. SIEP opened in 2013.

The 70 Ranch is managed by Gilbert Marin and his son, Gilbert Marin Jr. They attended the open house with their families and other farmers and ranchers from the surrounding community. 

From clockwise, Colorado State University students Muriel Butler and Jordan Campbell assist Jaxon Sullivan, 12, who attends Weber Middle School in Fort Collins, and Jacob Grifware, 11, who was visiting from Grand Junction. Their water experiment involved straws, a beaker and a cup.  They attended an open house Oct. 5 sponsored by the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project.

From clockwise, Colorado State University students Muriel Butler and Jordan Campbell assist Jaxon Sullivan, 12, who attends Weber Middle School in Fort Collins, and Jacob Grifware, 11, who was visiting from Grand Junction. Their water experiment involved straws, a beaker and a cup.  They attended an open house Oct. 5 sponsored by the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project.

Jason VonLembke, right, who oversees the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project, explains how an irrigation tape works to Jackie Jones of Kersey during an open house Oct. 5.

Jason VonLembke, right, who oversees the Subsurface Irrigation Efficiency Project, explains how an irrigation tape works to Jackie Jones of Kersey during an open house Oct. 5.