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Solving an Irrigation-Erosion Problem With Softflow Screens

Farmer Gary McClellan began solving an irrigation-erosion problem using an effective, uncomplicated, and easy-to-use device called Softflow Screens, turning a destructive jet of water into a quietly bubbling, noneroding stream.

| July/August 1982

  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 2
    [2] The same jet of water after the handy device is locked in place.
  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 1
    [1] The water flow before the installation of a Softflow Screen.
  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 3
    [3] This close-up shows the wire mesh construction and the holding screw.

  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 2
  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 1
  • Softflow screens for soil erosion 3

Here's the story of how one enterprising landowner began solving an irrigation-erosion problem using an economically feasible and practical method called Softflow Screens. (See the soil erosion photos in the image gallery.)

Solving an Irrigation-Erosion Problem With Softflow Screens

When you need an uncomplicated, easy-to-use method of watering a sizable hunk of farmland, gated irrigation pipe is hard to beat. Unfortunately, it does have one major drawback: Water flows from gated pipe in a hard, thin, cutting stream that can cause tremendous erosion damage—especially when used on hilly fields and loose soils—within a few short hours.

Typically, the force of the flow first washes away the soil beneath the gate, and the turbulent motion of the water in the resulting catch basin then causes that hole to grow and eventually merge with the next. In this manner, the surface of a field can be pitted and trenched from end to end in a relatively short time, with literally tons of precious topsoil being washed away. And, as an added problem, water meant for one furrow will often run down another, leaving the first oversoaked and the second dry.


Well, Gary McClellan—a farmer out in Vale, Oregon—got tired of seeing his fields progressively eroded by his irrigation system .. . so he decided to do something about it. However, Gary soon found that while everyone understood the problem, no one could offer a solution that was both economically feasible and practical to handle.

One helpful individual suggested the installation of pressure-reducing butterfly valves in each section of irrigation pipe, but that solution turned out to be far too costly. Another possible answer involved strapping a long socklike device over each gate and uncoiling it into the furrow. The water would flow through the sock, and its cutting energy would be dissipated. Unfortunately, the inquiring farmer soon found that the required socks were hard to come by in his area, proved difficult to strap to the pipe, and cost around $3.00 each . . . not inexpensive when you consider that Gary was irrigating through 100 gates at a time.

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