Most nursery stock requires a lot of irrigation water. If the property you are considering does not have water withdrawal and irrigation rights, it is likely that you will not be able acquire those rights. You cannot drill a well to irrigate crops without going through a permit process. Check your water rights and irrigation priority with the State of Oregon Water Resources Department. Some growers have a back-up water system in case the primary water source fails. This is important in container growing operations and with field grown plants that require cooling in hot summer days.

Irrigation is a necessary practice for producing container-grown and field-grown nursery and greenhouse plants. Overhead sprinkler irrigation is the most common and often the most practical system used. With overhead irrigation, large quantities of water are required to compensate for low water-application efficiency. Plant nurseries are looking at ways to help conserve water and solve environmental concerns regarding water quality and runoff. In addition, water costs are increasing and water use regulations are more restrictive. Managers must determine which irrigation systems and production methods best fit their nursery.

Work closely with irrigation suppliers to determine suitable irrigation equipment, proper design of the system, and needed water capacity. An irrigation system which gives complete and uniform coverage is especially important. Your water capacity, in terms of both withdrawal and delivery, must be sized to the worst case scenario in the growing season (like 100-degree weather for a week in a container yard). The water supply and irrigation system should not only meet present needs, but should also provide for possible future expansion.

Water Quality

The Agricultural Water Quality Management Program administered by the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Division, is responsible for addressing water pollution associated with agricultural lands and activities. In addition, guidelines require container nurseries and greenhouses in Oregon to avoid irrigation water discharge off the premises between May 1 and October 31 annually. The ODA requires review of irrigation water management plans for new and expanding operations, inspections of existing operations, and conducts investigations of complaints.

A water test will determine suitability of a water supply for nursery production. Many western Oregon water supplies run high in carbonates and bicarbonates, usually in the calcium and/or magnesium forms. Boron, Sodium, Chloride and high TDS (total dissolved solids) toxicity occasionally occurs from western Oregon water sources.