HPWD Accepting AIM Program Funding Applications

For the next three weeks, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) is accepting applications for cost-share funding for the third round of its Assistance in Irrigation Management (AIM) program. The enrollment period ends Sept. 25.

HPWD recently received $230,000 for AIM funding through the Texas Water Development Board’s Agricultural Water Conservation Grants program. This is the third year that HPWD has made these cost-share funds available to interested producers.

“AIM is a voluntary program to assist producers with the purchase price of telemetry-based irrigation monitoring systems used with either a center pivot system or subsurface drip irrigation system,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman.

An online application form and procedures are available at aimapp.hpwd.org. This website also includes a link to program terms & conditions – plus essential information to be included in the application.

“This year, the allocated cost-share funding is tied to the number of irrigated acres by county within the Water District. We will evaluate the number of applications received by county at the end of the three-week application period. Any remaining funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis after that time,” Coleman said.

More than 40 producers enrolled 18,400 acres of land during the first round of the AIM Program (2017). There were 154 telemetry-based systems deployed which resulted in 13,500 acre-inches of water saved.

Of this, Coleman said 6,372 acre-inches of water was saved when producers received notification of irrigation system malfunctions; 6,029 acre-inches was saved with use of irrigation scheduling software; and 1,093 acre-inches was saved by remotely turning off equipment in response to a rainfall alert.

“During the past two years, producers have shown a great amount of interest in using telemetry-based technology to improve their irrigation scheduling,” Coleman said. “HPWD commends them for their efforts to conserve groundwater resources within the District.”

Additional information about the AIM Program is available by contacting Victoria Whitehead at (806) 762-0181 or emailing aim@hpwd.org

Improving Irrigation Efficiency with Telemetry

By Katherine Drury, HPWD Conservation Connect

There have been many advances in irrigation technology during the past century. Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA) center pivot systems and subsurface drip irrigation have taken the place of furrow irrigation with open, unlined ditches. With irrigation application efficiencies nearing 100 percent, researchers and irrigation equipment manufacturers are turning their attention to improved system monitoring and scheduling.

Telemetry technology, allowing remote monitoring and control of center pivot and subsurface drip irrigation systems, is an emerging trend among producers. The most basic systems allow the producer to remotely monitor an irrigation system and turn it on or off by clicking a button on his phone or computer. The more advanced telemetry systems can incorporate soil moisture information and weather data to help a producer schedule irrigation.

Jonathan James, a cotton and wheat producer in Floyd and Crosby Counties, utilizes monitoring technology on his irrigation systems. He said this equipment has been a valuable addition to his operation. “Mrs. FieldNet,” as James’ wife calls it, frequently sends him text messages about the status of his irrigation systems. This keeps him in the loop, if a system fails.

Earlier this summer, he and his family were about to take a day trip out of town. As always, he checked his irrigation systems that morning before leaving.

“I drove by a system with one of the monitors on it,” James said. “Everything was fine. The monitor said it was fine. Visually, it was running.”

He drove to check on the final center pivot. After ensuring that it was working properly, he turned around to go home before leaving town.

“That one pivot that I had driven by ten minutes earlier texted me that it had shut off,” he said. “I stopped by and had it fixed in about 30 minutes. If I had been without the monitoring system, the pivot would’ve sat there for 24 hours before I made it back again.”

He estimates that he could have lost upwards of half a million gallons of water down the turn row had he not been immediately notified of the irrigation system malfunction.

James manages 19 center pivots. He drives about three hours every day to check on each of his fields and irrigation systems. He said this telemetry equipment helps him prioritize his route.

“I farm from north of Lorenzo to south of Dougherty. It takes me about three hours to make a circle to see every one of them. I still go to every one every day, but if I get up and see that one is off, I know I’m going there first and then make my circle rather than going around and showing up there at 11 o’clock. That’s another four or five hours it might have saved me.”

He said irrigation systems can shut down for a variety of reasons, which range from getting stuck in the mud to power surges. He estimates that on average, one of his systems malfunctions every day during the irrigation season. The ability to remotely communicate with his irrigation systems has been invaluable.

“The amount of time that it saves you and the information you collect from it is such a useful tool.”

Telemetry allows producers to track when their systems were turned on or off and how long they are in operation. This data can be exported and evaluated with each data point serving as an opportunity to learn and refine the process for next season.

“Efficiency is the name of the game in farming. Every year, we’re trying to squeeze just a little more and a little more, and this increases my efficiency of keeping machines running.”