Our Water & Drought Management series continues today with energy management tips from Derek Moffitt, olive grower, engineer and sales manager at Rain Bird. Believe it or not, irrigation pumping is the largest consumer of energy in most agricultural operations, and accounts for more than 5.5% of the total electricity load from PG&E. Every farmer deals with hidden costs throughout the farm, and so read on as Derek give us easy tips for making our irrigation systems more efficient, lowering energy expenses, and reducing water use.
Tip 1: You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Use utility meters, power recorders and other tools to measure cost per kilowatt to assess your highest operating expenses. Farmers are familiar with their fertilizer, chemical and irrigation cost per acre, but often not their kilowatt hour (KWH) per acre. By monitoring your energy costs, you can catch unseen problems and potential capital expenses. Some ways to measure energy consumption are through utility company meters, bills, water meters, and power monitors and recorders.
Tip 2: Provide design specifications when you create your irrigation system. Each plot of farmland is different, and by taking into account exactly what you need and where you need it, specifications can be made to make your irrigation system more efficient. Don’t settle for the cheapest bid; it will cost you more over time and increase pressure losses from the pump to the end of the line.
Tip 3: Invest in drip and microsystem irrigation. The initial investment of a drip system has a high upfront cost, but it pays off quickly when electrical and fertilizer costs are taken into account. Drip and microsystems use less energy and require lower water pressure, saving time and resources in the long run.
Tip 4: Use pressure compensating drip emitters. Pressure-compensating drip emitters deliver a precise amount of water regardless of changes in pressure due to row length or changes in terrain. They cost around $40 an acre to install. Pressure compensating drip emitters provide 95% efficiency as compared to 85% efficiency for non-compensating drip emitters.
Tip 5: Know your valves. Many energy efficient irrigation systems don’t provide high enough pressure to work with proper filtration systems, and using valves can help. Drip and micro sprinklers can operate in a 7 to 15 psi range while filters require 25 to 35 psi for back flush. Pressure sustaining valves build up proper pressure for filtration systems and are energy efficient.
Tip 6: Install your own weather and moisture monitoring probes. The more you know, the better off you are, and these tools provide valuable information and insight into energy efficiencies. Often farms have their own microclimates, and managing evaporation and water use can reduce irrigation and help with frost protection.
Tip 7: Use automated operating systems. Using automated operating systems to turn off pump and irrigation systems during peak times can save money and water. Installation can cost anywhere from $10-$50 per acre, but pays itself off quickly.
For more information on irrigation efficiency management, or to inquire about any of Rain Bird’s products, get in touch with Derek: email@example.com.
For more practical water-related resources, see our Water & Irrigation Toolkit.
If you happened to miss them, check out the other articles in our Water & Drought Management Series:
- Part 1: American Farmland Trust’s Outstanding Leaders
- Part 2: Livestock Strategies to Withstand A Drought – Options & Tips from Flying Mule Farm
- Part 3: Practical Tools & Resources – The FarmsReach Water & Irrigation Toolkit
- Part 4: Checklist to Drought-Proof Your Farm
- Part 5: Drought Adjustment Strategies from Mendocino Organics
- Part 6: Understanding Groundwater Management
If you have questions, words of wisdom or other great tips for the many farmers dealing with the drought, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!
If you have other great water management resources to share, get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!