Agriculture is highly dependent on water. Many farmers in the west are faced with critical water issues such as those in western Nebraska. There the Ogallala portion of the High Plains Aquifer is the principal source of water for all uses – 90% of which is for agricultural irrigation. Improved irrigation efficiency can conserve water, energy and dollars for today’s farmers.
It is important to consider all aspects of irrigation to maximize crop production and income, including:
- efficient pumping plant operation
- proper water application methods
- efficient irrigation scheduling
- the use of low pressure nozzles
Statistics show that farmers are spending 20-30% more than they need to because of inefficient pumping plants. A substantial savings in water and energy is possible if these pumping plants can be adjusted to run at their design efficiency. The Irrigation Pump Testing procedures can help farmers save water, energy and dollars.
Pump testing is an easy, straight forward way to determine overall efficiency of a pumping plant. It is also useful in determining whether adjustments or repairs are needed. The field test takes between one and two hours. It can be done by private businesses, such as well drillers and irrigation equipment suppliers, or the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The test allows the farmer to obtain information about pumping water levels, pumping rate, discharge pressure, pump and engine speed, and energy use. This data is used to determine the performance rating of the pumping plant. If the plant performance is less than 100% rating (under the Nebraska Performance Criteria), energy and dollar savings are possible. Depending on the amount of extra energy being used, it is easy to determine if pump adjustment or repair is cost effective.
The test provides information that can be used by the farmer to effectively operate this irrigation system. By knowing the water level, the pump can be placed at the proper depth in the well. The total amount of water being applied to the field is calculated by knowing the actual pumping rate. The discharge pressure measurement can be compared to that needed for the distribution system to check for proper irrigation system operation. Information on the pump and electric motor is helpful in determining if the motor is properly sized and the system is operating efficiently. And of course, energy efficiency and cost savings are the main reasons for conducting the Irrigation Pump Test.
After problems with the pumping equipment have been identified through the Irrigation Pump Test, farmers can evaluate the other aspects of the total irrigation system and operation to achieve the delicate balance necessary to make the maximum use of water and energy resources at the greatest possible energy savings.