GREENE, COUNTY (KAIT) --"It's really hard to tell what's going on 50 - 100 feet underground and these systems will give us an abundance of information to really know what's happening with that resource." Says John Sloan who owns a farm near Fontaine. Mounted on one of his irrigation pumps is a series of gray boxes, a camera, a rain gauge and an antenna.
It's a system called a "Pump Genie" and it is designed to monitor irrigation pumps and provide information back to the farmer via cell phone and Internet.
Sloan says with many water tables dropping in Region 8, farmers have to watch every penny they use for irrigation be it either electricity or diesel.
"They don't want to be pumping that diesel fuel into their tanks and burning it up if the waters not really gonna help their yields." Sloan said.
Diesel and electric powered irrigation pumps put thousands, maybe millions, of gallons of water on crops every year here in Region 8. Up until a little over a year ago it was nearly impossible to really know how efficient these systems are. The "Pump Genie" monitoring system gives farmers lots of information.
Anna Chisum is an installer amongst her other hats that she wears. She showed me the new upgraded version which is divided into 2 water proof boxes. Chisum says farmers can really get down to basics with this technology.
Chisum, "Such their water flow, their line pressure and the amount of energy that it's costing or that it's using to pump that water, they are able to determine if their system is efficient or not."
Dennis Carman with the White River Irrigation District is working with the "Pump Genie's" manufacturers. "Farmers have to be efficient with irrigation." Carman said, he knows it takes X amount of energy to pump X amount of water. Carman says Mr. Sloan will pay about 10 an acre foot from a 45 foot well. Other farmers in areas where the water table is going down could pay 18 or 19 dollars an acre foot from a deeper well. With the data supplied to a farmer from the system they can tell if their pumps are efficient.
Carman, "So if your using something outside those ranges I can tell you that you may have a problem. Either time to tune up the engine, there may be a problem with your pump, you impellers or it may be time to start looking at your wells. Matching of the efficiency, we're going to be looking at that at a day or week or month depending on what a farmer wants to do. All they have to do is punch a button and say give me a report."
John Sloan has one system on his farm near Fontaine, it has been in use for one season. He will be installing 10 more this year. It's the monitoring features that appealed to him.
Sloan, "It was the amount of water used and also to have a handle on how the water table is changing."
Carman says that with water levels different from county to county, exact monitoring of pumping costs help farmers make crucial decisions.
Carman, "It makes a difference in your decisions that you are going to make and what crops you are going to plant and your budget."
The system includes a cell phone that transmits the gathered data to the Internet for the farmer to look at.
Anna Chisum showed me how the data would look on her laptop. She said it would be the same on many devices such as, "a smart phone, your IPad, your laptop, your desktop computer anybody that has an Internet connection can do that."
And the farmer in turn can control his wells both diesel powered and electric. With a touch on her pad she cranked up one of Sloan's electric wells. We were only a hundred feet of way but we could have been miles away. For some farmers who farm in local blocks the remote access might not seem important, but for farmers that farm in several counties knowing when a pump goes down will enable them to get someone out there quicker.
A USDA grant is available to offset the cost of installation. The grant will pay for 65% of the installation and the other 35% the farmers cost can be absorbed by tax credits up to 50% in Critical Water decline areas.
The deadline to apply is April 15th. You can contact your local USDA office or click on the links posted below.