WERA1022: Irrigation Technologies and Scheduling for Water Conservation and Water Resources Management

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

WERA1022: Irrigation Technologies and Scheduling for Water Conservation and Water Resources Management

Duration: 10/01/2022 to 09/30/2027

Administrative Advisor(s):


NIFA Reps:


Statement of Issues and Justification

Irrigated agriculture is the largest consumptive user of freshwater resources in the United States (Dieter et al. 2018). The irrigation industry in the United States escalated in response to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and has steadily increased irrigated acreage with water withdrawals peaking in 1980 at 150 billion gallons per day. The most recent consumption estimates showed a decrease to 118 billion gallons per day by 2015 despite the continued trend of increasing irrigated acreage at the national level. Though the reasons for the decline are dynamic and complex, it can be partially attributed to investments in scientific research and extension efforts that have increased the knowledge and availability of more efficient irrigation systems, tools, technologies, and resources over the last few decades.

Past multi-state extension efforts increased water conservation, but new irrigation strategies are needed due to increasing climate variability, declining freshwater availability, poor water quality, and uncertain economic stability. Just in the past few years, irrigators have experienced occurrences of short- and long-term droughts, wildfires, intense hurricanes, unprecedented rainfall patterns, aquifer depletion, saltwater intrusion, and pandemic-related accessibility limitations to irrigation management tools, irrigation parts, and other resources. These occurrences have illuminated the imperative need for continuing to strengthen multi-state coordination and dissemination of science-based research, extension, education, and outreach surrounding irrigation technologies, strategies, management, and scheduling.

While the selection of infrastructure for irrigation applications plays a significant role in water conservation potential, those investment decisions typically occur by the irrigator through their methods of determining economic feasibility and planning for long-range needs. Thus, the role of collaborative multi-state research and extension efforts must be tailored toward areas of improving efficiency and/or water conservation potential through irrigation scheduling techniques, irrigation water management strategies, and technological advancements. Multi-state collaboration is necessary to meet the goals associated with these efforts as resources vary by state, aquifer system, and watershed.

 

Objectives

  1. Coordinate efforts to develop or improve the effectiveness and availability of irrigation scheduling techniques, tools, and resources that address limited water resource availability and water quality concerns.
  2. Coordinate efforts to increase the efficient design and operation of irrigation systems including the use of add-on or independent technologies.
  3. Coordinate efforts to promote efficient irrigation through the development of a series of multi-state extension materials.

Procedures and Activities

During the last project period, WERA 1022 participants and interested stakeholders were added to a collaborative Team in the Microsoft TEAMS workspace application for information sharing and coordination of resources. This software was chosen as a stronger option than a website and requires less maintenance and editing to achieve collaboration and communication. Also, the TEAMS application was already being utilized by several participating faculty due to the shift to virtual meeting options during the pandemic. This new project will continue to utilize the established TEAMS group to encourage the continued building of information and resources among colleagues. Participants from each state can then utilize the resources deemed applicable to their clientele on their website or similar tool. 

Objective 1: Coordinate efforts to develop or improve the effectiveness and availability of irrigation scheduling techniques, tools, and resources that address limited water resource availability and water quality concerns. 

Irrigation scheduling consists of methods used to assist growers with determining when and how much irrigation should be applied. This is accomplished by combining atmospheric conditions, soil physical properties, and plant-specific information to model irrigation requirements. Traditional techniques utilize weather or climate data to calculate reference evapotranspiration (ETref) using the standardized equation (ASCE-EWRI 2005) that is converted to crop evapotranspiration (ETc) using a crop coefficient (Kc). The ETc is then used in a soil water balance or other model to estimate soil water status and the irrigation requirement. Though this method has been broadly accepted, there have been significant advances in techniques, tools, and resources used to obtain the model inputs in recent years. Specifically, advanced technologies for estimating ETc have become more available and cost-effective (e.g. remote sensing, satellite imagery). Thus, there is still a need to coordinate, discuss, and review all irrigation scheduling methods to provide clientele with the best possible information for irrigation management. 

Objective 2: Coordinate efforts to increase the efficient design and operation of all types of irrigation systems including the use of add-on or independent technologies.

As was stated previously, researchers and extension specialists rarely can contribute to the design of new or replacement irrigation systems in coordination with or on behalf of clientele. Instead, the focus has been placed on improving the efficiency of those systems through operation and maintenance considerations as well as add-on technologies meant to improve irrigation efficiency. These technologies can be specific to the type of irrigation infrastructure and practices associated with that selection. Some examples include:

  • Furrow Irrigation: Computerized hole selection, surge valves
  • Sprinkler Irrigation: Variable rate irrigation, precision mobile drip irrigation
  • Drip Irrigation: Pressure compensation, system layout, air injection

Some WERA 1022 participants may focus their research activities toward one system for resource efficiency and time management. Thus, the ability to disseminate research and extension information concerning the benefits and limitations of irrigation practices beyond state lines is a collaborative achievement. Thus, the development of collaborative educational resources on the operation and maintenance of various irrigation systems and technological strategies for increasing irrigation efficiency is needed. 

Objective 3: Coordinate efforts to promote efficient irrigation through the development of a series of multi-state extension materials.

The advancement of irrigation must be coordinated with the modernization of extension education; one of the most effective ways to engage clientele today is through social media. Multiple subcommittees of five or more project participants will collaborate on developing up to three short videos that define specific concepts related to irrigation systems, practices, or technologies and generalize their applications using science-based information. Meant for a broad audience, these videos will be shared by all extension specialists and interested parties as a method for inviting clientele to reach out for more information. At least one multi-state extension publication with technical and scientific content will be produced in support of the video topic.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Continued improvement and support of irrigation scheduling techniques, tools, and resources will increase adoption rates among clientele and reduce unnecessary irrigation events resulting in the potential for water conservation.
  • The design and use of more efficient irrigation systems, including add-on or independent technologies, will increase water use efficiency and help to manage limitations to available water resources.
  • Target audiences will become more aware of and familiar with irrigation systems, associated technologies, and irrigation scheduling.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Many of the participants serve on committees of ASABE, ASCE, Crop Consultants of America (CCA), and the Irrigation Association (IA). Everyone can't attend and keep abreast of all the activities being conducted by these organizations. One of the major activities of this committee will be to have a session at each meeting that conveys to the group the activities in these other organizations and coordinates the activities among these groups. Another purpose of this committee is the ongoing education of its participants regarding the activities on the web that are connected with irrigation scheduling. Specifically, the new project will conduct the following activities: 

  • Educational sessions at meetings about aspects of irrigation scheduling material and software
  • Development of effective documentation of irrigation scheduling information available

Dissemination of extension information through newsletters, press releases and magazine articles, presentations for end-users, and social media.

Organization/Governance

The coordinating committee will have a Chair who is responsible for calling the annual meeting, preparing the agenda, chairing the annual meeting, and obtaining approval of the previous meeting minutes. The Chair will form subcommittees to address the various objectives and tasks. The Secretary is responsible for writing the minutes and disseminating them for committee approval. In the annual meeting, the coordinating committee will elect a Chair and a Secretary for the following year. The term of the new Chair and Secretary begins within two months after the annual meeting when the previous Chair provides the annual meeting minutes to the new Chair.

Literature Cited

ASCE-EWRI. 2005. Eds: Allen, R.G., Walter, I.A., Elliott, R.L., Howell, T.A., Itenfisu, D., Jensen, M.E., Snyder, R.L. The ASCE Standardized Reference Evapotranspiration Equation. Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers.

Dieter, C.A., Linsey, K.S., Caldwell, R.R., Harris, M.A., Ivahnenko, T.I., Lovelace, J.K., Maupin, M.A., and Barber, N.L. (2018). Estimated Use of Water in the United States County-Level Data for 2015 (ver. 2.0, June 2018): U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/F7TB15V5.

Attachments

Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

CA, CO, KS, LA, OK, TX, UT

Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

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