Irrigation futures irrigation tools for the future


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Irrigation tools for the future

This article featured in the Irrigation Australia Journal, Autumn 2009.

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Irrigation futures irrigation tools for the future

  1. 1. IRRIGATION TOOLS FOR THE FUTURE The CRC for Irrigation Futures has had a look through its toolbox and come up with a sample of products and ideas to illustrate the variety of innovative ways we will be looking at irrigation and water management in the future. Monitoring pump performance Once they are installed, pumps typically operate on a set-and-forget basis. Unfortunately, they also often don’t performing as specified and chew through more electricity or diesel than needed. Of course, a pump assessment can be done to check performance, but a disadvantage is that they may only look at performance for an hour or two, rather than over the whole irrigation cycle during which the pump may perform different duties. Now there is a solution to this issue - the Wireless Pressurised Irrigation Monitoring System (PIMS). PIMS provides a toolkit for The heart of the PIMS toolkit - a coordinator unit which integrates the various sensors monitoring the performance of key during the irrigation cycle. components of an irrigation system, such as pump pressure and suction, cycle. Data can be viewed as it is Pat Daley from Daley’s Water application pressures and storage collected or stored by the coordinator Service in Queensland has tested the water levels. Importantly, the PIMS and downloaded later. The wireless toolkit out in the field. toolkit allows continuous monitoring system offers great flexibility in of performance across the complete connecting the range of sensors. The irrigation cycle. PIMS system can be customised to a specific application to provide real- At the heart of the PIMS toolkit is time and remote monitoring of coordinator unit which integrates the resources, irrigation and assets. various sensors during the irrigation Figure 2. Pressure variation at the end of Figure 1. Information that PIMS can provide includes pump head and pressure over time a centre pivot operating on undulating at different water depths. country.32 IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA
  2. 2. CRCIF “I am very impressed with what a travelling irrigator or centre pivot costs incurred rectifying systemlittle information can give you,” said over undulating ground.” performance,” he explained.Pat. “Initial data from a side roll According to Pat, the assessmentirrigator has highlighted a defined work he has carried out has shown Informationpump suction problem when it is 60% of distribution uniformity For information about PIMS, contactfilling the spray line; it is taking far problems are from incorrect pressure Dr Jack McHugh, phone 07 4631 1873,too long to get up to pressure at the at the water applicator. emailsprays. I see the PIMS as being useful “This particular trial data allowed the variable pressures you me to calculate the pay back time ofmight have when operating aAlternative approaches to irrigation in Northern AustraliaThere has been much debate about better integrated into the unique across the landscape that may be athe potential of expanding irrigation environmental and cultural viable alternative to traditionalin northern Australia. The CRCIF landscape of the tropics? large-scale irrigation systems (seehas asked the question: if irrigation Irrigation mosaics might be one Figure 3).is changed and/or expanded in way. Mosaics involve discrete Irrigation mosaics may be morenorthern Australia, how can it be patches of irrigated land distributed sympathetic to and in tune with northern Australia landscapes, allowing more options and opportunities for adaptive irrigation management. If properly integrated into different landscapes a mix of small-scale irrigated patches could help reduce surface and deep drainage, minimise erosion and decrease nutrient loss relative to large-scale irrigated areas. By comparison, traditional approaches to irrigation can lead to rising watertables and soil and groundwater salinisation, and threaten the long term sustainability of irrigated areas. Leakage of nutrients and agrochemicals from the rootzone can threaten downstream ecological systems. Some analysis tools are now available to obtain further insights into various mosaic designs. We now need to develop more knowledge about the broader movement of solutes like nitrate and salt in mosaic systems. Further analysis of the ecological, social and economic impacts is also required. While further research is Figure 3. Irrigation mosaics and traditional contiguous irrigation areas. Blue and red needed, the application of arrows represent water and solute movement, respectively. irrigation mosaic thinking could benefit not only new irrigation developments but alsoSome potential impacts of irrigation mosaics reconfiguration of existingPotential +ve impacts Potential -ve impacts irrigation in northern and southern Australia.• reduced watertable rise • higher evapotranspiration Information• improved filtering of surplus nutrients • increased operational water losses For more information about mosaics,• reduction in solutes leaving an irrigated • more difficult logistics for implementation contact Dr Keith Bristow, phone region 07 4753-8596, email• ability to exploit natural variability in the • diseconomies of scale landscape website IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA 33
  3. 3. CRCIF Water pictures worth a thousand words and NSW), phone 08 8302 0887, email Community participation has to ‘shift’ ground by designing become an accepted part of good acceptable ‘packages’ is the heart of website public decision-making processes the art of consensus building such as water planning. But using approach. Dr Claudia Baldwin (for Queensland), participation to build consensus phone 07 5430 1283, across the community is not easy. Information email Pictures taken by irrigators are For information about Photovoice Claudia.Baldwin@irrigationfutures. proving to be a great way of drawing contact: Professor Jennifer McKay (for SA out how people value water and their attitudes to water reforms. In short, this provides a deeper understanding Rural community members provide their perspective – in pictures of the issues. ‘Photovoice’ is a technique that lets people use photos LEFT: Lower Balonne upstream: ‘The to represent what water means to development we have here and the them and to illustrate their investment … is useless without water’ understanding of sustainable water use. The technique complements more traditional survey methods to give insights into how the irrigators view water issues. In southeast South Australia (SA), RIGHT: Lower Balonne downstream: an exhibition of the photos taken by ‘Lignum watercourses…from floods which 6 irrigators and other rural we don’t get a lot of these days… When community members, called Picturing we don’t get any floodwater on this heavy Water Use and Justice, was shown in sort of country, we don’t grow a huge lot the Adelaide fringe festival and in Mt of food’ Gambier in 2008. Another exhibition is almost completed for the Coleambally region of NSW. LEFT: Lower Lockyer: ‘Our house … The SA Photovoice exhibition has our livelihood and our children’s future provided new insights into drought, ... without water we don’t have a the sense of attachment to land and business, without water you’re reported on the efforts made by concerned for your children’s future’… irrigators to achieve sustainable ‘this parking lot would normally be full… management of their land. these people matter to me’ Comments from urban Adelaide residents on the exhibition RIGHT: Water at work. Hundreds of underscore the realisation of graziers, stock agents and meat buyers sustainable practices used by growers. mill around looking for bargains or In the Lockyer catchment west of checking that they got a fair price from the Brisbane and in the Lower Balonne buyer. All these people heavily depend on catchment in south Queensland, the the irrigated pasture for their livelihood. ‘Photovoice’ method drew out values about procedural and distributional fairness, sustainable water use, need for independence and community wellbeing. Photovoice allowed LEFT: Water as it should be. The last of opponents to discuss their different the “wet” winters. Swans normally return to values, leading to reduced the same swamp every year but these have found the Tillas Wetland dry for 7 of competitive orientations, finding the last 12 winters. common ground and achieving agreements. The ability to get parties Smart metering important elements associated with measure water use and provide practising efficient irrigation. detailed information that can lead to ‘Smart’ water metering technology, Current intensive irrigation improved irrigation practice and which has the potential to improve schemes often consist of complex efficiency. irrigation and on farm efficiency, is pressurised delivery network systems, The research has shown improved being researched by the CRCIF at its and obtaining useful information on irrigation efficiency through use of University of South Australia node water use can be technically difficult this information in trials conducted Knowing the amount of water being and expensive. ‘Smart’ technology on citrus and avocado crops and used and where it is used are can be coupled with a water meter to vineyards in Renmark, South Australia34 IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA
  4. 4. and on urban open space turf irrigated in Adelaide.Other trials are being assessed in applicationsinvolving vegetable crops, almond orchards, grapevines and plant nurseries. An unexpected outcome from the trials to date isthe interest in accurate water use data expressed byirrigators and, more importantly, the desired toimprove irrigation efficiency. One of the trials hasled to an intensive field salinity and nutrient soluteassessment while another demonstrated that apotential saving of 30% or 100 ML annually couldbe achieved on one farm alone. Designed to be used where irrigation is managedmanually or with simple controllers, the ‘Smart’ toolis intended to be a technology for use at the farmenterprise level, but it also has potential benefits forirrigation water suppliers and urban open spaceirrigators. National Water Commission funding will enablethe CRCIF to further develop and extend the tool’ssmart capabilities, and identify the factors that willencourage uptake of the technology by rural andurban pressurised irrigators. The Chief Executive Officer of the CRC IF, IanAtkinson, says the technology has potentialapplications in both rural and urban settings. Inurban irrigation for instance it could be used bylocal government to monitor water use at multi-purpose community facility where water is used forturf, gardens, toilets and other purposes. Being ableto accurately monitor water use for each purposefrom the one device has major potential in a time ofwater shortages. However, to achieve commercialapplication of the technology the CRCIF will beseeking a suitable commercial partner and would bepleased to hear from Australian companies lookingto exploit these ideas. The research on smart metering is beingconducted with support from the AustralianGovernment through the National WaterCommission’s Raising National Water StandardsProgram (RNWS). The program supports theimplementation of the National Water Initiative byfunding projects that are improving Australia’snational capacity to measure, monitor and manageour water resources. To reach the decision-makers in the irrigation field, you should consider advertising in Irrigation Australia Journal, the official journal of Irrigation Australia. For information on advertising rates, please contact Brian Rault at Hallmark Editions, Tel (03) 8534 5000 or email