Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016OK326B

Western Oklahoma Irrigation Water and Energy Audits: Findings, Recommendations and Educational Materials

Institute: Oklahoma
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $25,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,000

Principal Investigators: Scott Frazier, Saleh Taghvaeian, Jason Warren, Cameron Murley

Abstract: Problem: The western portion of Oklahoma is in a precarious water supply situation. Recent record rains may prove to be an anomaly with a rapid return to widespread drought. The groundwater levels in this part of the state have been lowering significantly every year due to high use and lack of recharge rainwater. The largest user of water in this portion of the state is agricultural irrigation. Competition with municipal water demands will only exacerbate the irrigation water needs. Given that this precious resource of water is threatened, we should make all attempts to assure that irrigation operations in this area are as effective and efficient (sustainable) as possible. Methods: We propose an expanded research study based on an existing Ogallala aquifer project to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of center pivot systems. For this project statistically identified center pivot systems in the western portion of the state will be tested. Specifically, a combination of natural gas, electric and diesel pumping systems reflecting the mix of such systems in the grant area will be selected to determine what opportunities exist for improvement in the engine/motor and water distribution portions for the pivot systems. Some of the systems to be tested will be identified by Oklahoma NRCS representatives who have identified clients from previous studies. This project involves measuring the input power (fuel, electricity) needed to provide measureable moisture levels at root zones in various conditions. Technologies used involve direct and remote measurements of energy types and quantities, water pressures (TDH), flow rates, and moisture at root level. Once characterized, the pivot system’s efficiencies will be compared to known benchmarks to see what the performance gap is. Opportunities to improve efficiencies will be noted as testing reveals issues with the equipment or operating procedures. Data will be accumulated and available for other researchers to project the amounts of water and energy that may be wasted in western Oklahoma irrigation systems. In addition to the water/energy efficiency study, a life cycle assessment (LCA) will be conducted for the current versus (recommended) improved irrigation systems. The LCA will highlight the environmental impacts avoided (greenhouse gases, water and soil pollution, resource usage, carcinogens and other toxicity problems). The LCA firmly establishes the “sustainability” benefits of improving irrigation water and energy efficiencies. The economics of improvements will be examined via Life Cycle Costing. Objectives: The project will give a clear picture of the efficiency and sustainability of current irrigation energy and water use in western Oklahoma. This complete research of irrigation use and impacts has not been accomplished previously and establishes the water-energy “nexus” that is often discussed but rarely quantified. The project will also identify means to improve existing systems and what the resource and cost savings would be to do so.