The Twin Platte Natural Resource District needed to document irrigation groundwater usage. They could have installed water meters, but the meters were not cost effective. And water meters traditionally are only read once a year, after irrigation season. Instead, they turned to partnerships and innovative thinking to get the job done.
They started by talking to Dawson Public Power District of Lexington and Midwest Electric Cooperative Corporation of Grant, which provide service to irrigation pumps in the natural resource district. TPNRD also invited Grower’s Information Services Coop into those early conversations. GiSC would gather all the information and create an app to display the data for irrigators.
“Both electric utilities immediately understood why it was beneficial to work with the Twin Platte NRD,” says Billy Tiller, of GiSC. “They saw value for the irrigators and that was a key part of the project. The utilities have already made investments in infrastructure to provide power for irrigators. They are committed to working for their customers.”
“We collect detailed usage data for the irrigation services in our territory. Working together just makes sense. Our goal is the same – to help the irrigators,” says Cole Brodine, Dawson PPD Manager of Engineering. “All we needed was the customers’ permission to share that information with Twin Platte.”
Electric usage information is multiplied by the pumping rate to find the water volume. TPNRD tests wells to determine accurate pumping rates. For fossil fuel powered irrigation units, TPNRD installed devices to track the amount of time that they pump water.
Data is then provided to irrigators through an app created by GiSC. Producers access their daily water usage information to make decisions. GiSC also creates an aggregated report for TPNRD, which gets shared with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources who cooperates with the TPNRD.
“The TPNRD believes the best stewards of the soil and water are the growers. This water data program gives them information they need to make decisions,” says Kent Miller, TPNRD General Manager. “Together, we are conserving water. That is so important for the grower and for the agricultural economy of Nebraska.”
The program is supported by the water users, with one hundred percent of the certified ground water irrigated acres in the TPNRD participating in the program.
TPNRD’s Water Data Program has proved successful and may be used as a model in state, nationally and globally.
Miller appreciates the partnerships with all of the public power districts involved. The TPNRD Water Data Program relies on the participation of four separate electric utility providers: Dawson PPD, Custer Public Power District, MECC and Nebraska Public Power District.
Other TPNRD partners include Paige Wireless, Sitka Technology Group and Olsson Engineering.
Dawson PPD serves a total of 5,814 irrigation accounts, as well as residential, commercial, and industrial customers. The district is in the process of merging with Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District which provides surface water for about 1,100 accounts. Together, the Platte River Public Power and Irrigation District will continue its commitment to serve customers in central Nebraska. PRPPID understands the significant role irrigation plays in individual livelihoods, the general economy, and the ecosystems of the area.