Pumping Plant Changes Can Mean more Money for Irrigators

Pumping Plant Changes Can Mean more Money for Irrigators

June 20, 2008

Some irrigators are paying twice as much as necessary to pump water to their crops, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialist.

The cost for pumping water has almost doubled in the last couple of years, said Irrigation and Water Resources Engineer, Derrel Martin. To help keep those costs under control, UNL has developed a system to help people determine how much energy they can save by improving pumping plant efficiency.

"We have a standard to represent what a good pumping plant can do," Martin said. "A considerable number of pumping plants are using twice as much energy as they should be."

Martin said that tests in Nebraska and North Dakota show that the average pumping plant operates about 75% or 80% as efficiently as that standard.

UNL's irrigation specialists have developed a simple one-page brochure (PDF 326 KB) to help producers evaluate the efficiency of their systems. They're also working with the propane industry to update the information to cover newer engines.

For an individual well, it might take four or five minutes to do the calculation. Irrigators can enter the lift, how much pressure the pump produces and their energy source to estimate how much fuel they should be using. They can compare that number to their records to determine their system's efficiency. If those numbers are very different, there might be a chance they can save a significant amount of money by improving their pumping plant efficiency, Martin said.

Martin suggests the irrigator contact a professional well tester for an in-field test. They should measure not just the pump efficiency, but also how much energy they're using. The reason they're using too much fuel might be the pump, but it might also be the motor or maybe even the way the system is operated.

Typically, well drillers would provide this service, Martin said. He suggested that producers start with people they know. Get someone who can make necessary changes to the system as well as do the test. If the local well driller doesn't do this work, he or she will know someone who does.

For many irrigators, improving pumping plant efficiency can make a big difference in the bottom line.

Faith Colburn
Communication Specialist

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