Smart Irrigating


July is Smart Irrigation Month. This is to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies. In other words, it's to celebrate how technology can make us better irrigators.

There are lots of ways to do this, smart pivots talking to smart phones, high-tech rain sensors and moisture sensors; even fancy nozzles and pressure regulators are things that are making irrigation smarter and more efficient. There’s only one problem with all these things: they have to be used by people, and people are not always smart. If I was running Smart Irrigation Month, I wouldn’t jump in the high tech side of things, I’d start with the basics. 

Basic #1: Smart Irrigation starts with being ready when your irrigation water comes in. If you left a valve open all winter, and the water comes in without you knowing, it can wash out a lot of things before you find out.  This can waste water, make a mess of a newly planted field, and cause anger and high blood pressure. This is not efficient. It’s also not smart.

Basic #2: Be nice to your ditch rider. They get up early. They work hard. They have control over your water. If you are nasty to them, they will probably not be in any hurry to deliver your water. Being nice to your ditch rider is smart.

Basic #3: Don’t steal water. You might convince yourself that nobody is going to miss it, or that you’re stealing from a jerk, or that you need it more than they do, but it’s still stealing. It can result in your headgates being locked and you being branded a water thief forever. Not smart, not even a little bit.

Basic #4: Don’t take more than you can do. You might think you can handle forty-nine heads of water, but if one little thing goes wrong and you spend half a day working on it, the rest of that water will be making a mess. This even applies to pivots, because everybody knows that when you are not looking, pivots can get stuck, have flat tires, quit working or wrap themselves around tractors. It is smart to know your limits.

So you see that Smart Irrigating does not just apply to technology. Sometimes it just means using your brain. And even when using high tech irrigating practices, it’s good to engage the brain too. After all, smart devices aren’t always good, sometimes smart things do bad things just as well.

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