“It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West.”
By Linn Smith
June 23, 2017—In the eastern section of the U.S., water is easily obtainable. In the west, where dry land prevails, water rights are taken seriously.
How is water diverted to arid land? Irrigation ditches are man made channels that deliver water to homes, farms or industries. They have head gates on creeks and water sources to divert water to these arid regions.
In the West and Southwest U.S., a person diverting water through a canal needs legal rights, because there are many demands on the water between individuals, industries and cities. In the 1800’s miners depended on water rights for mining of gold and other minerals, and pioneers depended on water rights to irrigate crops far away from the stream.
Colorado developed the Prior Appropriation Doctrine which is still in use today. It states that, “The first person to divert water and apply it to a beneficial use has a prior or senior right to the water over any other user who seeks to use water at a later time.” This secures the amount and date of senior users. Water rights in Colorado are property rights and can be bought, sold or rented apart from the land through which they run, if the water is put to beneficial use.
In New Mexico a person needs to obtain a permit through the State Engineer Office. The office will evaluate and determine if water is available and would not impair existing water rights.
In New Mexico I helped surface irrigate (flood irrigate) a friend’s ranch from an irrigation canal, which ran above ground. Irrigating consisted of opening the irrigation gate by hand and allowing water from the canal to run over the horse pasture. We were able to control the amount of water on the pasture by sliding the gate down when the water was sufficient for healthy pasture growth. This has been the most common type of irrigation in most parts of the world.
Solar Powered Water Moniters
Recently a solar monitor was added to an irrigation ditch nearby, which runs through farmland and continues to a large lake. The gate of the irrigation ditch was previously open and closed by hand, but now a solar monitor opens and closes the gate to prevent flooding from unused water in the ditch.
In an article, Solar-Powered Automation on Irrigation Delivery Systems, it states, “The most popular do it yourself solar automation model consists of a 1/16 inch horsepower gear motor, a bicycle-type lift apparatus, (chain and sprocket) and a cover over the gate stem which contains a gate position sensor and limit switches. The gate system is usually powered by 1 or 2 deep-cycle batteries which are charged by a 20-40 watt solar panel. The gear is attached to the 12 volt DC gear motor with an industrial chain.”
It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West, from pumping up groundwater for cattle to monitoring the amount of water in irrigation ditches. Again, sunshine prevails!