Connecting state and local government leaders
A pilot crop water conservation project developed by Anheuser-Busch, the Bureau of Reclamation and two state universities will mean improved water efficiency for Idaho Falls area barley growers.
Through the use of six strategically positioned weather stations, growers in Idaho Falls can now instantly access the government’s real-time weather and water data on a website at Washington State University and via smart phone app. Access to the Bureau of Reclamation’s AgriMet weather and water data is free of charge. And crop water use data can be downloaded through the Irrigation Scheduler mobile application developed by WSU.
AgriMet is a network of agriculturally-focused weather stations throughout the Pacific Northwest and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the government’s water management agency. The bureau is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 western states.
In March, it installed six new AgriMet weather stations funded by Anheuser-Busch in the Idaho Falls communities of Grace, Rigby, Ririe, Osgood, Shelley and Terreton.
AgriMet program coordinator Jama Hamel told Capital Press that each new station costs $8,000 to install and about $1,600 per year to operate. Data generated by the AgriMet stations will tell growers when and how much water to apply water to their fields.
"We expect growers using the Irrigation Scheduler to be really happy with the data from our AgriMet stations. Each station provides near-real-time weather data for evaporation, daily crop water usage, wind, temperature and solar exposure," she said.
Weather station data is available for use by all interested growers, including barley growers under contract with Anheuser-Busch. The project supports Anheuser-Busch commitment to improving water management in its key barley growing regions in partnership with local groups like the Bureau of Reclamation.
"We believe the AgriMet data served onto growers' phones will help improve their operations, reduce water use, and save money," said Tim Pella, Barley Operations Manager for Anheuser-Busch in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Clark Hamilton, a contract barley grower in Ririe, Idaho, is hosting an AgriMet station on his land. He says the new weather station will be a vital tool for his operation and other local growers in the coming growing season. "Water is a valuable commodity to us and we need to manage it the best we can," he said. "We want to conserve water while improving yields."
The Irrigation Scheduler is available as a Web program and an Android application. An iPhone application will be available later in 2014. In the meantime, iPhone and other smart phone users access the data at weather.wsu.edu/is .