Adding to USDA's portfolio of Web-based energy tools, USDA launched its "Energy Estimator for Irrigation," a Web-based calculator tool designed to help producers manage their irrigation water resources more efficiently. The tool is available at www.usda.gov/energytools.
As more than 55 million acres of agricultural land are irrigated nationwide, according to USDA's 2002 Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, proper irrigation management can result in significant energy savings for producers individually and collectively. For instance, a producer can move from a high-pressure irrigation system to a low-pressure system and save up to $66 per acre based on spring 2006 prices. Improving water efficiency by just 10 percent could reduce diesel consumption by 27 million gallons and save farmers and ranchers $55 million annually.
The "Energy Estimator for Irrigation" evaluates opportunities to save on energy costs and improve efficiency of irrigation management. It allows producers to estimate the energy cost of pumping water for irrigation on their farm. Producers can select their irrigation system and their power source. Followed by well lift, pressure and price-per-unit of energy and select whether they use a flow meter, irrigation scheduling or a maintenance program. They must also select a crop from a list of commonly irrigated crops for their state, their irrigated acres and their gross application of irrigation water.
Once this criteria has been entered, the producer receives an analysis of current water use, the reduced water use associated with various treatment options, as well as the energy costs and savings of these treatment options. The analysis also identifies potential energy savings that can result from carrying out the recommendations of a pump plant evaluation.
USDA intends for producers to use the "Energy Estimator for Irrigation" for guidance rather than as a sole source for decision-making on irrigation water management. USDA recommends that producers take their irrigation analysis to their local USDA Service Center, Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service office, irrigation or water district, or pump or utility companies for more field-specific assistance.
This is the third tool USDA has developed as part of its overall energy strategy to reduce the impacts of high energy costs and develop long-term solutions for agricultural producers. On December 7, 2005, USDA released its first Web-based tool-the "Energy Estimator for Tillage"-to help farmers and ranchers calculate diesel fuel use and costs associated with various tillage practices. The "Energy Estimator for Nitrogen Fertilizer," released Feb. 24, 2006, estimates savings in nitrogen fertilizer applications and use.
Since launched in December 2005 through the present, the "Energy Estimators for Tillage and Nitrogen Fertilizer" have received more than 160,000 page views from 38,000 U.S. and international visitors. The "Energy Estimator for Tillage" has received the most page views-more than 105,000 from nearly 27,000 visitors since its release. The "Energy Estimator for Nitrogen Fertilizer" has received more than 55,000 page views from nearly 11,000 visitors.
Additional information about USDA's "Energy Estimator for Irrigation" can be found at ipat.sc.egov.usda.gov/. Additional information about the USDA Energy Initiative, including the other two estimators, can be found at www.nrcs.usda.gov/energy.