Irrigation in the Golden State: Meeting California’s Water Diversion & Use Measurement Requirements with An Irrigation Flow Meter

by Mark Prentice, Communication and Public Affairs Advisor

Read below to learn how the country’s largest agricultural producer and agricultural water user approaches measuring and reporting water use and diversion for irrigation for farms – and how smart irrigation systems like FarmHQ can support more efficient farm irrigation and automate compliance.

California’s Water Use Measuring and Reporting for Agriculture

There’s good news in the Golden State: For the first time in over three years, California is drought-free

While long-term challenges to the state’s water supply remain, that’s welcome news not just for producers, but for the millions of people who rely on California farmers; over a third of the country’s vegetables and nearly three-quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California.

Irrigation is a major factor in California’s role as an agricultural powerhouse. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, in 2018, over 42,000 farms irrigated over nearly 8.5 million acres, making California the nation’s largest water user for agriculture.

So it’s no surprise that requirements for California’s agricultural water users are multi-layered and complex. They include water right reporting, an Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, requirements for farm-gate deliveries, and finally – our focus – measurement of diversion and use.

Who exactly is required to report their water use and diversion, and how frequently? 

Water right holders who divert or are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year are required to measure their surface water diversions. Measurement options include measurement devices, like flow meters, that meet certain accuracy standards. And data must be recorded at a specified frequency; the larger the water right is, the more frequently an agricultural user must measure and report their use. 

For example: For water users diverting more than 10,000 acre-feet per year with over 1,000 acre-feet of storage and a measurement device installed before January 1, 2016, they have to measure water use as often as every hour. 

Users diverting over 100 acre-feet per year with over 100 acre-feet of storage have to measure their use weekly.

(For a deeper dive into California’s water use requirements, we recommend this report from the Northern California Water Association and MBK Engineers.)

California's water use can be managed with FarmHQ
To the left: FarmHQ enabling irrigation scheduling and Flow Rate Analysis on an almond farm in Central California.

How Remote Irrigation Monitoring through FarmHQ Can Transform Flow Meters & Streamline Reporting for California’s Water Use

As more and more growers in California look to FarmHQ to modernize their existing irrigation system – and as we expand our network of authorized dealer partners in the state – we’re workingt with producers to make their irrigation more efficient while automating compliance. 

Most irrigation flow meters only let producers and diverters visually read the running total water volume.

For California growers and diverters, FarmHQ is an ag irrigation telemetry option that can transform existing flow meters to monitor water usage in real-time, help manage irrigation, identify leaks, avoid overpaying for water – all while automating compliance for water measure and use. 

Real-time flow rate analysis can provide important information about irrigation rate, the supply of water, and the overall health of an irrigation system. FarmHQ combines this data with real-time pressure monitoring to help growers identify leaks and clogs quickly – even with a text alert to their phone.

With FarmHQ’s Flow Rate Analysis dashboard, our cloud-based irrigation control app and irrigation management solution stores the flow rate data, giving growers easy access to important information like peak flow rate, average flow rate, date of peak withdrawal, number of days irrigated, and more. Additionally, FarmHQ users can view these metrics either one pump at a time or at a farm-wide view, with customizable time intervals. And they can download all their data in Excel spreadsheets for their record-keeping.

FarmHQ is a universal retrofit option for farm irrigation equipment, including pulse-output flow meters, as well as ag irrigation systems like center pivot irrigation systems, irrigation reels or water reels, irrigation pumps, solenoid-compatible valves, and linear move systems.

Take A Video Tour of FarmHQ’s Flow Meter Analysis Dashboard

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