Staff at the North Platte Natural Resources District shared some exciting news Wednesday morning. General Manager John Berge announced to the community that the Nebraska Environmental Trust has awarded $750,000 to the NPNRD. The funds will be used for a new telemetry system that will provide quicker access to flow meter information, and allow producers to reach their systems from any place in the world.
“This is a pretty exciting thing,” Berge told those in attendance. “It’s a big chunk of funding that can be used to benefit landowners.”
The District’s expanded Data Access and Monitoring Program (DAMP) will provide telemetry units to producers/landowners free of charge, with the goal of reading ground water flow meters remotely. Vendor partner American Millennium Corporation’s (AMCi) MeterEye technology consists of a camera situated over the face of the meter, and will take daily pictures of the flow meter. That image is then wirelessly delivered to a website, through a cellular connection, where it is stored and then converted to digital data. The stored images and data can be viewed by both the producer/landowner and District staff, and can be used to improve water management practices, Berge said.
According to Grant Mobley, AMCi’s representative who participated in the announcement, the cellular access is more reliable that satellite, which fails if signals cannot be transmitted.
Berge said the Trust grant will be combined with a previously secured $250,000 grant from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to total $1 million in outside investment to directly benefit landowners and the NRD. The DAMP was one of 118 projects receiving $18,799,900 in awards from the Trust this year. May 1 is the launch date for the first phase of this three phase program, when installation of 261 units begins. Ultimately, the funds will make it possible for the NPNRD to expand the project to 863 meters by the end of 2019.
“Producers and landowners will benefit from being provided real-time information to aid in their management decisions,” Berge said. Utilizing the water usage information, in addition to information that can be added through access to additional sensor ports in the unit (moisture sensors, evapotranspiration gauges, or weather data sensors), will make landowners and operators more efficient. They will be given unique, password protected login information, and their specific data will remain private.
“The use of technology is imperative in meeting the objective of using our water resources wisely,” Berge said. “These management tools will be made available to a wider cohort of producers. Additionally, it will play a big part in what we do to help downstream users, and will provide a buffer in future decreases in local valuations .”
According to Berge, the District will also benefit greatly from the telemetry units. Each year, the District spends nearly $170,000 in salaries, fuel, wear and tear on vehicles, and other expenses in collecting data from each of the District’s nearly 1,800 flow meters in the over appropriated portion of the district. Many of these flow meters are difficult to get to and can pose safety risks to staff. Once the telemetry units are installed, the data will be automatically downloaded at the end of the water year and reports can be generated more quickly. The telemetry units will also notify district staff when a problem has occurred with the flow meter, allowing for timelier repair or maintenance.
Berge emphasized that job losses will not occur with the introduction of the new system. “We have 40 jobs to do, but only enough staff for 20,” he said. “Staff members will be re-purposed to other tasks when this is in place.”
The District hopes to have the telemetry units installed in all the regulated wells in the over-appropriated, and irrigation wells in the fully-appropriated portions of the District in the next five to eight years.
For more information on the telemetry project, go to www.npnrd.