Agricultural Water Monitoring

Leveraging sensor technology from the Internet of Everything - homes, to small scale agriculture, ranching and environmental studies. Focus on water.

Started: 2015-10-04T21:19:34.652164+00:00

Pojoaque, NM 87506, USA

Help Small Scale Irrigation in New Mexico Manage Water

It is well known that small-scale agriculture and ranching operations are hardest hit by drought conditions and other water-related challenges. The fact that owners of small operations have less time and resources to tackle their challenges only intensifies the problem. We believe opportunities exist to leverage inexpensive home monitoring technologies to support agricultural resource monitoring and bring nimble resource management capabilities to traditional family farms across Southwestern U.S.

Aquaduct across arroyo from holding tank     Release valve for holding tank for ditch system


Our Goals and Process

This project is an investigation and discovery effort to determine if the use of network connectivity and remote hardware to send/receive data will allow small farmers and ranchers to achieve greater water efficiency and use-monitoring accuracy.

The objective is to use sensors to track and manage water resources, monitor use and events, open and close valves and switches, and collect and use data. The investigation includes assessing low-cost and open-source monitoring technology that supports data collection and communication. We will also examine the best ways to put all this in the hands of the local “acequia” systems stewarded by farmers and ranchers. This has so far been out of reach.

Monitoring and Sensor Technology

        Network technology                                     Example of sensor deployment


Discovery first includes identifying the most pressing opportunities and challenges that these small farmers and ranchers face. This will require visiting, collecting needs and stories, and building a picture of what is needed and can be done.

There are many tasks in farming, ranching, or environmental studies where we anticipate being able to help. A cornerstone issue to initially address is local water use and management within the acequia systems. The prolonged drought conditions in the Southwest United States have serious ramifications for the way historic small-scale farming can be done. In short, traditional acequia systems are finding insufficient water for irrigation to support the small-scale farming traditionally practiced in this region. Additional tools for regional water masters or local acequia majordomos to better track water availability, distribution, and manage infrastructure would go far in balancing water use, allowing fairer and more efficient utilization.

Freddy - Acequia de los Ojitos Mayordomo


There are over 700 distinct acequia systems sprinkled through the valleys in New Mexico, and even more across the other western states. I know some of the possibilities because I’m a member of a small system off the Rio Tesuque in Cuyamunque, the Acequia de los Ojitos. We have evolved over the years by piping in about ⅓ of the ditch up to the holding pond, and last year extending the piping another 400 yards. Still more than half of the system is a dirt ditch that needs to be cleaned by hand every spring. The piping has helped reduced water loss by approximately 30%. There is still a water seepage loss into the holding pond and difficulty in tracking water levels. In addition there is the difficulty associated with the half mile hike for many to open the valve to let water down the acequia. This is one example with each acequia having different traditions, stories and needs.

Spring (Ojito) off Rio Tesuque                    Valves to release water to different ditch systems


Where we need help: We will need to assess, test, and integrated the appropriate technology to target the use cases that we are looking for solutions. The project will also need collaborators that can bring deeper expertise in these technologies. A web project blog will be set up to collect and track issues identified on the farm or in the field and to report on integration efforts. We expect this phase of study to take approximately one year—and by the end we will have some prototypes installed within acequias to field test promising approaches.

Please support..

If you are an Acequia representative, consider supporting and getting involved.

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