Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Semitropic Water Storage District’s New Well Telemetry Project By Jan Boling

Where there is water, people thrive. Many consider it their lifeblood—especially in the agricultural region of central California. They count on there being water to drink; to feed their crops; for recreational use; and, to put it in general terms; to enable their existence! With the ongoing battle between agriculture and environmentalists—especially during drought years—monitoring the use of this precious commodity has become a top-of-mind issue. 

One challenge for farmers is to demonstrate to the public that they are true stewards of the land and that they use only as much water as is needed to provide food and clothing for us all. They must be able to monitor their water consumption and adapt their consumption quickly to real-time weather and environmental conditions. The question is how best to do it.

There are eight water storage districts in California; their mission is to store and deliver water to customers. Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District is the largest water storage district in Kern County. It covers an area of more than 220,000 acres and delivers water to nearly 300 customers who together irrigate approximately 140,000 agricultural acres. Begun as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft, its three primary objectives today are to increase water supply reliability, decrease the cost of water for irrigation, and correct overdraft in the groundwater basin.

Semitropic provides water banking services for its partners. The district uses grower-owned wells to recover banked water and delivers it to the partners. Since the banking partners pay for the energy required to recover their water, it is imperative that the district be able to distinguish the use of these wells to recover banked water from use of the wells by the growers for their own needs. Semitropic measures the water stored for its water banking partners and the amount used by farmers and creates an allocation report showing the amount of water pumped back to the partners and the energy consumed to do so. Until now, Semitropic had created the report using hand-taken meter readings and Pacific Gas and Electric Company power bills. Using manually collected data, it took up to 2 years to generate the cost accounting. Semitropic needed an automated method to get it done in a couple of months instead. 

With this aim, Semitropic approached REDtrac LLC in Bakersfield, California. REDtrac brings together software and hardware engineers with industry experts with extensive experience in agriculture. Semitropic tasked REDtrac with creating an energy reconciliation system for the district’s groundwater banking recovery operation to more easily divide the costs of well operation between the growers who own the wells and the district’s water banking activities.

Greg Allen and Jeff Young of REDtrac guided Semitropic to a solution that involved a wide selection of meters with proven performance at a good price for the district. An added bonus is that, down the road, farmers may be able to use the data collected through this project for their own tracking needs—perhaps for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act reporting. 

Semitropic has tested Seametrics’ meters for a number of years. Based on their proven performance, Semitropic selected Seametrics meters to replace a number of older-style propeller meters, providing a wider flow range and higher accuracy. The new Seametrics meters also come standard with a pulse output that ties in well with the telemetry project. 

A TechnoFlo PS 32 propeller-style saddle meter installed on Semitropic’s system.

The TechnoFlo PS 32 propeller-style saddle meter, with its easy-to-read stabilized nonbounce graphic display, was also specified for the Semitropic project. Its long life and its capability to tie into Semitropic’s telemetry system were selling points. 

These meters were supplemented with the low-cost Seametrics IP117 insertion paddle wheel. 

Semitropic put out a request for proposal calling for a variety of specific Seametrics products (or approved equals), including battery-operated spool-type electromagnetic flow meters, strap-on saddle meters, strap-on saddle meters with remote heads and stainless steel cross-vanes, and insertion-type paddle wheels. 

In September 2018, TechnoFlo Systems of Porterville, California, was awarded the contract. TechnoFlo Systems offers technology solutions and flow measurement products to its customers, which include municipal clean water and wastewater utilities, industrial and food and beverage customers, and the agricultural irrigators. Centrally located in California’s fertile, agricultural San Joaquin Valley, it serves customers throughout Northern and Central California and Nevada. With over 70 years of combined experience in the municipal and irrigation markets and extensive work with engineered flow products, TechnoFlo has the knowledge and willingness to meet any customer’s requirements. Its owners, Steven and Eric Huth, are brothers who share a desire to serve their customers by providing the right products to meet specific needs. 

Semitropic has a long history of buying meters from TechnoFlo; REDtrac has also worked with TechnoFlo President Steve Huth. As REDtrac’s Jeff Young states, “Working with Steve and TechnoFlo Systems was fantastic for our purposes. They’ve always been there to help us and have been very responsive to any questions that have arisen. From the telemetry side of the project, they’ve been great to work with. And Seametric and TechnoFlo meters are definitely the right solution to Semitropic’s needs.”

Solar-powered Seametrics AG3000 meters deployed on Semitropic’s system.

Mr. Huth says, “While I’m sure we won the bid partially based upon our past performance and versatility, our ability to provide one platform featuring all the meter technology, including the Seametrics magmeter and paddle wheel, along with the TechnoFlo meters cinched it. Other meter companies are unable to supply the TechnoFlo propeller meter or customized wiring done by TechnoFlo Systems.” 

As the first phase of the project draws to a close, Huth sums it up as follows: “I think the interesting thing on this project is that TechnoFlo is supplying Seametrics full-bore flanged AG3000 meters, Seametrics IP117 insertion paddle-wheel meters, and TechnoFlo PS32 saddle propeller meters all with special customer-requested TE output connections, allowing the meter to be hooked up to the REDtrac telemetry and remote monitoring system.” 

Jan Boling is the president of Boling Associates Advertising & Marketing. For more about Boling Associates, visit www.bolingassociates.com.