ETgages Help with Irrigation Management, Water Conservation

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Conserving water is becoming more and more important to Nebraska farmers, and tools to measure water use and a network of information sharing is helping that effort.

"An ETgage or admometer is basically a PVC pipe that we fill with distilled water," explains UNL Extension Educator Gary Zoubek.

Zoubek says ETgages are like reverse rain gauges: their ceramic tops simulate water evaporation.

"Then we measure how much it drops on a weekly or a daily basis, by this sight tube, and so the hotter, the drier it is, the more the sight tube will drop in a given period of time," he says.

Zoubek says producers can use the ETgage readings and based on the crop stage figure how much water the plant is using.

"This tool gets us thinking - is it hot and dry? Are we using a lot of water? Or is it cool? This gauge does a great job or estimating the amount of water that the crop is using," he says.

Zoubek says the ETgages are a great irrigation management tool because producers can use the data from the ETgage, figure in how much rain they've had, and come up with how much they need to irrigate. One area producer says that while that water conservation is extremely important to him, the fact that it helps save a few dollars doesn't hurt either.

"This sounds a little selfish, but it costs to pump it too, and I really don't want to pump anymore than I have to," says farmer Jerry Stahr. "All I want is just enough to supplement what we get from mother nature."

Stahr has been a part of the Nebraska Agricultural Water Management Network since it launched in 2005. Zoubek says about 15 producers joined then, now they have over 700 reporting data and using tools like the ETgage to help them and their neighbors.

"Water is very important to agriculture and we've got a lot of producers that are working hard to do a great job with managing it," says Zoubek.

"I think it's very important that we take care of the resources that we have," says Stahr.

For more information on the Water Management Network and ETgages, click on the web link below.


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