Benton County Irrigation Scheduler

Creating a web-based application (Irrigation Management Assistant) to help manage irrigation.

2015 - Present
Benton and Morrison Counties, Minnesota
Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District

Across the American agricultural landscape, groundwater use is approaching or already exceeds sustainable levels in many areas. One of these areas is Little Rock Creek in Benton and Morrison Counties in Minnesota.

The state has determined that this cold-water trout stream is impaired because of decreased stream flows and the resulting increase in temperature, low dissolved oxygen levels, and high levels of nitrates. A Total Maximum Daily Load study determined that the impairment is primarily caused by increased groundwater use, partly from crop irrigation.

RESPEC was hired by the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District to create an Irrigation Management Assistant, which is a web-based, mobile-friendly, irrigation-scheduling application. This PostGIS database uses triggered vector and raster data processing. For the irrigation-scheduling calculations, the system also uses Python and GDAL to retrieve outside data, such as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Stage IV rainfall data using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Climate Toolkit.

Real-time weather and stream-monitoring data are also imported, as well as groundwater and soil moisture sensor data. Flask and SQLAlchemy tie these back-end database calculations to the client-side JavaScript application, which is built on jQuery, Bootstrap, and the Leaflet-mapping API.

For each user’s agricultural field, the system recommends irrigation timing and volumes on a daily basis while providing the status of the impaired resource throughout the growing season. The goal is to show that producers can reduce the environmental impact of irrigation while reaping multiple benefits (such as increased yield and reduced irrigation input costs) by using proven conservation practices and making calculated decisions on when and how much to irrigate based on individualized field factors.