Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth

Project Name: Irrigation Modernization: Accelerating Modern Investment Across the United States             

Project Team: Idaho National Laboratory (lead), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Farmers Conservation Alliance

Lead Recipient Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho

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In the western United States, nearly 90% of consumptive water use is for irrigation, yet reliable supply of water is increasingly threatened due to the combination of growing demand and climate change. Irrigation modernization has the potential to promote the economic well-being of farmers and rural communities, generate more renewable energy, and advance environmental stewardship. Cutting carbon emissions within the farm sector, too, can aid in the work of combating climate change.

Researchers from Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), along with the Farmers Conservation Alliance, developed a decision support and visualization tool, IrrigationViz, to help irrigators and farmers redesign and reinvest in their irrigation systems. Over the past year, the team developed a working prototype of the tool, performed extensive outreach to ensure it meets stakeholder needs, and assessed options to identify financially viable opportunities for hydropower and other renewable generation in these settings.

By assisting irrigation districts in performing planning activities and enabling them to identify the highest priority projects for their system, IrrigationViz can help many irrigation districts access federal funding programs, such as those from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

IrrigationViz has since been used in three case studies, one each in Utah, Idaho, and Washington. In testing the tool, users were able to determine the cost of piping a given segment of their existing irrigation system, weighing the cost against the projected benefits to determine which segments of the system should be prioritized. Each case study was used by the team as an opportunity to improve the tool’s functionality.

The IrrigationViz tool and the team’s work will help irrigation districts use modern technologies to make decisions about reinvesting in their systems and solve the challenges they face today.

Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth Projects