One of the worst things a stockman can find is a dry tank surrounded by bawling cattle in a hundred-degree heat. But there are some simple things that producers can do that might reduce this happening. Albert Keller, Northwest South Dakota water well contractor has some recommendations. “Having enough water storage is a huge thing. If you have a solar well, have three days of water in storage. The well needs to fill the storage tank before the drink tank.”
He suggested doing some simple checks on electric wells. “Open the electric box and make sure nothing has built a nest there. You wouldn’t believe how many I see that are full of mice or bugs. A little maintenance goes a long ways. Also make sure you have tight lids on top of well pits and the well head itself, a fence around those is huge so they can’t get rubbed off. I get calls that the lid on the pit blew off and they got six inches of rain and it shorted out the pressure switch.”
Making sure that cattle can’t get to your float in tanks is also important. “Floats need good protection, so they don’t get bent and not turn on. With windmills a couple times a year you need to check the oil in the head, grease them and check wear points. There are a lot of parts down the hole but often the typical failure is in surface parts that get neglected,” Keller said. “With solar panels, look at them if they are covered in bird crap, clean them off to get the most out of them.”
There are remote tank and well monitoring systems available now. Keller has worked with the Smart Water System. “It hooks up to the well and monitors the tank levels. You can turn the well on and off remotely through an app on your smart phone. The drawback is that this system must have internet access at the site.”
Lorentz Solar pumps have also developed a monitoring system that works off satellites and the pump can be controlled through a phone app. Real-time and stored data is available and the user can see the pump’s rpms, gallons per minute and according to Keller watch pretty much everything that is going on with the pump. He said both systems are close to the same cost and that if interested a producer should visit with their well contractor.
Keller said some of the power companies have services available so that producers can monitor the power usage and see if a pump is running or not. “You can just see if its running but not tank levels or if there are issues with the tank. Some do have a day or two lag time on their updates so having plenty of water storage is important.”
Franklin Electric on their solar units offer satellite monitoring, so that a user can see when the pump switches on and off. Valley Irrigation’s AgSense has an app available also, so that the pump is able to be operated remotely via a smart phone and their satellite system. “You can see what is going on at all times,” Keller said. “You can turn the pump on and off, see the output, everything.”
Aaron Berger, article “Checking Water from Afar” (for UNL Beef, June 1, 2020) describes several different monitoring options available, including remote solar powered cameras that operate off cell signal. The camera is programmed to take pictures of the tank at different times of the day and send the images to your cell phone, so if the water isn’t at the right level action can be taken immediately. Remote pipeline sensors can transmit pressure readings via cell signal to your phone, with a notification being sent if the pressure is outside the acceptable range. This technology can also be used to monitor wells, with a notification being sent if the electricity goes off, a float come off or a well break down. These sensors can also be used to monitor water levels in storage tanks.
Drones with cameras have become more affordable and can be used to check water in remote areas, this is helpful for regions with poor cell signal or difficult access. Drones are also handy to check windmills and give a bird’s eye view of the livestock.
“Having adequate water storage is the main thing, this gives you some time to fix a problem without it becoming an emergency,” Keller said.