Local & Regional News
1:42 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

'Game-Changing' Initiative Could Drastically Cut Water Usage For Farming

Delta Plastics Irrigation
Dhu Thompson, chairman of Delta Plastics, speaking alongside Arkansas agriculture officials, researchers and company executives at a plant in Little Rock.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Delta Plastics and a consortium of agricultural interests in Arkansas have launched a new water conservation software initiative that leaders say could reduce water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020.

"This initiative is the most important conservation effort we have ever launched," said Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics Chairman. "‘Preserving our farmland’ has been our company slogan for nearly 20 years. But conservation and sustainability is so much more than a slogan for us. It is a principle that has driven every major operational decision that we have made."

The effort will provide irrigation management software to farmers at no charge through a user-friendly, web-based application designed to help farmers create more efficient pipe irrigation of crops. The free program allows for computer-precision distribution of water through irrigation pipes more evenly, thus saving money from wasted run-off water.

The software, called Pipe Planner, was actually designed more than 20 years ago and called "Faucet" at the time, Thompson said, but it was not user-friendly. He says he contacted the developers and over the last four years has worked to simplify the interface to allow more widespread usage.

Thompson also said that after spending millions of private dollars to redevelop the product, he determined it should be offered for free in order to promote its widespread usage and benefits.

Delta Plastics estimates average water savings of 25 to 50 percent in addition to an average 25 percent reduction in energy costs when using Pipe Planner. Thompson said based on experiments with the software, he estimates that farmers in the Delta could "save more than one trillion gallons of water per year."

Delta Plastics is the largest recycler of plastics in Arkansas, recycling more than one billion pounds of waste annually across the Delta.

STAKEHOLDERS

A large consortium of stakeholders will help educate farmers and other interested parties on the benefits of the Pipe Planner software.

The Delta Plastics H2O Initiative will:

  • Create a public/private partnership between Delta Plastics and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Mississippi State University, and other universities in the region of the Mississippi Delta;
  • Host educational forums for farmers, university extension agents, and private consultants focused on Pipe Planner implementation; and
  • Allow participants to collaborate on the most efficient water use practices.

"Agriculture has been working tirelessly to contribute efficiencies and new conservation practices to ensure the long-term availability of our natural resources. With the H2O Initiative, we’re pushing even farther in those efforts," said Arkansas Farm Bureau Executive Vice-president Rodney Baker.

Other stakeholders include:

Agricultural Council of Arkansas
Arkansas Agriculture Department
Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts
Arkansas Farm Bureau
Arkansas Rice Federation
Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC)
Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board
Arkansas Cotton Council
Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board
AgHeritage Farm Credit Services
Bayou Meto Irrigation District
Delta Council/Delta F.A.R.M.
Ducks Unlimited
Louisiana Cotton and Grain
Mid-South Soybean Board (AR/LA/TX/MO/MS)
Mississippi State University
Natural Resources Conservation Service (AR/MS)
Natural Soybean and Grain Alliance
The Nature Conservancy
Tri-State Soybean Forum (AR/LA/MS)
United Sorghum Checkoff Program
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture