American Society of Civil Engineers

AgriMet: A Reclamation Tool for Irrigation Water Management

by Peter L. Palmer, (AgriMet Program Manager, US Bureau of Reclamation, 1150 N. Curtis Road, Boise, ID 83706-1234. E-mail:
Section: Irrigation and Drainage, pp. 2682-2691, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2011: Bearing Knowledge for Sustainability
Abstract: Competition for limited water resources in the western United States continues to increase. In most western states, irrigated agriculture is the largest single consumer of water. To help improve irrigation efficiency, the Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration partnered to create a network of automated agricultural weather stations - called "AgriMet" - in the Pacific Northwest. These stations collect and telemeter the meteorological parameters required to model crop evapotranspiration (ET). The information is used by irrigation districts, farmers, resource conservation agencies, and agricultural consultants for irrigation scheduling and related purposes. Since the initial installation of three stations in 1983, the network has grown to over 60 stations in Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest region, 21 stations in the Great Plains Region in western Montana, and seven stations in the Mid Pacific region. These automated weather stations transmit their data by the GOES satellite, and the information is used in the Kimberly-Penman 1982 evapotranspiration model to compute reference ET at each station. Crop coefficients are then applied to estimate water use for specific crops grown at each station for every day of the growing season. This information is available on the Internet, and is integrated into various on-farm technical assistance programs by local agricultural consultants, the Cooperative Extension Service, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Use of AgriMet information in irrigation scheduling results in water and energy savings, reduced soil erosion, and protection of surface and ground water supplies. Various agricultural consultants have reported water and power savings ranging from 15 to 50 percent (Dockter, 1996). Some irrigators have reported real savings of as much as $25 per acre in pumping costs after using AgriMet ET data to schedule their irrigations (Palmer, 2004).

ASCE Subject Headings:
Water reclamation
Water management
United States