Water Pumps for Vineyards Explained: What’s Powering Your Irrigation System?
Since the dawn of agriculture, humankind has been forced to reckon with the elements while trying to propagate, grow, and harvest crops. Farming is not natural. Sure, it can be done in a way that’s respectful of nature and minimally disruptive to the local ecosystem, but at the end of the day, it’s based on human inputs.
While freshwater availability is more threatened now than ever before, it’s always been top of mind for farmers. Crops need water, and water sources are inconsistent. Rainfall varies from season to season, and not all farmland is located along flood plains nourished by vast rivers.
When it comes to moving water to crops, carrying a couple of buckets doesn't cut it. So ancient civilizations along the Nile River learned to harness water, starting with the diversion of flood water to crop fields. Then came canals, dams, dikes, and aqueducts. These early methods of transporting water to fields relied on gravity, severely limiting their capabilities despite some impressive construction.
Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, and inventor, recorded the screw pump around 200 BCE, laying the foundation for mechanized water movement. It took a couple thousand years after that for the pump to become fully mechanized with steam power.
Powering Pumps in the 21st Century
Today, pumps are far more advanced and varied. With advances in solar power, we’ve come a long way since the early days of coal-fed steam engine-driven pumps.
Most irrigation pumps employed in fields today are powered by diesel or by electricity. Once the dominant source of power, diesel is still in use, primarily in more remote regions or areas with less electric infrastructure. Diesel is a reliable source of power, but has some significant drawbacks, including cost, carbon emissions, and noise. If you’ve ever heard an old dinosaur diesel pump run, you know they’re loud.
Electricity is rapidly becoming the preferred method for powering pumps, especially when there’s easy access to the grid. Electric pumps use alternating current (AC) power from the grid to operate, which can be less expensive than diesel, produce no local carbon emissions, and are far quieter. If you’re thinking that electric power might be more sustainable, you might be right, but don’t forget that your electric grid could be powered by fossil fuels.
Solar powered pumps exist and are a great solution for more remote areas where connection to the grid isn’t possible. We’re starting to see more and more solar power on the market, but at the moment its biggest drawbacks are the upfront cost and power limitations. They’re best for use in areas with high solar radiation, but will always be at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Understanding Core Pump Types
There are four common pump types for irrigation use. Each operates on a different mechanism for different purposes, mostly informed by the water source that you're pumping from.
- Centrifugal pumps are most commonly used to pump water from reservoirs, lakes, streams, and shallow wells. They operate by converting rotational kinetic energy to hydrodynamic energy. Fluid enters spinning impeller blades and passes through, gaining velocity and pressure.
- Deep-well turbine pumps are used for cased wells or when the water surface is at a depth beyond the limit of a centrifugal pump. Also known as vertical turbine pumps, these pumps are powered by an above-ground motor with a long drive shaft that turns impellers to pull water up.
- Submersible turbine pumps are typically used for moving fluid out of a contained environment, like a water tank. They operate vertically like turbine pumps and have a submerged electric motor. Submersible pumps push water up instead of pulling it up like vertical turbine pumps.
- Propeller pumps are best used for high flow-rate conditions with low lift requirements, such as mitigating flooding due to storm water. They can be placed on a trailer or pontoons and moved as required.
Regulating Flow and Pressure with VFDs
Because pump motors operate at a single speed, they may under or over-power the irrigation system as demand fluctuates and pressure changes. Variable frequency devices (VFDs) are electronic controllers that vary the speed of the pump motor in response to system demand. VFDs automatically regulate fluctuations in water flow and pressure within a system, keeping everything running smoothly and potentially reducing energy use.
No matter what kind of pump you have, efficiency is paramount throughout the irrigation system. If your pump is running efficiently, don’t let your drip system negate its achievements. Lumo's smart irrigation solution is designed to promote efficiency from the manifold and across your system. Let’s save water, together. Contacts us here or email us at [email protected] to get in touch.