Delta Plastics: H20 Initiative Will Cut Water Use by 20 Percent in Delta Region

by Lee Hogan  on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 12:50 pm  

Sean Whiteley, Delta Plastics CEO, announces the company's H20 Initiative that it says will cut water irrigation use in the Delta region by 20 percent by 2020. (Photo by Lee Hogan)

The world's leading manufacturer of irrigation polytube, along with several agriculture leaders in the region, have lofty goals to reduce irrigation water use in the Mississippi Delta region by 2020.

At its Little Rock facility on Thursday morning, Delta Plastics of Arkansas announced its H20 Initiative, which is a commitment to reduce irrigation water use by 20 percent in the Delta in the next six years.

The company hopes to accomplish the task by making its irrigation management software, Pipe Planner, available to farmers for free. Pipe Planner is a web-based application that uses flow rates out of wells and changes in the elevation of crop fields to help farmers identify what type of tube to use and what size holes to punch to have their fields watered evenly. 

Currently, Sean Whiteley, Delta Plastics CEO, said most farmers roll out the tubing and punch the same size holes throughout.

"You'll have one end of your field water out and flood, while you're waiting for the water to get to the end of the furrow on the other end of your field," he said. "You're pumping millions of gallons of wasted water. Pipe Planner eliminates all of that."

If used correctly, Whiteley said the Pipe Planner technology will allow every furrow to water out at the same time.

"This reduces your watering time, and it dramatically reduces your energy costs and water costs," he said. 

Delta Plastics' estimates put the water savings between 25 and 50 percent, and an average of 25 percent reduction in energy costs.

The technology itself has been around for more than 20 years, previously through a software called Phaucet. Whiteley said Pipe Planner was previously available at $5-$8 per acre, but never caught on at a large level.

"Farmers, they balk at the idea of spending more money to use this software to save water and save money," Whiteley said.

Removing the cost element, in addition to education efforts from its partners, Delta Plastics is hopeful its software can become a hit.

The software took millions of dollars to develop — and will take several millions more in the future to keep up with the times — but Whiteley admits it was never going to be the source of huge profits for Delta Plastics.

"Certainly, we would have loved to have recovered some of the cost to develop it, but for us, this move ensures the long-term sustainability of low-cost polytube irrigation in the Delta region forever," he said. "More importantly, it's the right thing to do. We are at a point in the national conversation where water management, conservation and quality is something we should all care about."

In addition to making Pipe Planner available for free, Delta Plastics says its initiative will:

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

Delta Plastics' partners in the H20 Initiative are:

  • Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board
  • Arkansas Agriculture Department
  • Tri State Soybean Forum
  • Delta F.A.R.M.
  • Delta Council
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Arkansas Farm Bureau
  • Mid-South Soybean Board
  • Arkansas Soybean Association
  • Arkansas Rice Federation
  • Natural Soybean and Grain Alliance
  • Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts
  • Louisiana Cotton and Grain
  • Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board
  • United Sorghum Checkoff Program
  • Agricultural Council of Arkansas
  • AgHeritage Farm Credit Services
  • Mississippi Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Arkansas Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Delta Wildlife
  • Arkansas Natural Resources Commission
  • Mississippi State University
  • University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture



Please read our comments policy before commenting.