Telemetry tests for efficient water management in the Southern Rangelands

[January 2016]

Installation of satellite water telemetry units at several cattle watering points on Carey Downs Station in the Gascoyne region and Challa Station in the Murchison region of Western Australia will allow remote monitoring of water levels, resulting in time and cost efficiencies for the pastoralists.

Carey Downs water temetry unit connected to overflowing tankThe trial projects are supported by Rangelands NRM with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme to encourage innovation and knowledge sharing in the Rangelands for sustainable use of the land and natural resources.

In October and November 2015, five units were installed at Carey Downs and five at Challa Station to measure water levels at remote watering points.


Alys and Harry McKeough of Carey Downs Station say the trial aims to find a way to improve management of watering points on pastoral stations, which is labour intensive and involves significant vehicle running costs.

Carey Downs water tank with telemetry unitThe McKeoughs presented on progress made on the project at the Gascoyne Junction Innovation Expo on 12 November 2015.

“We expect the installation to be cost neutral within two years by saving at least one mill run per week for six months of the year,” said Mr McKeough.

“Water monitoring is particularly intensive during the hotter months when maintaining water availability for stock is critical.”

Water tank at Carey Downs Station with telemetry unitMr McKeough said that by connecting the units to tanks on pipelines they were effectively monitoring ten tanks with five units.

Ashley and Debbie Dowden at Challa Station are also trialling telemetry units that monitor the water level in tanks. Like on Carey Downs, they have been set up on the most distant watering points that carry the largest numbers of cattle stock. 

Debbie Dowden said the units provide early warnings for problems and access to instant data which translates into quicker management decisions.

“The tank levels also provide us with a general indication of how many cattle are watering at a windmill at a particular point in time. If necessary we can shift cattle to and from a windmill to adjust the grazing pressure,” she said.

Mrs Dowden said provide the telemetry units will bring significant cost savings and are allowing them to be more flexible in their station management.

"We will benefit in the long term from this trial because of the fuel and time we save. During summer we are now able to check our tank levels twice a day from the office. When we manually check the windmills, it takes on average, six hours for the north end of the property and another six to seven the south end."

"The telemetry units gives us great peace of mind and if we are unable to physically check a windmill on a particular day, we still know that there is water for the stock." 

Rangelands NRM Program Manager for Southern Rangelands Kieran Massie said the trial aims to test whether the telemetry system is suitable and relevant for the specific situations in which they have been set up, and whether they may have application on other stations in the Southern Rangelands.

“Station managers will now monitor the data and share the information and lessons learned with other pastoralists,” he said.

“Supporting these trials is one way Rangelands NRM is promoting innovation, new methods to enhance productivity and resilience in rangelands enterprises."

Images:
Three of the five tanks fitted with water telemetry units on Carey Downs Station. Photos courtesy of Harry McKeough.