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Ordering irrigation water in the Klamath Project is about to get easier, thanks to a joint senior project by two Oregon Tech students in coordination with members of the Klamath Irrigation District (KID) planning committee.

Committee members Ry Kliewer and Josh DuBose have been working with Tech seniors Sara Musgrave and Nathan Banavong on a prototype for a water delivery system. Musgrave and Banavong are tasked with getting the system — formally called the Water Usage Tracking Accountability System (WUTAS) — ready by March 2018 so irrigators can test it out before the 2018 irrigation season begins.

Irrigators will still be able to order water as they always have by calling a KID ditch-rider by phone. But they will also have the opportunity through the app to order water with the touch of a button from a mobile device, tablet or desktop computer. The water delivery app will also eventually update the district’s outdated billing system.

“As a farmer, you can’t manage your resource because you don’t have access to it,” DuBose said, noting a water user currently placing an order can wait weeks for an accounting response. “If we have the information updated every 24 hours, you can view it and use it as an admin tool.”

The app is slated to save staff time at KID and make the process of water orders more seamless.

“It should in theory calculate every diversion for the day, every day,” DuBose said.

How it works

The app allows waterusers to request as much cubic feet per second of water as they are allocated by their water rights. Water-users can also make a comment in their request and ditch riders likewise can also make a comment as to why water users may not receive a certain amount.

“They can’t turn on their water until you tell them they can,” Musgrave told KID staff during the Wednesday presentation.

Once a ditch rider approves the request, a water user can turn on the water.

If an error is made in the request, the watermaster can amend it.

Customers can also see where they stand through the online app as far as where they are on a wait list for water, pending approval from ditch riders.

“The customer is not allowed to take action unless they hear a call from you,” Musgrave said, noting that ditch riders will be encouraged to leave a comment as to why the wateruser is waiting for water.

The system is optional as not all customers may want to utilize the system.

Musgrave and Banavong will lead a how-to tutorial in the spring showing the watermaster, ditch riders and interested KID patrons on the new system.

Another student is helping modernize the district’s billing system, with plans to launch in March 2018.

Shopping for software

When Kliewer and DuBose initially looked for options to upgrade the district’s water accounting system, what KID needed couldn’t be found.

“You could buy computer software programs but none were designed to fit the elaborate districts that our individual contracts of the districts have,” Kliewer said, “and how water needs to be tracked per allocation.

“KID has the responsibility of pretty much delivering to all districts,” Kliewer added. “That’s why it kind of falls on KID’s shoulders. So we get to custom build our own kind of deal and we have the brains that know how to do it, and it’s just putting the components together.”

“This is what drives everything in the Basin — how much water you get and how much you take,” DuBose added.

“Klamath Basin has such complex contracts with agencies … there’s other districts out there that just buy computer programs off the shelf.

“We have to build a dynamic program,” Dubose added, emphasizing he’s not the person for the job.

Enter Musgrave, 21, the project’s manager, who’s seeking a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Systems Information Technology from Oregon Tech. Banavong, 23, is seeking a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from Oregon Tech.

‘Crash course’ in water delivery

Both students interned with KID throughout the summer as part of the senior projects to understanding the inner workings of the district.

“We got to see some of the canals, some of the structures,” Banavong said. “It was a learning experience.”

The students first heard about the concept when Kliewer and DuBose made a presentation to a senior project class.

“I was sitting next to Nate, and I made him come along,” Musgrave said with enthusiasm.

The project, which has taken the last nine months, includes a 31-page paper on the water tracking system, including a practical how-to guide to implement it.

“I can see that they’ve learned a lot,” DuBose said. “To the point where they probably understand it better than us.”

An app in development

The students on Wednesday shared their in-depth understanding of how to implement the app and how it will work for ditch-riders and customers.

The first prototype of the app was created in 2016, but like many first-generation products, had a to be recreated, Kliewer said.

“We needed a better way to track each individual ditch,” Kliewer said.

“We needed a good way to be able to adapt the GIS programming into the water tracking as far as like locations of infrastructure.”

Kliewer said the district’s planning committee started looking at several improvements to the district in 2014, including updating the water delivery accounting. The effort got delayed during a series of tumultuous changes in management at KID, including the recall of a former board president.

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