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Low water alarm

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Katpau

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I was not sure where to post this, but I figure being out of water is definitely a health issue, so here goes.
We have several miles of underground pipe that feeds numerous stock tanks located throughout the ranch. The water comes from several springs and when those are insufficient, which happens every summer, we also have a well located at a higher elevation. The water is gravity fed and stored in several 3000 gallon tanks and then is gravity fed through the pipes to the tanks. We have had several times when a leak has drained the entire system before we realized what was happening. Is anyone aware of a device that might be able to recognize that the water in the storage tanks is going down and then be able to send a warning to your phone? There is no electricity at the storage tanks, so it would need to operate off a battery.
 

callmefence

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Doesn't fit your situation,
But I have numerous lease pastures that I rely on tanks with float valves and well water. I always use as big a tank as I can get my hands on and place in view of the road, often considerable distance though. I put a rubber ball from the dollar store. ( Soccer ball sized) tied to a brick with enough string it can float but the cows don't knock it out. I can drive buy and see the ball . If I can't see it there's a problem. .......that's all I got
 

Banjo

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i don't ....but i have often thought there should be a device that could be hooked at the meter or in your case the tank......that could be set to stop at a predetermined number of gallons....say 500 or 1000 gallons so if you had a leak it would stop at that amount automatically, and anything below the predetermined setting would automatically reset to zero and be basically hands free untill the predetermined number is hit and then would have to be reset manually.
If something like that exist already i would like to know about it......could save hundreds of gallons and dollars in water and high water bills.
if not, somebody could become a millionaire with an invention like that.
 

Brute 23

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Not sure how cost effective it is for just one. Things of this nature are usually cheaper in bulk because of the basic service cost. I use to do a lot of scada type alarming with the o&g company I worked for. Its definitely do able just not sure if it's cost effective for a cattle application.


Found this with a quick search
 
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Silver

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The tech has to be out there. In a former life as a civil earthworks consultant I would rent fuel tanks from the bulk fuel suppliers for jobs. These tanks had the ability to order fuel via satellite when the fuel level got to a predetermined level. So I guess the trick is to find out who has the tech and go from there.
 
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Katpau

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Thanks for the replies. I looked at the link Brute 23 provided. I contacted them and their systems start at around $4000. I am hoping for something less expensive, but I really appreciate the link.

We don't dare leave the ranch for more than a day or two between July and October, for fear of a leak leaving the cattle without water. The springs and small creeks kept up for all but maybe late August to early September for many years, but this long term drought has changed that. We use to leave the well running as back-up to the system, 24 hours per day. We are nervous to do that now, because if that well fails, we don't have water to the house. Now we check the water in the highest storage tank each morning and then run water until we top it off. A few days ago we found that tank almost dry and the lower 3000 gallon tank completely dry. There was a stock tank overflowing about a mile down into the valley and it had drained the whole system in a little over a day. We really need some kind of warning system, so we can catch these leaks before those tanks are empty.

Our local fishing Association installed an alarm on a tank where they raised juvenile salmon up in the mountains. We purchased a tracphone and hooked it to the system. It would call someone when the water levels were out of certain perimeters. I know it was somewhere between $1200 and $1500 for the whole system. I was hoping for something cheaper, but if I don't find anything else, it might be worth it.
 

Brute 23

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Thanks for the replies. I looked at the link Brute 23 provided. I contacted them and their systems start at around $4000. I am hoping for something less expensive, but I really appreciate the link.

We don't dare leave the ranch for more than a day or two between July and October, for fear of a leak leaving the cattle without water. The springs and small creeks kept up for all but maybe late August to early September for many years, but this long term drought has changed that. We use to leave the well running as back-up to the system, 24 hours per day. We are nervous to do that now, because if that well fails, we don't have water to the house. Now we check the water in the highest storage tank each morning and then run water until we top it off. A few days ago we found that tank almost dry and the lower 3000 gallon tank completely dry. There was a stock tank overflowing about a mile down into the valley and it had drained the whole system in a little over a day. We really need some kind of warning system, so we can catch these leaks before those tanks are empty.

Our local fishing Association installed an alarm on a tank where they raised juvenile salmon up in the mountains. We purchased a tracphone and hooked it to the system. It would call someone when the water levels were out of certain perimeters. I know it was somewhere between $1200 and $1500 for the whole system. I was hoping for something cheaper, but if I don't find anything else, it might be worth it.
That's what I was afraid of. The $1200-1500 price sounds really good.

Is there cell service where you could put a game camera that sends you pictures? If there is you could just have it send you pics of the water level WAY cheaper. Maybe combine something like fence recommended with a camera.
 
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Katpau

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Unfortunately, putting in a pond nowadays requires numerous permits & government regulations that make a simple pond construction extremely expensive. That is if they even agree to issueing a permit. I'd like to think it would not be noticed, but thanks to aerial images available I'm sure we'd get caught. We put a small roof over the squeeze chute located over 2 miles from any roads, and the county added it to our real estate taxes from just those aerial images.

We can actually see the first large storage tank from the house, so Fence's idea of a floating ball or flag would work when we are home, but I was hoping to come up with something that would alert us remotely, so we could occasionally get away. Perhaps we can figure out something using Brutes game camera idea.
 

Brute 23

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You can get a nice game camera that emails pics for a fraction of the cost. I've been researching some to put on water troughs at places that are over an hour away. Our stock tanks are drying up and we will have to start depending on solar wells.
 

wbvs58

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Not an alarm but I have a solar pump on my bore hole. It is a low yielding bore so easily pumped dry. The pump which I bought on ebay for $429 has a float sensor that is taped above the pump and shuts down the pump for about half an hour when level gets down then it restarts. There are also sensors in my tank which shuts it down when full and restarts when level gets down to the 2nd sensor depending on where you put it. It makes managing your header tank very easy and reliable too.

Ken
 

Nesikep

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Unfortunately, putting in a pond nowadays requires numerous permits & government regulations that make a simple pond construction extremely expensive. That is if they even agree to issueing a permit. I'd like to think it would not be noticed, but thanks to aerial images available I'm sure we'd get caught. We put a small roof over the squeeze chute located over 2 miles from any roads, and the county added it to our real estate taxes from just those aerial images.

We can actually see the first large storage tank from the house, so Fence's idea of a floating ball or flag would work when we are home, but I was hoping to come up with something that would alert us remotely, so we could occasionally get away. Perhaps we can figure out something using Brutes game camera idea

you could use a pressure sensor in the line, if it's the common line to the house, a lower pressure could be detected.. if the low pressure is sustained for more than 10 minutes it could do something.. and you'd have power there

If you're adventurous and computer savvy, you could build your own device with an Arduino... you can get 5V pressure sensors for about $10 , if you have about a 50psi system, you can pretty much detect the water level to the inch, though being remotely mounted you might have to make some assumptions about flow and pressure loss
How far is it from the house to the tank? Of course you can have another subscription service that'll work over the cell phone, but if you can get a good high-gain wifi antenna that would be the easiest
 
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Katpau

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Nesikep
I'm going to show your pressure sensor suggestions to my husband. He is the plumber around here. You are saying we might be able to detect excessive demand right at the pump house and somehow get notification? That would be great. Neither of us is all that computer savvy, so building our own device won't happen. Low tech solutions are more our skill set.
It is maybe 1/4 to 1/3 mile from the highest tank to the pump house and a couple hundred more to our house. There is about 200 feet drop in elevation. I don't know where my brain was when I said we can see it from the house. I can see the road heading that way, but it is a long ways down the hill and around the corner to the tank, with plenty of trees in the way. You can see it from a spot on the driveway near the barns, but it looks tiny from there. Seeing a flag or ball would probably be difficult with old eyes. We drive by it almost everyday in the RTV, so checking daily isn't the issue, but it would really be nice to get away for a few days and not have to check.

We were leaving the valve from the well to the tank open all the time so it was activated whenever the float in the storage tank demanded water. However we started having issues with the pressure sensors and it would short out power to the well. This would mean no water to the house also. We did not know if the well was failing or just the electrical box in the pump-house was having issues. My husband thinks it is the electrical box and plans to replace that. Today he is working on a break in the pipe where it ran under a ranch road between the pump house and the closest storage tank. There is always something. The lines are all underground and finding problems can be an issue. The extreme drought has caused the soil to crack and move.

Ken
Your system sounds much like our original setup from years ago. It ran on solar to a shallow well and would shut off when it detected low water. The well's output was inadequate for our needs in summer, so we would also haul water from another location and dump it into the storage tank. Our big problem with our current set-up is that if there is a break somewhere, such as the 3/4" PVC pipe that runs to the stock tanks from the storage tanks, it can drain the whole system in just hours and refilling can take days or put a huge demand on the well.
 

Nesikep

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If you get a chance, can you post a pic of the water tank and area?, a screenshot of the google images would help as well.

Another thing you could do is have a monitor on the pump, if the pump runs for more than 15 minutes in an hour, (or whatever), assume there's a leak somewhere.. while you're at home you might get some false alarms if you're using a lot of water, but if you're away from home that shouldn't happen.. Just spitballing and giving ideas
 

sstterry

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I am just curious. If you are filling the tanks from a well, how is it being done without power?
 
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Katpau

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Nesi, I'll take a picture tomorrow. (If I remember my phone) I mentioned the monitor to my husband and he said he had looked online at some possibilities. If you know of anything specific, let me know. He thinks he fixed the circuit breaker problem today. The thing was full of bugs behind the circuits. The break in the pipe and the overflowing tanks are fixed too.

We have power at the well. The well is at the top of a ridge and at 1120 feet elevation. All storage and stock tanks are located at lower elevations and gravity fed. We have a number of pressure relief valves located about every 100 feet of elevation drop to prevent things blowing up. We built this system and learned a lot along the way. We had some real geysers the first time we hooked it up to the springs and let things roll.😲 The lowest tank is at about 500 feet elevation. In some places it goes over or under creeks. We first began using this system after fencing off the creeks in 2002 and have added to it many times since. Every year we have floats that need grit removed, pipes that move and break or crack, and tanks that get cracks from age, abuse or soil movement. It is a pain sometimes, but mostly a blessing. The creeks at one time had at least some water year around, but now only have puddles at the lowest elevations from June to November, and the output from the springs is insufficient in late summer too.
 

Nesikep

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Nesi, I'll take a picture tomorrow. (If I remember my phone) I mentioned the monitor to my husband and he said he had looked online at some possibilities. If you know of anything specific, let me know. He thinks he fixed the circuit breaker problem today. The thing was full of bugs behind the circuits. The break in the pipe and the overflowing tanks are fixed too.

We have power at the well. The well is at the top of a ridge and at 1120 feet elevation. All storage and stock tanks are located at lower elevations and gravity fed. We have a number of pressure relief valves located about every 100 feet of elevation drop to prevent things blowing up. We built this system and learned a lot along the way. We had some real geysers the first time we hooked it up to the springs and let things roll.😲 The lowest tank is at about 500 feet elevation. In some places it goes over or under creeks. We first began using this system after fencing off the creeks in 2002 and have added to it many times since. Every year we have floats that need grit removed, pipes that move and break or crack, and tanks that get cracks from age, abuse or soil movement. It is a pain sometimes, but mostly a blessing. The creeks at one time had at least some water year around, but now only have puddles at the lowest elevations from June to November, and the output from the springs is insufficient in late summer too.
If you have tolerable cell service at the tank, there are some options for that, a little solar panel would keep a battery charged enough for monitoring.. It seems like you should be able to buy some data-only sim cards that would run for about $25 a year which is pretty reasonable.. I had initially thought of using a long range wireless to the house to get connected but this seems like it would be much easier... might take me a while but I could probably make something
 
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Katpau

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Here are some pictures. I haven't tried this with the new forum, so we'll see what it can handle. Not sure my internet can even handle all this.

Pump house up top.
29AE0F8D-52DB-4775-87D2-86BDC0838737_1_105_c.jpeg

First storage tank. Down below. Picture taken from about 1/2 way down hill.EE01C48D-655D-4681-A4EB-B061E76DE67C_1_105_c.jpeg
Looking up at same tank. This one is fed by two springs and the above well, when needed.
1B185BF3-4E84-4535-BCC2-DF4004C5138E_1_105_c.jpeg
Second storage tank. Fed by one spring and first tank up above, plus there is a small well with solar power that could feed this tank if we replaced the battery.19A80588-E50A-429A-978A-647755226A7E_1_105_c.jpeg
One of the many stock tanks.

401930A4-424D-410A-AD08-FE7B1FBFB5F8_1_105_c.jpeg
A few of the girls want to know why I am not taking a picture of them.DE833D73-4481-494E-8E3E-D2CEF2B7704F_1_105_c.jpeg
 

Brute 23

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I think you have more problems than needing a low level alarm.

One thing is the trough size. That is always #1. No matter what else happens once water is in a trough it usually stays there until some thing drinks it. That is always your first line of defense and you should always purchase as big of troughs as you can swing.

Next I would see about choking the flow from the storage tanks to the troughs. I'm guessing you have way more water flow than needed to the troughs. Close the valve off the storage tanks as much as possible but where you can still get water to your troughs. That will slow the depletion down when there is a failure.

Probably definitely want to get that solar fixed.

Another thing is depending on the elevation changes you can build some pipe water legs through out the system that won't allow more water to go to the lower level unless the upper level is full. If you have a failure down low it won't drain the whole system.

With out seeing a schematic of the whole systems and how its arranged in different pastures, head counts, etc it's hard to go it to much detail. There are probably more operational efficiencies and isolation points that can be added to help operate the system as a whole and mitigate risk. Alarms are always good because you can never be 100% trouble free but at the same time you dont want to depend on them like a crutch.
 

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