Need water? Solar wells let nature do the work!
by Carole Martinez
Centrally located in Wyoming, 30 miles west of Casper, the Diamond Ring Livestock ranch lays on the north slope of the Rattlesnake mountain range. Centuries of the wind blowing over the large divide south of us has deposited a good amount of topsoil on a lot of the ranch ” in places several feet deep. In other places on the ranch, the topsoil is very fragile and may be only an inch deep, or sandy soil.
We are blessed with good, short, powerful prairie grass with a minimal amount of sagebrush and timber. The Poison Spider and Casper creeks head in our Garfield pasture. Poison Spider Creek runs through the ranch from west to east for 25 miles ” the entire length of the ranch ” before going on through the water gap.
Casper Creek starts high, heading north and east and runs out of the ranch early. Eventually, after wandering through the countryside, it runs into the town of Casper. In the late summer both creeks start drying up, leaving potholes full of stagnant water.
The ranch had several electric water wells and windmills in working condition when we moved here in 1992. Soon after taking possession of the ranch we drilled eight new water wells, hooking the power source to electricity or solar pumps with panels. The pumps go down less than 100 feet and hit water; the deepest well is 120 feet. Two solar panels installed on top of a pump generate enough power to pump water to the surface at 15 gallons per minute in some of the wells.
We have converted three more windmills to solar wells. The initial cost is high, but upkeep on the solar wells costs not a penny! All we do is flip the switch on or off. Wyoming wind is constant and our air is clear because of that, and the sun shines bright on most any given day.
We found that as the summer gets hotter and drier, the cows trail in to the water and the wind dies down, causing the windmill blades to be still, resulting in no running water. We put in huge tires that were cut in half for the water tanks, each with a pit for overflow; we find they work the best. When we had sheep we put in three large sheep tanks with overflows that would flow into the next tank, then finally overflow into a pit. We are never out of water, no matter how many cattle or sheep we put in a pasture.
Recently, we drilled three more water wells, hitting shallow water each time. We are in the process of putting solar pumps on two of the new wells and one will be hooked up to electricity. This will be a godsend this year as the water table is down as well as snow pack drain-off.
The solar wells need absolutely no maintenance and after this spring we will have six solar wells, seven electric wells and two windmills that haven’t given us any problems. The pits are big enough that when the wind quits blowing, there is enough water stored for any amount of cattle that trail in.
We are lucky to live on this ranch; it’s a well-balanced 122,000 acre ranch that is a full-time job for the three of us that work here, but the hard work is worth it.
With this newly-drilled water, our jobs will be easier, the cows will have less distance to travel and they will make the most of the grass in the huge pastures, thus the calves will weigh more at shipping, making everyone happier.
These new wells are one of the many goals we’ve dreamed of accomplishing for a long time.