Students! This project has been made into an engineering course that can count towards your engineering degree. We have weekly lectures on Conservation Planning and Solar Powered Irrigation Design, and we go into the field to implement what we learn. For more information, contact Cheryl.


North Leupp Family Farms is located just outside of Leupp, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. In the winter of 2011 representatives from the Leupp Family Farm contacted Global Engineering Outreach for technical assistance in designing a solar-powered irrigation pumping system for the first phase of a proposed three year project. Jacques Seronde, part of the management and evaluation team for the Tolani Lake Enterprises Board, worked with Global Engineering Outreach members to write a grant to the USDA-NRCS. The grant, which has since been approved, covers the implementation o f renewably-powered irrigation for three separate locations, two on the Navajo Reservation and one on the Hopi Reservation. The project in Leupp is the first of these three projects. 


Our Partners

A coalition of Navajo and Hopi community-based organizations is collaborating to conduct this project. The group includes members of Global Engineering Outreach-NAU, Tolani Lake Enterprises, and countless Navajo and Hopi groups. 

The Need

Members of both the Hopi and Navajo tribes have long suffered from severe poverty and social stresses which hamper community economic and agricultural development and wellbeing. These stresses included rampant diabetes and obesity, unemployment rates over 60%, per capita median incomes ranging between $7,000 and $8,500 per year; and 60% of Hopi and Navajo families living below the poverty level. The Navajo and Hopi farms hope to not only provide healthy, local food, but to lower the costs of producing it.

The current diesel generator at the Leupp Family Farm uses 2 gallons of diesel per hour for the 150 day irrigation season. Operating an average of 6 hours a day, the generator uses 1800 gallons of diesel at a cost of $9,000 or more per season. The use of diesel also produces an estimated 18 metric tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases per season. This project will seek to reduce the cost of energy generation through photovoltaic systems.

Small solar photovoltaic-powered systems for livestock watering generally use DC pumps and are relatively well-known and applied in appropriate locations in the United States and the developing world. However, these systems are too small for irrigation of larger fields, and are not in wide use among the Navajo and Hopi for livestock watering, due to factors including (a) lack of information about the benefits of such systems; (b) shortage of Navajo and Hopi expertise to design, integrate, install, operate and maintain such systems; (c) inadequate access by tribal members to assistance programs helping provide such systems; and (d) vandalism. 

Global Engineering Outreach Implementation

The purpose of the project is to assist three locations in developing alternatives for diesel generators. Most present and potential Navajo and Hopi irrigated farm and pasture sites are far off-grid and have no alternative to diesel fuel to power well-pumps. We are striving to:

  • Demonstrate the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural effectiveness and sustainability of solar energy systems for pumping irrigation-quantities of water.
  • Encourage and facilitate the adoption of these systems among Navajo, Hopi, and other Tribal Conservation Districts Strengthen Navajo, Hopi, and other Tribal communities food and water security by building local capacity to use plentiful solar energy resources to pump shallow ground water sustainably for crop irrigation.
  • Train at least fifteen Navajo and Hopi farmers and community members in the technical processes of solar pumping system design, installation, monitoring, operations and maintenance, to increase community capacity to expand the use of such systems.
  • Engage Global Engineering Outreach students in transformative cross-cultural partnerships helping Navajo, Hopi and other Tribal farmers and communities strengthen their sustainable food and water security through applications of solar power to meet family farm irrigation water needs.

Each of the three systems will be designed to irrigate up to 20 acres of land with up to 3 acre-feet per acre per irrigation season. Those collaborating on the project will design, install, operate, monitor, evaluate and report on three 17 kW solar photovoltaic-powered pumping systems, each system capable of supplying up to 60 acre-feet of irrigation water during the season to a 20 acre Navajo or Hopi farm. The Leupp Family Farm presently irrigates about 20 acres of family plots of traditional corn, squashes, melons and other crops. 80 gallons per minute of irrigation water are supplied from a well 200 feet deep and about 2000 feet away, equipped with a 7 h.p. submersible AC pump powered by a diesel generator.

The preliminary design developed by Global Engineering Outreach members includes the replacement of the existing diesel-generator-powered submersible pump with a 17 kW solar PV system, mounted on a locally-developed frame-mounted tracking system, to provide enough power for a larger pump (estimated at 15 h.p. to yield 250 gpm against a total dynamic head of 150 feet); and to provide additional power for other on-farm uses including corn grinding and brackish water desalinization. The estimated cost per system is $108,000. 



The North Leupp Family Farms (NLFF) is engaging their community members and encouraging a permanent relationships.Go to their site.https://sites.google.com/site/leuppfarm/..


Cheryl Dilks is the current project leader for our work with NLFF. She is currently studying environmental engineering, but has years of international experience that help her excel in this project. Contact Cheryl to get involved with the Leupp project.