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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Water Management and Conservation Research

2007 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
(1) Develop management tools to improve the performance of surface irrigation systems at the field scale; (2) Develop model components that can be used to predict irrigation-induced erosion and constituent transport in surface irrigation at the field scale; (3) Develop management tools to improve the operation of irrigation water delivery systems; (4) Develop a strategy and tools for assessing the performance of surface irrigation systems at the water district or watershed scale.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Improved surface irrigation software, winSRFR, will be developed that includes event simulation, evaluation, design, and operational recommendations. This new software will allow users to more easily provide inputs and conduct analyses. New routines will be developed for determining soil infiltration based on soils and irrigation data. winSRFR will also include modeling of sediment, phosphorus, and non-reactive chemical transport under surface irrigation. New canal automation technology included in Software for Automated Canal Management (SacMan) will be implemented at an irrigation district in Central Arizona to determine its costs and benefits. This will also allow the testing a various control approaches. Additional analyses and interviews will be conducted to determine the utility of these technologies at improving the performance of irrigated agriculture. Formerly 5347-13000-014-00D (12/06).

3.Progress Report
As part of our canal automation research, three laterals in the Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District have been automated. Preliminary testing shows that the automation functions properly, but details still need to be worked out. Routing of demand changes and upstream control have not been fully tested. We plan to start training the SCADA operators this fall to run the canal automation software.

Analysis of new laboratory data on submerged radial gates has been completed. A correction procedure was developed for submerged flow conditions that is more accurate than prior methods under the tested conditions, using data from the Bureau of Reclamation. A few computational difficulties still need to be resolved to account for complex flow conditions observed in the field. User-friendly gate calibration software still is under development.

Irrigation-induced erosion and subsequent transport of soil particles are inherently unsteady phenomena; hence, unsteady simulation of the process is more correct than assuming a succession of steady states, as is done in other erosion simulation software (WEPP, SRFR). The entrainment and advection of sand, silt, and clay particles and fitted with a smooth distribution across size classes, has been programmed and is being complemented by incorporating the unsteady nature of the phenomena. Thorough tests to correct errors will complete the program.

Simulation studies conducted in 2006 suggested the possibility of developing a cutoff criteria for surface irrigation systems in the Yuma-Mesa area of Arizona based on the time of advance to the middle of the field. Drs. Charles Sanchez and Dawit Zerihun, of the University of Arizona-Yuma Agricultural Center (YAC), field tested this concept in 2007. Preliminary results suggest the method may be too sensitive to uncertain input data for practical implementation. A formal agreement was established in 2007 with the Yuma Agricultural Center to further analyze these issues through additional simulation studies and field tests.

Field studies on level basins in Concordia Parrish, Louisiana have been completed. We still need better recommendations on the area that can be efficiently irrigated with a given flow rate. The flow rates for rice irrigation are very low, which makes them very inefficient for soy beans, corn or cotton. We have proposed an extension bulletin to combine what collective knowledge we have obtained. This would be a combined effort from ARS in Maricopa and Missouri, and extension in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

The USALARC is evaluating the Arizona Department of Water Resources’ Best Management Practices program for agricultural water conservation. Background information was compiled to establish baseline conditions needed to contrast participants with the general farmer population. Incentives for participation, program-induced changes in cropping and water use patterns, and overall program implementation and enforcement are being investigated through interviews with a sample of farmers. Questionnaires were developed during the summer of 2007 and interviews are scheduled to be completed by the late fall.

WinSRFR Surface Irrigation Software Gravity (surface) irrigation is the prevalent method of on-farm water application in the U.S. and worldwide. While efficiency and uniformity of surface irrigation generally is poor, performance comparable to pressurized irrigation can be attained with hydraulically-based design and operation. Many hydraulic concepts and techniques for surface irrigation analysis have been proposed, but are computationally intensive and not easy or convenient to use. Researchers at the U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center, Maricopa, AZ, have released version 2 of WinSRFR, a software program that provides guidance for improving surface irrigation performance. With the new version of the software, the user enters data from easy to make field measurements; the software helps to determine soil infiltration, the distribution of infiltrated water, and the resulting performance; and then assists the user in developing recommendations for improving either the design or operations. Intended users include university extension agents, farm advisors, irrigation consultants, and most of all, NRCS irrigation specialists. The software has been deployed throughout NRCS. In addition, more than 120 users from 14 countries have downloaded the prior version of WinSRFR off the web. NP211 Water Availability and Watershed Management, Managing Irrigation for Effective Water Use

SCADA Operator Training Software Irrigation delivery systems are under pressure to improve the accuracy and flexibility of water deliveries to farmers while reducing operational losses and improving overall water accountability. Sophisticated control approaches and operator training are needed to achieve this objective, however, irrigation projects in the U.S. and other parts of the world are still implementing manual centralized remote control on their canals with the help of Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) technology. Engineers from the USALARC have developed a novel system for training operators on canal supervisory control, SCADA systems, and for testing canal automation using special software, which replaces the physical link to the canal system’s communication hardware (usually radios), and thus to the canal gates, with a link to a simulation model of the canal. This software system allows users to learn how to interact with the SCADA interface and test operational strategies, including canal automation, using scenarios that might prove dangerous on the real canal. West Consultants, Tempe , AZ , adapted the software for use with HEC-RAS , a public-domain software product developed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and is marketing the software with water districts. Several irrigation and water conservancy districts have expressed interest in using the software. NP211 Water Availability and Watershed Management, Managing Irrigation for Effective Water Use

5.Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations

6.Technology Transfer

Number of web sites managed1
Number of non-peer reviewed presentations and proceedings3

Review Publications
Clemmens, A.J. 2007. Simple approach to surface irrigation design: theory. Land and Water. (1)1-19. Available:

Clemmens, A.J. 2007. Simple approach to surface irrigation design: application. Land and Water. (1)20-43. Available:

Clemmens, A.J., Molden, D.J. 2007. Water uses and productivity of irrigation systems. Irrigation Science. 25:(3)247-261

Strelkoff, T., Clemmens, A.J., Perea-Estrada, H. 2006. Calculation of non-reactive chemical distribution in surface fertigation. Agricultural Water Management. 86:93-101

Last Modified: 4/23/2014
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