Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Water Management and Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #223313


item Clemmens, Albert
item Strand, Robert

Submitted to: Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2008
Publication Date: 5/15/2008
Citation: Clemmens, A.J., Strand, R.J. 2008. Impact of canal design limitations on water delivery operations and automation. Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress. CDROM. 8 pp.

Interpretive Summary: Competition for water supplies is increasing, which prompts water districts to improve their operations. Canal automation provides potential for many water districts to improve their operations and conserve water. The paper discusses limitation to automation that result from canal design and recommends changes to canal design methods. These results will be of use to irrigation and large water districts, the Bureau of Reclamation, and consultants.

Technical Abstract: Irrigation canals are often designed for water transmission. The design engineer simply ensures that the canal will pass the maximum design discharge. However, irrigation canals frequently operated far below design capacity. Because demands and the distribution of flow at bifurcations (branch points) can vary from day to day, or even from hour to hour, to meet user demands, the hydraulic grade line of the canal can vary significantly over the range of flows encountered. This complicates the operator’s job of distributing flow to users. Common problems include: insufficient head at low flows for turnouts in the upper end of pools, gates that transition from free to submerged flow over the range of conditions, culverts that greatly change the pool volume over the range of discharges due to backwater effects, canal gates that are oversized for safety which limits small discharge changes, variable backwater conditions that compromise flow measurement devices (both in pipes and channels), incompatible hardware for automated control of check gates, etc. Examples from canal systems in Central Arizona are given with options for improving operations. This quote from an irrigation district engineer says it best, "Design engineers should be forced to operate the canal systems that they design."