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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Wahlin, Brian
item Strand, Robert
item Goodell, Christopher
item Clemmens, Albert
item Denny, Nathan

Submitted to: Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/5/2008
Publication Date: 5/15/2008
Citation: Wahlin, B., Strand, R.J., Goodell, C., Clemmens, A.J., Denny, N. 2008. Scada operator training tool applied to the central arizona irrigation and drainage district. Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress. CDROM, 10 pp.

Interpretive Summary: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems are used by irrigation districts to monitor canal systems and automate the distribution of water through remote, manual control. Usually, new SCADA system operators districts are trained by day-to-day operation of the canal system. Those trainees with little or no experience with canal operation sometimes take a long time to learn how to operate the canal system effectively. Additionally, operators are not trained in emergency situations, unless such a problem actually occurs on the job. Engineers from WEST Consultants, Inc. of Salem, Oregon have harnessed technology developed at the U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona to implement a simulation-based training system for canal operators. The system uses the districts SCADA system, but radio signals that would normally be sent to the gate sites are, instead, sent to a simulation model of the canal, using the HEC-RAS model from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Central Main Canal in the Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District (CAIDD) in Eloy, Arizona was used to test and demonstrate the method. After calibration, a simple test was performed to compare the simulated canal response to that of the real canal. The results showed that the simulated system closely matched the actual response of the canal. This training system offers great possibilities to train operators in a wide range of canal operation scenarios without causing delivery fluctuations or canal damage.

Technical Abstract: Many irrigation districts use Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software to manage their canal systems. Whether homegrown or commercial, these programs require a significant amount of training for new operators. While some SCADA operators are hired with extensive field experience, others are hired with no field experience at all and require extended training to gain an understanding of the behavior of open-channel systems. Regardless of their experience, these operators usually receive SCADA training while managing the actual canal system and thus their training is driven by the day-to-day operation of the system. The SCADA operators receive no hands-on training for emergency situations, such as hardware vandalism, large storm events, or a canal breach. Creating these emergency situations in a canal system for training purposes leads to wasting water, causing significant fluctuations in water levels in the adjoining pools, or potentially causing severe damage to the canal system. Recently, researchers at the U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center created a training tool that replaces the real canal with a hydraulic simulation model without making any changes to the SCADA software. Employees at WEST Consultants, Inc., recently modified this training tool so that it works with HEC-RAS as the hydraulic simulation model. Using this system, SCADA operators can be training to operate a canal system under a wide range of emergency situations without endangering the actual canal system or wasting water. This type of training should reduce the time required to train operators, allow the SCADA operators to route flow changes more efficiently through the system, and give operators a larger knowledge base with which to handle emergency situations. This training tool was recently applied to the Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District in Eloy, Arizona. Because of the flexibility and applicability of this training tool, we hope that this tool can be used in a wide range of training situations.

Last Modified: 10/15/2017
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