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Irrigation flow monitoring equipment demonstration and comparison




Crookston, Mark A., author
Halley, Alan A., author
Caves, June R., author
U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage, publisher

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Northern Water (Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District) conducted field demonstrations and comparisons of flow monitoring equipment at 18 canal and ditch sites in the lower South Platter River Basin during the 2006 irrigation season. Equipment included data loggers from 8 different manufacturers, 16 different models of water level sensors from 12 manufacturers, and 4 different types of telemetry from 7 manufacturers. The data loggers that were demonstrated included four models of single-sensor with integrated data logger, four models of programmable multi-sensor data logger, and one model of basic, low-cost data logger without telemetry. Relative equipment costs for each data logger system are summarized in Table 6. The water level sensors tested included submersible pressure transducers, optical shaft encoders, ultrasonic distance sensors, bubbler level sensor, float and pulley with potentiometer, buoyancy sensor, and a laser distance sensor. Bench checks of sensor calibrations were accomplished by Northern Water staff before field installation, and again at the end of the irrigation season. Observed sensor accuracy was compared to that expected from manufacturer specifications. The telemetry systems tested in the field included license-free spread-spectrum radios from four manufacturers, licensed radio modems in the 450 MHz range, satellite radio modems to a web server, and cdma modems with static IP addresses. Increased mast height and high gain directional antenna improved radio telemetry as expected. Additionally, operational files were utilized to document telemetry performance when available. The purpose and intent of the equipment demonstration and comparison was not to identify a single best data logger, sensor, and/or telemetry system. Each has different features and strengths, as well as varying costs. For each specific flow monitoring application, different equipment may be preferred or better suited than other equipment. However, the 2006 demonstration and comparison should provide a reference point for those seeking to become more knowledgeable in equipment selection while avoiding unpleasant surprises.


Presented at SCADA and related technologies for irrigation district modernization, II: a USCID water management conference held on June 6-9, 2007 in Denver, Colorado.

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