Bureau of Reclamation Banner

Preview handout materials for the workshop

Modern Methods in
Canal Operation
and Control

A Water Resources Technical Workshop

This workshop is being offered every other year and will be presented again in January or February 2016.

Presented by

Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group
Bureau of Reclamation
United States Department of the Interior

PDFDownload a Tri-Fold BrochurePDF

Index of this document



Canal Automation is becoming widely used to improve the operation of canal systems and to conserve water. Automatic control systems are installed on most new canals, and many older canals are being modernized with data collection, telemetry, and control equipment to help canal operators better manage their water.

Canal Model Panorama

This training course on canal operations and control methods is taught by the Bureau of Reclamation's Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group in Denver, and has been offered each year since 1996.  The course covers modern methods to upgrade the operations of existing canals, including canal automation techniques and equipment.

The curriculum includes a combination of classroom discussions, equipment demonstrations, and laboratory workshops that target canal operators, watermasters, engineers, and other technical staff.  Course topics include:

The training course features a new model canal facility in Reclamation's hydraulics laboratory. This laboratory model is a 300-foot-long canal made from clear acrylic Plexiglass and aluminum with motorized control gates, turnouts, a long-throated flow measurement flume, and an inverted siphon. It is fully instrumented for remote monitoring and control of water levels, gate positions, and flows, with both manual and automatic control capabilities. The model canal was designed specifically to provide training through "hands-on" workshops where students experience different canal operating techniques and control methods. <more photos>


Modern Methods in Canal Operation and Control is designed for watermasters, canal operators, managers, and engineers who are interested in improved canal operations. The instruction is geared towards people who want to learn through active participation and "first hand" experience with canal operations and instrumentation.

Both of this year's sessions will offer a basic curriculum targetting first-time students in Reclamation's canal automation training program. Although students should have some experience with irrigation canal systems, an extensive technical or engineering background is not required.


Workshop instructors are engineers and scientists with extensive experience and knowledge in the areas of canal automation, operation and control. Principal instructors are Dave Rogers, Bob Einhellig, Tony Wahl, and Tracy Vermeyen. These Bureau of Reclamation engineers have conducted many training programs for Reclamation and other organizations. Some lectures and vendor demonstrations will be given by industry experts from outside Reclamation.


The curriculum includes a combination of classroom discussions, equipment demonstrations, and laboratory workshops. Course topics include:

Canal Hydraulics

  • Terminology
  • Open channel flow principles
  • Structure hydraulics
Canal Operation
  • Delivery concepts
  • Operation and control concepts
  • Methods of canal pool operation
  • Natural tendencies
  • Check gate operating techniques
  • Constraints
Flow Measurement
  • Weirs
  • Submerged orifices
  • Flow measurement flumes
  • Pipe flow measurement
  • Acoustic velocity measurement
  • Rated sections, gauging
  • Undershot gate flow
  • Overshot gate flow
  • Free and submerged flow

  • Aerated and non-aerated flow
  • Program RADGAT (Radial gate flow algorithm)
Instrumentation Systems
  • Water level measurement
  • Gate and valve position measurement
  • Alarm sensors
  • Equipment status
  • Selection factors
Automatic Control
  • Feedback controllers
  • Basic characteristics of automatic control
  • Canal system control methods
  • Supervisory control 
  • Automatic control components
  • Local control algorithms
  • Local automatic gate control
Communication systems
  • Communication system design
  • Cable communication systems (wire and optical fiber)
  • Radio systems (UHF, VHF, spread spectrum, digital)
  • Configurations
  • Types of communications channels
Canal automation equipment
  • Local control systems
  • Telemetry systems (monitoring)
  • SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems 
  • Alarm systems
  • Lightning protection
  • Failure considerations
  • Local control software
  • SCADA system software
  • Design and analysis programs
  • Numerical simulation
Case Studies
  • Small-scale modernization projects
  • Large automated canal systems


Photo: Rogers lecturing
Photo: measuring water
    Photo: Canal model
Photo: Wahl lecturing
Photo: Pug demonstrating gate control
Photo: Student at control platform
Photo: Discussing acoustic meters
Photo: control platform


The course will begin Monday morning at 8:00, and will end Friday at noon. The following agenda is planned:

Course introduction
Tour of Reclamation's hydraulics laboratory
Basic hydraulics
Canal hydraulics lab demo
Conventional canal operations
Canal operation lab workshops

Modern canal operations
Canal operation lab workshops
Fundamentals of automatic control
Local automatic control computer workshop
Local automatic control lab demo

Flow measurement
Flow measurement lab workshops
Long-throated flume design
Instrumentation systems

Instrumentation lab workshops
Communication systems
Canal automation equipment
SCADA system software demo
Canal Olympics (canal control competition)

Results of Canal Olympics
Specific modernization projects
Miscellaneous questions and discussion
Course Wrap-up


Presentation notes and other course materials will be compiled into a notebook and distributed to all participants at the start of the Workshop. As a supplement to the course notes, participants will also receive complementary copies of Reclamation's new Water Measurement Manual (third edition) and the Canal Systems Automation Manual, Volumes 1 and 2. 


Participants should register using the enclosed registration form. There is no tuition fee for this workshop.

To maximize the benefit for each student, each workshop session is limited to 15 participants. If you find that you are unable to attend, please give us your cancellation notice as soon as possible. A substitute from your organization can take your place, or your slot will be offered to the next person on our waiting list.


Course participants are responsible for their own transportation and lodging arrangements and costs. The workshop is held in Building 56 at the Denver Federal Center, on the west side of the Denver metropolitan area. Several hotels are located nearby; some of these have complementary van service to the Federal Center. Taxis or shuttle service from Denver International Airport (DIA) to hotels can be arranged at DIA.


A confirmation package with additional information will be sent upon receipt of the registration form. For more information contact the Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group:

Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group
ATTN: Tony Wahl
Hydraulic Investigations and Laboratory Services Group
Bureau of Reclamation
Mail Code 86-68460
P.O. Box 25007
Denver, Colorado 80225

Telephone: 303-445-2155
Fax: 303-445-6324
E-mail: TWahl@usbr.gov

Return to main training course page

Last reviewed: 01/27/15