Development and Deployment of Low-Cost Flow Measurement for Irrigation Applications (WS3-FY03-002-BOR)

Project ID: 435
Principal Investigator: Robert Einhellig
Research Topic: Agriculture Water Supplies
Funded Fiscal Years: 2004
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can low-cost flow measurement techniques be identified or developed to facilitate water measurement, accountability, and conservation in irrigation projects?

Need and Benefit

Better water management and increased water conservation are universally recognized goals for modern irrigation, both in the United States and elsewhere. A vital component of reaching this goal is the ability to measure and quantify water deliveries and consumption. Previous research in this area has often focused on technological advances that are frequently not cost effective or attainable for small delivery systems and end users--making them too expensive for broad application at the farm turnout and on-farm delivery level. The goal of this project is to further the development and deployment of low-cost flow measurement alternatives which are affordable and can be applied to smaller irrigation deliveries with a high benefit-to-cost ratio.

There are a number of flow measurement concepts and devices which have the potential to measure flow with limited cost. Investigation of the applicability of these concepts to irrigation system water measurement has often been limited or has not occurred at all. One such example is the elbow meter. Elbow meters have been used for water flow measurement since 1911, yet application of the elbow meter concept to piped delivery systems in irrigation projects has rarely occurred. Instead, irrigation pipe-flow measurement relies on propeller meters which cost roughly $800 each, making them too expensive for broad application at the farm turnout and on-farm delivery level. By contrast, use of existing pipe elbows as flow meters would offer the opportunity for flow measurement at a cost of less than $100 per application.

This project contributes toward the goal of enhancing western water supplies by developing cost-effective tools for water measurement and encouraging their deployment in irrigation systems. Currently, flow measurement is sporadically and inconsistently applied in irrigation projects throughout the Western United States. Some projects have a strong infrastructure to support flow measurement, but many projects have a little or no flow measurement capabilities. This is particularly true of the small flows associated with individual farm turnouts and on-farm deliveries. Low-cost methods to measure these flows would greatly enhance the ability of end users and water districts to manage their water deliveries and decrease water waste and system inefficiencies. This, in turn, would make more water available to other users and for instream flows.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 4/4/17