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Duchesne River Solar-Powered Automation Network (Utah, USA)

The Duchesne River Basin is located in eastern Utah. The Duchesne River is a tributary of the Green/Colorado River system. Water from the Duchesne River drainage is currently exported through four separate federal water projects: Strawberry Valley Project, Weber Basin Project, Provo River Project, and the Central Utah Project. This water is used to quench the thirst of the exploding population of Utah's Wasatch Front. These trans-basin diversions leave a lot less water to meet the needs in rural Duchesne County.

photo: control box - Duchesne River

While the principal use of water in Duchesne County is irrigation, there is an interesting variety of addition needs developing. The lower 2.5 miles of the river has been designated as critical habitat for the endangered razorback sucker and the lower 13 miles are important habitat for the endangered pike minnow. Recovery of these fish in the Colorado River drainage will require improvements to existing habitat conditions, namely augmenting flows during critical biological periods.

The upper Duchesne River supports a quality sport fishery that wildlife managers would like to see improved. As part of the Central Utah Project completion legislation, 2.7 million was appropriated to repair diversion structures and make the river operation more fish friendly. A team of biologists and irrigators has worked out a plan to enhance the fishery in the upper Duchesne River. An important component of their plan is to restore stream flows below diversion dams which have historically been dry-dammed. With conventional control, bypassing in-stream flows past diversion structures can be problematic.

Another major issue affecting the Duchesne River drainage is water quality. Not so much the water in the drainage, but the salinity the United States exports as the Colorado River crosses the Mexican border. The Salinity Forum is currently administering a grant program to reduce salt loading. The principal thrust of the program has been to reduce seepage and spillage, and reduce agricultural return flows.

Everybody wins if the Duchesne River is subjected to more intensive management. And one of the most cost-effective ways to provide more intensive management is through automation.

The Duchesne/Strawberry Water Users Association, working with Reclamation's Provo Area Office staff, is well on the way to automating the river and its major canals using low-cost, solar-powered technologies. At this time, five diversion structures are fully automated and there are an additional six canal and river flow monitoring sites. And additional sites are added to the system every year. Data communication is by a combination of VHF radio and cellular telephone. Information from the real-time monitoring and control system is telemetered back to a base station. From here, the Duchesne River river commissioner can survey conditions throughout the watershed or canal system and make changes in flow settings as required.

In the near future, the base station for the Duchesne River automation system will be linked to a web server. This will allow all real-time data to be posted on the Internet. From the Association's web site, data will be available to anyone. Everyone with a stake in the river will be able to monitor conditions.

The goal of the real-time system is to provide information to decision makers as fast as possible, and to allow for near instantaneous decision making. In addition, since all stakeholders have access to relevant data, trust is built.


Last updated: July 1, 2014