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Sevier River Basin Monitoring and Control (Utah, USA)

The Sevier River Basin, located in south-central Utah, is one of the state's major drainages. A closed river basin, it encompasses 12.5 percent of the state's total area. From the headwaters, 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, the river flows north and then west 225 river miles before reaching Sevier Lake. Since the turn of the century, irrigation has depleted the river and the only flows that reach the terminal lake are occasional floods, like those in 1983 and 1984, and some return flow.

photo: aerial view of canal

The institutional structure for operating the river is relatively straightforward. Operation of the river is overseen by a river board (an executive committee of the Sevier River Water Users (Association) that meets annually to deal with current issues and to make assessments to offset the costs of operating the river. Water rights are administered by two river commissioners (state employees under the Utah Division of Water Rights). Most of the canal companies are operated out of the homes of their managers, and the employees (i.e. ditch riders, water masters) are seasonal.

The Sevier River Basin is instrumented with low-cost automation equipment and a low-cost SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system which the Internet (www.sevierriver.org) and web browser use as a delivery vehicle for real-time data display. By using the Internet, water users and others are able to see what is happening throughout their basin in near real-time.

The Sevier River automation systems includes: four large reservoirs, three smaller re-regulating reservoirs, and 15 diversion structures. Additionally, there are 10 river monitoring sites, 15 canal monitoring sites, plus four weather stations (and counting). Most of the field sites are solar powered. Data communication is by a combination of VHS radio, cellular telephone, land-line telephone, and GOES (satellite). Provo Area Office staff have assisted with all aspects of the design and installation of the automation system.

During the summer of 1998, StoneFly Technology and Reclamation designed and installed a prototype Internet camera system at the head of the Richfield Canal, one the basin's largest diversion structures. This camera takes high-quality color images of the head gates every 10 minutes and makes them immediately available via the Internet. The real-time images have several benefits. Canal managers are now able to visually verify the gate position on the automation system (the camera serves as a redundant gate position sensor). The image is also used to check for trash build up on the river side of the gates, and for deterring vandalism.

With the installation of the low-cost monitoring and control system, the Sevier River Water Users Association is in the water and information distribution business. Better and more timely information leads to better decision-making and enhanced water management.


Last updated: July 1, 2014