Launch Slideshow

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‘Just-in-time’ water delivery for irrigation

‘Just-in-time’ water delivery for irrigation

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    The East Basin during spring bloom, developed for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District in Manteca, Calif., as a part of a program to enable farmers to order and manage water deliveries online. Instead of the customary dual basin placement on the east and west areas of the 3,800-acre pilot project, a single, seven-acre basin supports the new distribution system. Photo: Milkhouse Studios

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    Stantec Consulting software developer Jason Foster showcases an operator screen that demonstrates the operational capabilities of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District's new pump station. It can supply up to 23,500 gallons/minute of pressurized water to 3,800 acres of farmland. Photo: Stantec

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    The South San Joaquin Irrigation District's East Basin Pump Station can supply up to 23,500 gallons per minute to 3,800 acres of farmland. Photo: Milkhouse Studios

Launch Slideshow

‘Just-in-time’ water delivery for irrigation Web Extra

A computerized distribution system lets farmers control from their computer, smartphone, or iPad how much water they use and when.

‘Just-in-time’ water delivery for irrigation Web Extra

A computerized distribution system lets farmers control from their computer, smartphone, or iPad how much water they use and when.

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    An aerial view of the district's entire pressurized pipe system, which both district employees and farmers can access.
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    The airline-style ordering system farmers use to schedule water deliveries.
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    Graphs of an individual farmer's watering activity, historical data.
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    A weather screen provides local weather information and alerts.

COST-CONSCIOUS CONSTRUCTION FOR CALCULATED WATER DISTRIBUTION

California's South San Joaquin Irrigation District's two-component irrigation system has virtually eliminated water waste at 52 customer connections spread out over 3,800 acres. Farmers who chose to participate in the pilot project now customize and manage water deliveries online instead of manually phoning in orders and being restricted to scheduled delivery times.

The district and Stantec Consulting spent three years and $14 million upgrading infrastructure and developing software similar to ordering airline tickets online. During construction, neighboring water districts who'd heard about the project began calling and requesting tours. The effort eventually attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sent Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan out for a site visit in 2011.

Delivering an innovative but cost-effective hardware/software integration required exploring alternatives to “traditional” design and construction methods. The following are just two examples of how this saved the district $8 million overall.

DATA TRANSFER. Water connections are designed to respond to individual requests from a centralized system and provide each farm with access to the pressurized pipelines. Communication with and between turnouts and meters would typically be provided by a fiber-optic network, a $4.5 million option that probably would've proven temperamental during construction and been difficult to effectively power.

Instead, solar-powered connections link to the pump station and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems via secured wireless Ethernet. Each connection site has a programmable logic controller (PLC) that works with a local synchronized clock to open and close valves based on each farmer's scheduled delivery time.

SUPPLY AND STORAGE. Instead of placing a storage basin on two sides of the project area, hydraulic analysis determined that a single, seven-acre basin could amply support the network.