Jemalong Irrigation Limited (JIL) operates a gravity fed irrigation district covering more than 96,000Ha in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Prior to the modernisation of the scheme JILs channel operators controlled the canals by adjusting drop board structures and manual penstocks. Each channel operator had to drive up to 300km per day in order to adjust the regulators and off takes.
JILs ambition was to modernise their scheme to provide the following benefits:
Ability to monitor their canals using tablets, PCs or phones in real time.
Improved delivery service to their farmers by ensuring constant on-farm flow rates through the farm outlets.
Reduce operation costs by reducing the amount of travel and labour associated with controlling the canals.
Increased flexibility for controlling their canals in order to respond faster to farmer requests and condition changes.
Improve their ability to control the canals in wet weather. Most of the regulator access roads were unpaved and became inaccessible after heavy rain which reduced JILs ability to control their canals during wet weather.
Solutions and Outcomes
The JIL modernisation project resulted in the installation of 60 solar powered automatic gates and 50 solar powered remote pool level sensors. The gates included an integrated control cabinet, upstream and downstream level sensors, flow rate calculation and 3 modes of automatic operation.
The automatic modes of operation allowed the operators to set the gates to deliver a constant flow rate, a constant upstream level or constant downstream level. The operators could simply change the operating mode and setpoint to optimise the canal operation in response to changing demand from the farmers.
Each of the gates and the pool level sensors were connected on an ethernet radio network so that each of the sites in that area could communicate and share data as required. A number of strategically placed 3G/4G modems were included in the gate control cabinets throughout the irrigation district in the gates to link the entire network of sites to the internet through a fast and secure internet connection. This provided full internet connectivity to every field device in each of the sites, the definition of an IoT solution. Having every device connected to the internet made it possible for the local operators to receive on demand remote assistance from remotely located engineers to ensure that the canal operators were able to operate and fully maintain the new systems with little need for external resources.
A SCADA system was installed on a cloud server to allow the operators to have live visibility and control of every site using any tablet, PC or smart phone. Cloud computing offered a range of benefits for JIL including fast access to their SCADA platform from any internet connected device, easy scalability as their system expands in the future and guaranteed performance of their server without the need for local server maintenance expertise.
The SCADA software allowed the operators to immediately change the operating mode and setpoint of each automatic gate in seconds to respond to farmers requests or changing conditions. Previously it would have taken two channel operators a day and 200-300km of driving each to adjust the 60 automatic gates, the SCADA system allows the same operation to be completed in just minutes.
As a result of the reduced labour effort required to operate the canals JIL have been able to increase their canal maintenance efforts by utilising their human resources for more scheduled and preventative maintenance operations. JIL have taken this step to shift labour from operation to maintenance to keep their system in optimal working condition and guarantee the sustainability of their canal system.
The Jemalong modernisation project is a classic example of how a combination of modern field hardware, software and technology can be used to meet the modernisation targets of a irrigation canal district. Prior to the modernisation project JIL realised that they needed to make some changes to their system to improve the outcomes for their clients – the farmers, and also ensure the long term sustainability of their canal network.