How Custom Algorithms Led to a Sophisticated Flood Irrigation System

Sept. 3, 2014
Tuscon, Ariz., facility addresses water pressure issues with custom program and equipment

Whether you are the superintendent of quality control for your local water district or an operations manager for a federal department, your day-to-day responsibilities are critical. Not only are you tasked with facilitating the performance of your water system, but you also are often responsible for ensuring the right equipment is in place. Additionally, you are likely charged with holding others accountable for their tasks, such as the engineers responsible for product installation.

Not only should product implementation be seamless, but the product itself also needs to be the most efficient option. Your stakeholders are looking for solutions that are easy to maintain and backed by support and service—and it is your responsibility to deliver on that.

But when it comes to problems such as water pressure and level control, many considerations must be addressed. In order to ensure that the technology you have selected translates into solutions for your needs, you need an effective way to examine the solution. One of the most feasible ways to do so is to see the product in action.

The San Xavier Reservation—near Tucson, Ariz.—was once known for growing organic alfalfa for racing horses and other livestock, as well as other produce. Until 2001, the 900-acre farm depended on groundwater wells for irrigation. However, due to urban development, groundwater demand increased, drastically depleting the supply.

Low pressures in the existing underground irrigation system presented a very unique challenge—one that many experts have never encountered. But with a unique challenge comes the opportunity to design a unique solution, and that is exactly what San Xavier received. 

In an effort to turn things around for San Xavier’s flood irrigation system, fluid dynamics specialists and other technology experts began a search for the best solution. It was decided that custom hydraulic modeling would need to be conducted in order to develop custom algorithms for the system’s redesign.

Singer Valve built a simulator to mimic the behavior of San Xavier’s irrigation system. After testing a standard proportional integral derivative (PID) on the simulator, Singer Vice President of Technology and Applications Kari Oksanen wrote a custom algorithm for a programmable logic controller (PLC). 

Following 11 algorithm revisions, Oskanen’s program stabilized water levels within a few minutes, compared to the standard PID’s performance of two days. Singer then designed and implemented the following customized equipment for San Xavier’s flood irrigation system: one 16-in. globe-style valve, eight 12-in. angle-style valves and five storage tanks, each with its own control panel.

With Singer’s help, San Xavier now has a sophisticated flood irrigation system capable of controlling water pressure and levels electronically and simultaneously. The custom anti-cavitation trim works at all flows and valve openings, and the customized proprietary algorithm handles level control while limiting flow and preventing inlet surges. 

“This was a very complicated, very unusual application, and it was very successful,” said Dave Buchwald, fluid dynamics specialist. “Singer Valve gets a gold star.”

About the Author

Mark Gimson

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