FEIT Research Project Database

Modelling and control of irrigation channels

Project Leader: Erik Weyer
Staff: Michael Cantoni
Collaborators: Rubicon Water
Primary Contact: Erik Weyer (ewey@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: advanced control architectures; control and signal processing; system identification; water resources
Disciplines: Electrical & Electronic Engineering

Fresh water required for food production is mainly distributed via large-scale networks of open channels. Environmental sustainability and food security are important issues to consider in the operation of irrigation networks, and modernisation projects with the goal of improving water delivery efficiency are at various stages of development around the globe. An important aspect of these modernisation projects is the shift from manual operation to automatic control.

The Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Melbourne has collaborated with Australian company Rubicon Water for more than two decades in the area of modelling and automatic control of irrigation channels. In automated networks the flows and water levels throughout the network are regulated by manipulating gates along the channel using real-time information about the current water levels, flows, and demand for water. The scope for automation is underpinned by advances in sensor, actuator, information processing and telecommunications technologies.

Irrigation channels can be operated in demand driven or supply driven mode. In demand driven operations (common in Australia), the supply of water from the source is adjusted to match the demand for water from irrigators. The emphasis is on water level regulation at off-take points so that the delivery of flow can be gravity-fed, without pumping, and on ensuring no outfalls at the end of the channels. By contrast, in supply driven operations (common in many parts of Asia), irrigators are told when the water will be available and they are required to take it at that time. Particular challenges also occur when there is litte storage within the channel system which occurs when the channels are steep.

Available PhD topics include:

  • System identification and control of irrigation channels with steep reaches
  • Large-scale distributed control of supply driven irrigation networks
  • Supply and demand management for irrigation channels using stochastic model predictive control
  • Bumpless transfer between supply driven and demand driven operations of irrigation channels
  • Fundamental limits of pure feedback control of storage constrained irrigation channels