Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Madera Irrigation District Upgrades Its System By Jan Boling

The Madera Irrigation District (MID) is one of many districts that have recognized the need to update their metering sites by replacing old turnout meters with new technology. The MID, which encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres in the Central Valley of California, operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open-flow canal systems and 150 miles of large-diameter pipelines. It is a public agency whose mission is to obtain and manage affordable surface water and groundwater supplies and ensure the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture in its service area. 

The MID’s water is sourced from surrounding lakes and mountain diversion contracts. The water is moved into the MID’s storage facilities through a network of lakes, rivers, tributaries, and canals, a process that requires constant surveillance and monitoring to maximize its efficiency. 

An open-flow meter being installed on the MID’s system.

MID Meter Technician Smokey Carter has seen a lot of changes in meter technology during his 48‑year career. Having begun as a control writer for the district, he’s now responsible for maintaining and operating the district’s water meters. In 2016, he began replacing the district’s 35- to 40-year-old meters, mainly because he wanted more-dependable and more easily adaptable meters. As Smokey puts it, “Our challenge has been that the old meters had a certain turnout and couldn’t be adjusted. They were put in when the Bureau of Reclamation started the district. Apparently, it didn’t pay a lot of attention to the calibration because water wasn’t so expensive. Now, when repair is needed, it’s a problem, since you can’t adjust the calibration, resulting in a need for a new prop and gears that are calibrated for that exact meter. That could cost about $400 per meter. If just a new prop is needed, it’s about $289. Since the district has 999 meters, that’s a tremendous amount of money! Also, sometimes you can’t get parts for the old meters.” 

Smokey approached TechnoFlo Systems of Porterville, California, to come up with a solution. TechnoFlo offers technology solutions and flow-measurement products to its customers, which include municipal clean water and wastewater agencies and entities in the agricultural irrigation industry. Centrally located in California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, TechnoFlo can easily meet the needs of customers throughout Northern and Central California and Nevada. 

Smokey started prodding TechnoFlo’s Steve and Eric Huth to come up with a new open-flow meter. In his words, “It took a while, but in 2015, I worked on the beta testing of the TechnoFlo PO12 open-flow meter, which went into production in 2016. The test proved successful. TechnoFlo was with us throughout and always provided the help we needed.” 

TechnoFlo is now in the second year of replacing the MID’s old-style turnout meters with TechnoFlo PO12 meters. The PO12 open-flow meter is designed to efficiently measure the flow in canal and reservoir outlets, closed conduits, discharge and inlet pipes, irrigation turnouts, and other similar installations. Modern construction relies mostly on electronic components, which reduce the number of moving parts and the cost of maintenance. The optimized design and construction of the PO12 make installation simple and allow the meter to be easily stored or transported. 

Steve Huth, the president of TechnoFlo Systems, says, “The long-life, water-lubricated ceramic bearing and digital registers will provide the MID with a huge increase in metering life between repairs over its old ball-bearing meters with mechanical registers. Furthermore, the stabilized, easy-to-read LCD graphic display improves both flow-rate accuracy and totalizer readings.”

According to Smokey, “The biggest plus of the TechnoFlo meter is its capability to reset the K factor to the different sizes of pipe without changing the prop. The prop is designed to adjust from 18 to 30 inches of calibration. I can move the meter around and just change the K factor. Since we have a meter in each box, it’s great. The meter stays in that box. And the same thing goes for lower ranges, such as 14–16 inches. The old-style meter had to stay in a pipe of one specific size, whereas the TechnoFlo meter can be adjusted by changing the K factor. I’m really impressed with the TechnoFlo PO12 meter.” 

Since the MID has worked with TechnoFlo from the beginning of the development of the PO12 meter, Smokey knows what is going on. He can work with the meter, or contact a local tech based in Porterville, California, to see he’s covered. He adds that one advantage of working with TechnoFlo is that other companies don’t have local representatives. In some cases, other manufacturers have simply sent him operating manuals so that he can figure out how to program their devices on his own. 

Another meter the MID has introduced is the Seametrics AG2000. Smokey cautiously watched its introduction before moving on it. As he puts it, “Initially, there was a glitch detected. I wondered how the company would back the product. I was really impressed with how Seametrics actually stood behind its product.” After witnessing that, the MID decided to purchase the magmeter. 

Switching from propeller meters to magmeters also allows the water management program to reduce the distance of straight pipes. Smokey cited an example: “Propeller meters for 8‑inch pipe used to require a length of straight pipe 10 times the pipe’s diameter. Using the magmeter, the length only needs to be twice the diameter. If you had a pump with a 3-foot discharge, you couldn’t use a propeller meter, but you could use a magmeter. A magmeter’s no-moving-part design also saves a lot of money on maintenance compared to propeller meters, which are more prone to stop up, and magmeters enable a more accurate program in which you only get charged for what goes through the pump. But what really brought the magmeter into the MID was the possibility of using a shorter pipe while still getting the results needed.” 

In closing, Smokey says, “I’m really impressed with TechnoFlo and Seametrics meters. They’re cost worthy and are lifesavers for our district.” 

Jan Boling is the president of Boling Associates Advertising & Marketing. For more about Boling Associates, visit www.bolingassociates.com.