Imperial, California, USA

System Automation Upgrades to the Vail Canal Lateral in Imperial Irrigation District in California

Status: Completed


The IID is a community-owned utility that provides irrigation water and electric power to people in the lower southeastern portion of California’s desert. In 1928, the Imperial Dam and the All-American Canal were constructed, and in 1942 the canal became the only water source for Imperial Valley. It is approximately 82 miles long and delivers water from the Imperial Dam on the Colorado River to nine cities and 6,174 agricultural users in the valley. The District maintains an extensive drainage system with ten reservoirs and more than 1,100 miles of concrete lined canals, many of which were constructed over 40 years ago. The system’s total capacity exceeds 3,300 acre-feet of water.

The IID, its partners in conservation, and member farms have invested hundreds of million dollars over the last 50 years to improve water use efficiency. Conservation measures have included concrete lining of canals and laterals, construction of reservoirs and interceptor canals, implementing canal seepage recovery programs and additional irrigation
management measures. Since 1988, the IID has entered into water conservation and transfer agreements with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the San Diego County Water Authority.

The current project is aimed at replacing obsolete lateral headings and canal checks with automated flow measurement and control systems in order to provide greater accuracy in measurements and record keeping, better flow coordination and more reliable service, including a quick response to emergencies. The IID’s experience with automated lateral
headings shows that project implementation would reduce spills by 25%. The Vail Canal system currently loses an average of approximately 912.5 acre-feet per year to spills because of obsolete infrastructure.


Project upgrades consist of the installation of flow measurement devices, site control, solar charging systems and SCADA/Information management system for ten check structures and ten lateral canal headings in the Vail Canal Lateral.


Automating the check structures and lateral canal headings will minimize water losses from spills, as well as improve the operational efficiency of the irrigation system, thereby conserving water and energy. Water savings from the project are estimated at 912.5 acre-feet a year.

Project Financing

Total Project Cost US 2.52M
NADBank Funding US 1.26M - NADBank Grant: WCIF