Canal Types and Characteristics

Those seeking to win the Veg Out open innovation project may find that it helps to know what kinds of canals there are and what makes them unique. Therefore, we are offering this information sheet.

Types of Canals Involved in This Crowdsourcing Project

This project seeks to find ways to keep vegetation out of canals that are used for delivering water to dry areas of the United States. The water is used primarily for agriculture, and the Bureau of Reclamation provides water to irrigate over 10 million acres of farmland. This acreage produces 60% of the country's vegetables as well as 25% of its fruits and nuts. Water can also be delivered to cities and towns for household and industrial use.

These canals are classified according to their shapes, whether they are open or controlled, and what they are made from. Here are some of the top characteristics to look out for:


Most irrigation canals are trapezoidal. They have flat bottoms and angled sides, and may include extra space at the top or berms to control flooding. These canals have varying depths and angles, with the deeper ones carrying more water. The more water there is, the higher the pressures involved.

Unlined trapezoidal canals may become more dug out over time as water goes through them. When this happens, they become more U-shaped as they age.

Other canal shapes do exist. Rectangular, triangular, circular, parabolic, and natural (or irregular) are other possibilities. A good open innovation solution will have solutions that work with all of these.


Canal Control Systems

Open irrigation canals, often thought of as "ditches," may have no control systems for determining water entry and exit. When there is plenty of water, they flow freely, but they'll have less or no water during dry spells.

Controlled canals have check structures like gates or valves at their entry points, exit points, or both. These use a variety of systems to control the amount of water they have. They're more predictable, but as a downside, they need more maintenance.


Other Types of Canal Control

All canals have some controls built in, even if they're not for controlling water flow. Erosion, for example, is controlled by changing the bottom slope to reduce water velocity. When the canal runs down steeply sloped land, a series of drop structures may be used for this purpose. In simpler implementations, simply changing the angle of the base slope is enough.

Checks are structures that divert water from canals into fields. They can be permanent or portable.


Methods for Crossing Roads and Other Obstacles

Culverts, inverted siphons, and flumes are all structures that are used to get canal water across obstacles like roads and hillsides. They can be prone to clogging from vegetative growth, and are worthy of extra attention.

It is our hope that this information will help you complete Veg Out, which is one of our many creative problem-solving Prize Challenges.


Enter the Veg Out Prize Challenge

To learn more about Veg Out or submit a potential solution, just visit the challenge page now. If you win, you won't just get prize money - your solution may be used to implement positive, real-world changes that will improve systems for years to come.


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