Engineers and experts from NIWE members, Canal & River Trust, VNF and Waterways Ireland met virtually on 28 Nov 2022 to discuss the different approaches each organisation takes to hydraulic management systems, water management, and use of automated systems such as SCADA telemetry.

Adam Comerford, Canal & River Trust’s National Hydrology Manager, spoke about its overall approach to the complex task of managing water, its water resources strategy and the challenges & opportunities caused by the extremes of drought and flood conditions. These are common issues across our organisations and others in Europe. Strategic actions to address them include;

  • Drought Monitoring: Using the SCADA network to monitor lock usage, flows, and reservoir levels.
  • Drought Modelling: Reviewing similar droughts, running canal models, assessing reservoir risk indicators.
  • Drought Management: Co-ordinating responses via Drought Plans, communication with customers, managing restrictions and closures.
  • Flood Monitoring: Collecting rainfall data, weather forecasts, and SCADA network data.
  • Flood Modelling: Reviewing previous flood events to better understand the risk and the impact of flooding on the network and to prioritise investment.
  • Flood Management: Utilising local knowledge, water control manuals, carrying out improved surveillance, prioritisation of resources focussed on high risk locations and structures

Funding and other pressures at both operational & strategic levels add to the challenge so using ‘high tec’ and deploying technical expertise is at the core of what we do.

Complex water management issues at Foxton Locks.

Foxton Locks is a Grade II* listed site, and home to the longest, steepest staircase flight of locks in Britain and sits in 34 acres of natural green spaces with a wide variety of wildlife.

Adrian Cooper explained that the Trust’s Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition system (SCADA) is all about monitoring and managing water levels and flows. The system developed over several years, is used for water usage monitoring at structures, pump / sluice sites and to assist in ‘boat counts’

It warns boaters when not to travel onto rivers e.g. in ‘strong stream’ situations or where canals re-join a river which is not a “managed water system” This is important in the UK, where (unlike in mainland Europe) narrowboats rarely have strong enough motors to overcome such conditions.

It monitors reservoir levels and can detect leakages on embankments. Previously SCADA engineers needed to travel to sites to take daily, weekly, or monthly readings. In bad weather, the bank could be dangerous and difficult for engineers to get to sites. Today’s devices take hourly readings 24/7… “they wake up every 6 hours and send the reading in!”

Jonathan Rayson explained how the IT works: how it records and accesses data and how through a few intermediary steps the live or current data is displayed to users within the Trust. It is easy to manage the recipients of an alarm and once an alarm is triggered in the system, it escalates until it has been acknowledged.

VNF's Pumping Station at Crissey

VNF Pumping station at Crissey

Gregory Decosta gave a brief overview of VNF’s hydraulic management project which manages their 6,700 km of canals, rivers and canalised rivers. Their three main objectives are to provide and ensure;

  • Water supply (drinking water, agriculture, industry, navigation)
  • Contribution to flood management.
  • Management of low water periods.