Accurate water metering is essential for effective water management, especially for measured and equitable distribution of canal flows, most imperative in Pakistan. The inflows distributed through outlets must adhere to pre-designated levels, defined by Punjab Irrigation Department from head to tail. With recent channels lining, the outlets sanctioned flow are found changed requiring adjustments. Furthermore, there is lack of reliable mechanisms for continuous flow regulations, resulting in unmanaged distributions. The focus of the reported work was on precise and real-time discharge monitoring at outlets using a newly developed device utilizing Artificial Intelligence. During validation training, strong agreement was observed, and all evaluation parameters supported the device accuracy for measurements. In detailed studies of canal operations, the sanctioned discharges of individual outlets along selected distributaries were found significantly inequitable. Out of 162 outlets, 42 were suspended for being unmanaged, with tail users receiving ≤ 50% of their fair intakes. Additionally, there were instances of massive irrational supplies exceeding 200% of allocated discharges. The developed device has potential to accurately measure real-time discharges for managed distributions. Conclusively, the challenging task of fair and equity-based discharge allocations, in conjunction with Warabandi system, necessitates the reevaluation of the allocated flow quantity at each outlet.

  • Artificial intelligence for integrated and sustainable irrigation.

  • Live and precise flow monitoring.

  • Efficient water policies.

  • Surface water managements.

  • Agriculture sustainability.

Accurate and regular water metering in open water channels is paramount for sound water management and fair water distribution among consumers, in accordance with water acts and policies. In this regard, numerous flow-controlling devices have been utilized in open channels for many decades (Singh et al., 2014).

The weir is a hydraulic device used for flow control. Its discharge efficiency was investigated to derive a new head-discharge expression for reliable flow measurements (Fahmy, 2015; Wang et al., 2018). The measurement of discharge is crucial for water management. The flow patterns and other attributed characteristics of the flume structure were analyzed to determine the accuracy of discharge estimations in open channels (Lotfi Kolavani et al., 2018). Flume hydraulic structures have found applications in many irrigation and drainage channels, and their hydrodynamics features were examined (Ramamurthy & Tadayon, 2008; Hu et al., 2014).

The orifice structures constructed in open water channels are intended to measure and divert water flows within the irrigation channels across the commanded irrigated areas (Hussain et al., 2016).

Hydraulic gauging devices are widely used in irrigation networks as both check structures and flow navigating devices to measure the inflows and divert the current water flows onto the off-taking channels, respectively, for accurate and measurable water delivery and management (Salehi et al., 2019).

Due to population pressure, urbanization, and rapidly occurring climate changes (Stephenson et al., 2010; Mehboob & Kim, 2021; Zhu et al., 2021), available freshwater resources are entering a severe crisis phase. This emphasizes the need for well-managed, adequate, and judicious distribution of flows among all sectors, facilitated by reliable monitoring mechanisms (Usman et al., 2015). This is especially crucial in the agricultural sector, which has historically been a major consumer of surface water resources (Pimental et al., 2004).

Globally, a large number of researchers have conducted experimental and numerical work to evaluate the accuracy of discharge and other hydraulic characteristics of various discharge measuring devices used in canal irrigation projects. They have all made efforts using different techniques to achieve precise flow estimations and have recommended accurate discharge measurements as fundamental for efficient water delivery and management (Bijankhan et al., 2012; Moghazy et al., 2015; Ferro, 2016, 2018; Xiao et al., 2016; Das et al., 2017; Jesson et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2018; Saffar et al., 2021). Moreover, efficient field irrigation water management is crucial for maximizing water productivity and availability in the field channels (Hassan et al., 2021; Kamran et al., 2021).

Water measurement is also significant for establishing a financially sustainable water pricing mechanism (Qamar et al., 2018). Adequate and well-managed water supplies in the field irrigation network are paramount for the sustainability and development of Pakistan's agriculture industry (Ringler & Anwar, 2013; Chaudhry, 2018), leading to self-sufficiency in food production. As agriculture is a major contributor, accounting for up to 25% of the country's GDP and covering 90% of food production (Qureshi, 2011), the majority of the labor force is directly or indirectly dependent on this industry for their livelihoods (PES, 2012). Its growth is highly dependent on managed and equitable surface water resources (Shahid et al., 2019). Hence, efficient water management and distribution lead to the achievement of the committed principles of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) within the domains of poverty reduction, food security, and economic growth.

Unfortunately, no studies could be found on surface irrigation water management using reliable discharge monitoring for fair distributions at water outlets within Pakistan's agricultural field irrigation network, which comprises 107,000 small water channels and field ditches extending over a length of millions of kilometers. This network is characterized by rational water delivery and distribution in each field of the command area, from head to tail, through 90,000 defined water outlets (Riaz et al., 2016).

During the construction phase, every outlet discharge was aligned with the water requirements of its total irrigatable command holdings by the Punjab Irrigation Department (PID), referred to as the ‘Designed Discharge’ (Q). Once the full supply level is reached, the designed discharge is implemented and must be accurately allocated within the irrigation system (Muhammad et al., 2016). However, these outlets lack a reliable mechanism for accurate and continuous flow monitoring. In the absence of such a system, the flow remains unmanaged, inequitable, and inconsistent with the prescribed sanctioned distributions of individual off-taking outlets from head to tail.

The outlets either supply larger water quantities or face deficit conditions, resulting in an inability to meet the water needs of the entire command area (Shah et al., 2016; El-Nashar & Elyamany, 2018; Siddiqi et al., 2018; Jacoby et al., 2021). This contradicts the established principles of accurate and rational water distribution within the irrigation system (Mustafa, 2001), ultimately leading to long-standing unfortunate consequences (Opie, 2000; McCray, 2001; Brown, 2002; Jehangir & Horinkova, 2002; Pimental et al., 2004; He et al., 2021).

The irrigation system of the province is operated under a network of main and branch canals feeding the field channels through outlets constructed along their entire length. The outlets of the main channels are operated under a designed discharge allocated to them based on the area they are intended to irrigate. The irrigation system of Pakistan has undergone some drastic changes in the last two decades. Some ambitious projects, including the lining of main and branch canals as well as the field channels, have brought about revolutionary changes in the way the infrastructure currently operates in terms of conveyance efficiency and seepage losses. Amidst this massive improvement, the design discharge of the channels remains the same. Our hypothesis is that having the same design discharge might carry operational inconsistencies, providing extra water to some farmers while providing less water to others, depending on whether the channel reach is lined or not. Therefore, a revision of how the outlets are operated might be required. In the present study, recognizing the pressing need and endeavoring to address it, we aimed to develop a smart and innovative flow-measuring device tailored to the country's irrigation infrastructure. This device is designed to ensure fair discharge distributions in line with the principle of equity, employing the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) technique. It has the capacity to accurately measure and transmit real-time discharge rates.

The primary focus of this paper is to analyze the distribution of water along the length of canal outlets, spanning from the head to the tail of the canal after the lining of the water channels projects in Punjab. While utilizing a discharge measurement system to gauge flow rates at the outlet is integral to our methodology, the overarching objective of our paper is not to delve extensively into the intricacies of this measurement system. Instead, we aim to provide a comprehensive examination of how water is distributed throughout the canal network. By closely examining the flow patterns and variations in water distribution along the canal length, we seek to shed light on the efficiency and equity of water allocation within the irrigation system.

It should also be noted that the construction details or operational mechanisms of the machine are not within the scope of the current study. Its purpose is to measure flow rates to determine if the discharge magnitudes align with the design values or not. Therefore, the methodology section will provide a comprehensive elucidation of how the research hypothesis was successfully addressed, concurrently discussing the discharge measurement system at the border line.

Physical design of the equipment

In this era of advanced electronics, technology has revolutionized various processes, including data collection, handling, computations, and communications, gradually replacing numerous human practices with wireless networks, akin to robotics. Similarly, this newly developed discharge machine has been customized with relevant sensors and primary electronic circuits, playing a strategic role in real-time discharge acquisitions on a convenient thin film transistor unit. Additionally, various structural components have been incorporated to ensure the feasibility of the acquisition process. Within the machine housing, a rechargeable battery serves as the power source for all electronic components, while silicone, a water sealant, is applied where necessary to minimize water contact.

Machine calibration and validation testing

The machine's completion underwent several stages of improvement to enhance performance, and the in-suite sensors were calibrated through a series of tests against known variables. They were then trained to correlate area and velocity parameters for discharge measurements by executing coded instructions based on AI in the Open Channel Hydraulics Laboratory, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. Subsequently, validation runs were conducted in a field water course resembling an open channel, within a recirculation-type flow system at the Engineering Workshop. Various flow conditions were simulated by adjusting water depths (d = 2, 1.75, 1.5, 1.25, 1), and discharge measurements were taken at the head, middle, and tail of the channel using the velocity–area method (Herschy, 1993), which is a standard approach for calculating actual discharge in open channels. Figure 1 illustrates the arrangement of the validation model.
Fig. 1

Experimental setup of the validation model for discharge mechanism.

Fig. 1

Experimental setup of the validation model for discharge mechanism.

Close modal

When a constant water depth was established, the designed machine was promptly positioned within the lined channel, initiating the measurement of variables. Subsequently, it transmitted these variables via a built-in wireless broadcasting network to a portable screen unit, facilitating real-time acquisition of discharge data.

The validation of discharge magnitudes obtained by the new discharge measurement system was conducted according to standard procedures, comparing them against multiple discharge settings achieved by operating multiple pumps at variable discharge rates. Furthermore, the tubewell discharge was cross-validated by measuring the time it took to fill a known-volume pond situated at the beginning of the channel network (volumetric method of discharge measurement). The discharge results obtained from both methods were compared and are presented in Table 1.

Table 1

Actual and measured discharge acquisitions by standard and designed mechanism.

Actual discharge by the volumetric method
Measured discharge by designed machine
ReadingLength of reservoirWidth of reservoirMaximum storable depth of water in the reservoirVolume of reservoirTime to fill the reservoirDischargeWidth of channelDepth of waterAreaVelocityDischarge
No            
 (a(b(c(d) = (a*b*c(e(f) = (d/e(g(h(i) = (g*h(j(k) = (i*j
 ft ft3 ft3/s ft ft² ft/s ft3/s 
12 2.19 5.48 1.99 3.98 1.38 5.49 
2.22 5.4 1.98 3.96 1.37 5.43 
2.31 5.2 1.35 5.4 
2.26 5.32 2.01 4.02 1.36 5.47 
2.24 5.36 1.99 3.98 1.33 5.29 
2.29 5.24 2.06 4.12 1.34 5.52 
2.21 5.44 2.05 4.1 1.31 5.37 
2.33 5.16 1.32 5.28 
2.29 5.24 1.32 5.28 
10 2.68 4.48 1.75 3.5 1.31 4.59 
11 2.64 4.55 1.74 3.48 1.29 4.49 
12 2.70 4.45 1.75 3.5 1.29 4.52 
13 2.65 4.52 1.75 3.5 1.28 4.48 
14 2.65 4.52 1.73 3.46 1.3 4.5 
15 2.74 4.38 1.74 3.48 1.28 4.45 
16 2.72 4.41 1.76 3.52 1.25 4.4 
17 2.81 4.27 1.75 3.5 1.28 4.48 
18 2.76 4.34 1.73 3.46 1.26 4.36 
19 3.33 3.6 1.52 3.04 1.21 3.68 
20 3.28 3.66 1.52 3.04 1.2 3.65 
21 3.36 3.57 1.51 3.02 1.16 3.5 
22 3.39 3.54 1.5 1.14 3.42 
23 3.45 3.48 1.48 2.96 1.17 3.46 
24 3.33 3.6 1.51 3.02 1.17 3.53 
25 3.31 3.63 1.49 2.98 1.18 3.52 
26 3.25 3.69 1.5 1.2 3.6 
27 3.33 3.6 1.48 2.96 1.2 3.55 
28 4.36 2.75 1.22 2.44 1.04 2.54 
29 4.48 2.68 1.24 2.48 2.48 
30 4.62 2.6 1.25 2.5 2.5 
31 4.44 2.7 1.26 2.52 1.03 2.6 
32 4.36 2.75 1.28 2.56 1.06 2.71 
33 4.40 2.73 1.23 2.46 1.02 2.51 
34 4.56 2.63 1.25 2.5 1.05 2.63 
35 4.74 2.53 1.25 2.5 1.02 2.55 
36 4.56 2.63 1.27 2.54 1.04 2.64 
37 6.06 1.98 0.99 1.98 1.01 
38 6.00 0.99 1.98 0.96 1.9 
39 6.12 1.96 0.97 1.94 0.98 1.9 
40 6.32 1.9 
41 6.32 1.9 1.03 2.06 0.99 2.04 
42 6.19 1.94 1.01 2.02 0.97 1.96 
43 6.25 1.92 0.97 1.94 
44 6.38 1.88 0.98 1.96 0.98 1.92 
45 6.06 1.98 0.98 1.96 1.96 
Actual discharge by the volumetric method
Measured discharge by designed machine
ReadingLength of reservoirWidth of reservoirMaximum storable depth of water in the reservoirVolume of reservoirTime to fill the reservoirDischargeWidth of channelDepth of waterAreaVelocityDischarge
No            
 (a(b(c(d) = (a*b*c(e(f) = (d/e(g(h(i) = (g*h(j(k) = (i*j
 ft ft3 ft3/s ft ft² ft/s ft3/s 
12 2.19 5.48 1.99 3.98 1.38 5.49 
2.22 5.4 1.98 3.96 1.37 5.43 
2.31 5.2 1.35 5.4 
2.26 5.32 2.01 4.02 1.36 5.47 
2.24 5.36 1.99 3.98 1.33 5.29 
2.29 5.24 2.06 4.12 1.34 5.52 
2.21 5.44 2.05 4.1 1.31 5.37 
2.33 5.16 1.32 5.28 
2.29 5.24 1.32 5.28 
10 2.68 4.48 1.75 3.5 1.31 4.59 
11 2.64 4.55 1.74 3.48 1.29 4.49 
12 2.70 4.45 1.75 3.5 1.29 4.52 
13 2.65 4.52 1.75 3.5 1.28 4.48 
14 2.65 4.52 1.73 3.46 1.3 4.5 
15 2.74 4.38 1.74 3.48 1.28 4.45 
16 2.72 4.41 1.76 3.52 1.25 4.4 
17 2.81 4.27 1.75 3.5 1.28 4.48 
18 2.76 4.34 1.73 3.46 1.26 4.36 
19 3.33 3.6 1.52 3.04 1.21 3.68 
20 3.28 3.66 1.52 3.04 1.2 3.65 
21 3.36 3.57 1.51 3.02 1.16 3.5 
22 3.39 3.54 1.5 1.14 3.42 
23 3.45 3.48 1.48 2.96 1.17 3.46 
24 3.33 3.6 1.51 3.02 1.17 3.53 
25 3.31 3.63 1.49 2.98 1.18 3.52 
26 3.25 3.69 1.5 1.2 3.6 
27 3.33 3.6 1.48 2.96 1.2 3.55 
28 4.36 2.75 1.22 2.44 1.04 2.54 
29 4.48 2.68 1.24 2.48 2.48 
30 4.62 2.6 1.25 2.5 2.5 
31 4.44 2.7 1.26 2.52 1.03 2.6 
32 4.36 2.75 1.28 2.56 1.06 2.71 
33 4.40 2.73 1.23 2.46 1.02 2.51 
34 4.56 2.63 1.25 2.5 1.05 2.63 
35 4.74 2.53 1.25 2.5 1.02 2.55 
36 4.56 2.63 1.27 2.54 1.04 2.64 
37 6.06 1.98 0.99 1.98 1.01 
38 6.00 0.99 1.98 0.96 1.9 
39 6.12 1.96 0.97 1.94 0.98 1.9 
40 6.32 1.9 
41 6.32 1.9 1.03 2.06 0.99 2.04 
42 6.19 1.94 1.01 2.02 0.97 1.96 
43 6.25 1.92 0.97 1.94 
44 6.38 1.88 0.98 1.96 0.98 1.92 
45 6.06 1.98 0.98 1.96 1.96 

Note: 1 m = 3.28 ft, 1 Cumec = 35.32 Cusec.

Goodness of fit

In this current examination series, the precision of the developed discharge mechanism was evaluated by using discharge measurements obtained through the volumetric method as a reference. The following indices were employed for this purpose: mean absolute error (MAE), mean square error (MSE), Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) coefficient, correlation coefficient (R), and chi-squared test ().
formula
(1)
formula
(2)
formula
(3)
formula
(4)
formula
(5)

Here, is the ith actual discharge; is the ith machine measured discharge; n is the total number of observations; is the mean of actual discharge; is the mean of measured discharge; and is the level of significance.

One could criticize the calibration and validation method by questioning whether conveyance losses are taken into account. However, it is important to note that the mechanism is purposefully designed and maintained to minimize such losses, aiming for their insignificance. Therefore, it is expected that the current mechanism is not significantly affected by these losses.

Water distributions on study sites

Four tertiary water distributaries, namely Lagar, Pir Mahal, Khair Ali, and Gatti, diverge from two irrigation canals: the Gugera Branch Canal and the Rakh Branch Canal. These canals are supplied by water from the Lower Chenab Canal (LCC), which draws its source from the River Chenab within the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS). These distributaries were chosen for experimental water distribution studies, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Fig. 2

Selected distributaries for experimental study.

Fig. 2

Selected distributaries for experimental study.

Close modal

The primary hierarchy of the irrigation network within IBIS is depicted in Supplementary Figure 1. The Gugera Branch and Rakh Branch canals, henceforth referred to as GB and RB, respectively, stretch over 137 and 85 km. The first two distributaries serve as the head and tail reaches, while the others constitute the upper-middle and lower-middle reach distributaries along their respective parent canals. These distributaries, all functioning as irrigation channels, deliver water through designated outlets to agricultural land holdings across the districts of Sheikhupura, Faisalabad, and Toba Tek Singh in Central Punjab, Pakistan. The outlets located in the main and branch channels play a crucial role in releasing irrigation water into the field channel through adjustable orifice semi-module (AOSM) outlets. These outlets are meticulously engineered to regulate the flow of irrigation water through a pipeline or duct by adjusting the size of the orifice. This adjustment is typically achieved through manually operated gates, which control the passage of water. Further details regarding the selected distributaries are outlined in Supplementary Table 1.

Data regarding the ‘Designed’ discharge of outlet points along the selected distributaries was obtained from the PID. To assess the existing flow conditions and equity distribution along these distributaries, a procedure was undertaken, moving from the head to the tail, by positioning a developed machine at individual outlets. Subsequently, the magnitudes of both Designed and Actual discharge were compared. Table 2 provides the essential features of outlets, specifying the cultivable and gross command areas, along with the designed discharge rates.

Table 2

Key Characteristics of outlets along selected distributaries with Designed and Actual Discharge rates.

Parent ChannelDistributary ChannelOutlet NoOfftake Reduced Distance (RD) of outlets (ft)Bank (R = Right L = Left TR = Tail Right TF = Tail Front TL = Tail Left)Name of VillageGross Command Area (GCA)Culturable Command Area (CCA)Designed Discharge (PID)Actual Discharge (Device Measured)
Acre(Cusec)
Gugera Branch (GB) Canal, LCC-East System Lagar Distributary 1052 504-GB 526 490 1.24 1.90 
1554 508-GB 533 503 1.01 1.84 
7879 507-GB 213 190 0.4 0.93 
10000 511-GB 205 170 0.4 0.50 
12646 516-GB 605 578 0.94 
15475 519-GB 577 468 0.9 0.59 
17545 516-GB 122 121 0.21 0.29 
18330 512-GB 422 308 0.58 0.71 
21000 510-GB 280 269 0.51 0.68 
10 21291 515-GB 577 515 0.98 0.60 
11 24000 517-GB 364 330 0.62 0.85 
12 26513 518-GB 297 266 0.54 0.65 
13 28000 522-GB 497 411 0.94 0.80 
14 28205 521-GB 1207 996 1.68 1.64 
15 33032 522-GB 435 360 0.82 0.88 
16 36218 523-GB 511 447 0.85 0.81 
17 38112 523-GB 535 505 1.02 0.71 
18 43110 523-GB 594 504 1.12 1.00 
19 50505 531-GB 418 406 0.77 0.52 
20 51200 538-GB 460 442 0.84 0.55 
21 51360 528-GB 1079 1065 2.01 1.07 
22 59118 531-GB 960 932 1.16 0.79 
23 60115 536-GB 456 432 1.21 0.64 
24 62225 TL 537-GB 709 694 1.31 0.57 
25 62225 TF 539-GB 671 600 1.25 0.51 
26 62225 TR 538-GB 335 319 0.61 0.24 
Pir Mahal Distributary 500 361-GB 876 725 2.06 4.33 
13850 360-GB 726 658.55 1.9 3.13 
18137 536-GB 250 250 6.93 
18164 536-GB 252 239 1.31 2.39 
18300 536-GB 200 200 2.4 4.54 
19000 536-GB 53 53 0.64 1.02 
19700 536-GB 472 448 2.46 4.19 
23000 536-GB 248 237 0.67 1.20 
31500 536-GB 250 237 0.67 1.11 
10 36992 261-GB 476 385.6 1.11 1.97 
11 42122 262-GB 305 275 0.94 1.58 
263-GB 
12 45800 263-GB 567.28 511.8 1.48 2.28 
13 45749 263-GB 358 277.3 1.47 1.93 
14 49600 264-GB 1241 1147 3.26 8.80 
15 49730 265-GB 656.6 591.34 1.68 2.89 
16 63560 265-GB 443.11 378.72 1.21 1.71 
17 65220 660-GB 698 698 1.74 2.09 
18 68950 664-GB 646 646 1.83 2.36 
665-GB 
19 70076 660-GB 463 463 1.31 1.81 
661-GB 
20 72321 660-GB 476 331 0.94 1.44 
21 78584 677-GB 377 299 0.93 0.91 
22 83100 660-GB 296 293 0.83 0.90 
23 84716 661-GB 590 565 1.66 1.93 
24 88890 661-GB 540 429.38 1.31 1.63 
25 89250 678-GB 574 431 1.63 2.22 
26 91240 669-GB 524 524 1.49 2.16 
27 93543 678-GB 630 518 1.61 2.51 
28 98080 678-GB 576 576 1.64 1.96 
29 99192 679-GB 711.2 589.81 1.73 1.98 
30 102584 679-GB 623 623 1.77 1.93 
31 107058 680-GB 496 490 1.41 1.64 
32 111631 680-GB 510 383 1.45 1.73 
33 113917 681-GB 372 355 1.30 
34 115000 719-GB 303 302 0.86 1.02 
35 118525 681-GB 380 357 1.02 1.24 
36 119000 719-GB 252 252 0.72 0.67 
37 121930 720-GB 610 542 1.54 1.20 
38 121985 681-GB 614 538 1.69 2.02 
39 125410 720-GB 571 563 1.65 1.93 
40 127346 682-GB 525 499 1.42 1.27 
41 128230 683-GB 659 592 1.68 1.10 
42 133910 687-GB 667 551 1.56 0.98 
43 133972 683-GB 770 758 2.16 1.28 
44 143147 684-GB 569 520 1.48 0.81 
45 144782 684-GB 616 551 1.56 0.80 
46 144854 686-GB 640 564 1.6 0.62 
47 149963 685-GB 396 396 1.12 0.54 
684-GB 
48 149942 685-GB 626 505.59 1.54 0.68 
49 151195 685-GB 414 414 1.18 0.42 
50 151200 686-GB 634 613.95 1.74 0.55 
51 156082 TL 688-GB 739 730 2.07 0.60 
52 156082 TR 688-GB 570 446 1.27 0.32 
Rakh Branch (RB) Canal, LCC-West System Khair Ali Distributary 216 293-RB 294 264 0.75 1.87 
226 185-RB 888 839 2.44 3.40 
4646 185-RB 291 281 0.8 1.30 
4646 188-RB 838 655 1.88 2.06 
7109 186-RB 1225 851 2.43 3.06 
9342 186-RB 859 629 1.79 2.52 
14798 297-RB 180 36 1.4 2.10 
14800 187-RB 957 756 2.15 2.45 
14863 187-RB 509 268 0.76 1.91 
10 14873 188-RB 533 483 1.45 1.54 
11 17095 187-RB 758 719 2.04 2.02 
12 17100 187-RB 632 456 1.3 1.67 
13 21480 188-RB 238 231 0.65 1.51 
14 22645 190-RB 461 405 1.15 1.87 
15 23010 191-RB 338 320 0.91 1.40 
16 23055 190-RB 391 303 0.9 2.11 
17 25890 191-RB 742 681 1.93 2.29 
18 28260 190-RB 569 454 1.3 1.57 
19 28823 190-RB 491 404 1.16 1.93 
20 30182 191-RB 981 802 2.27 2.94 
21 30694 195-RB 572 547 1.55 2.65 
22 33445 201-RB 615 554 1.59 1.02 
23 35356 195-RB 827 677 1.92 0.97 
24 39967 195-RB 481 410 1.41 1.01 
25 40187 195-RB 505 461 1.32 0.98 
26 41000 TR 196-RB 506 403 1.22 1.55 
27 41000 TF 196-RB 1374 562 1.65 1.25 
28 41000 TL 196-RB 479 408 1.19 2.09 
Gatti Distributary 214 198/RB 672 377 1.17 2.05 
469 192/RB 451 58 0.16 0.37 
1430 198/RB 556 455 1.32 2.23 
4253 192/RB 417 288 0.9 1.88 
6230 201/RB 545 500 1.42 2.10 
7832 197/RB 591 561 1.89 1.89 
10947 201/RB 501 454 1.29 1.41 
11500 197/RB 662 347 1.06 1.90 
15164 201/RB 468 425 1.27 1.57 
10 18628 197/RB 646 333 1.36 1.96 
11 18628 201/RB 628 517 1.5 1.69 
12 23335 TL 202/RB 309 200 0.58 0.79 
13 23335 TF 202/RB 454 193 0.57 0.90 
14 23335 TR 202/RB 1633 486 1.71 0.86 
Parent ChannelDistributary ChannelOutlet NoOfftake Reduced Distance (RD) of outlets (ft)Bank (R = Right L = Left TR = Tail Right TF = Tail Front TL = Tail Left)Name of VillageGross Command Area (GCA)Culturable Command Area (CCA)Designed Discharge (PID)Actual Discharge (Device Measured)
Acre(Cusec)
Gugera Branch (GB) Canal, LCC-East System Lagar Distributary 1052 504-GB 526 490 1.24 1.90 
1554 508-GB 533 503 1.01 1.84 
7879 507-GB 213 190 0.4 0.93 
10000 511-GB 205 170 0.4 0.50 
12646 516-GB 605 578 0.94 
15475 519-GB 577 468 0.9 0.59 
17545 516-GB 122 121 0.21 0.29 
18330 512-GB 422 308 0.58 0.71 
21000 510-GB 280 269 0.51 0.68 
10 21291 515-GB 577 515 0.98 0.60 
11 24000 517-GB 364 330 0.62 0.85 
12 26513 518-GB 297 266 0.54 0.65 
13 28000 522-GB 497 411 0.94 0.80 
14 28205 521-GB 1207 996 1.68 1.64 
15 33032 522-GB 435 360 0.82 0.88 
16 36218 523-GB 511 447 0.85 0.81 
17 38112 523-GB 535 505 1.02 0.71 
18 43110 523-GB 594 504 1.12 1.00 
19 50505 531-GB 418 406 0.77 0.52 
20 51200 538-GB 460 442 0.84 0.55 
21 51360 528-GB 1079 1065 2.01 1.07 
22 59118 531-GB 960 932 1.16 0.79 
23 60115 536-GB 456 432 1.21 0.64 
24 62225 TL 537-GB 709 694 1.31 0.57 
25 62225 TF 539-GB 671 600 1.25 0.51 
26 62225 TR 538-GB 335 319 0.61 0.24 
Pir Mahal Distributary 500 361-GB 876 725 2.06 4.33 
13850 360-GB 726 658.55 1.9 3.13 
18137 536-GB 250 250 6.93 
18164 536-GB 252 239 1.31 2.39 
18300 536-GB 200 200 2.4 4.54 
19000 536-GB 53 53 0.64 1.02 
19700 536-GB 472 448 2.46 4.19 
23000 536-GB 248 237 0.67 1.20 
31500 536-GB 250 237 0.67 1.11 
10 36992 261-GB 476 385.6 1.11 1.97 
11 42122 262-GB 305 275 0.94 1.58 
263-GB 
12 45800 263-GB 567.28 511.8 1.48 2.28 
13 45749 263-GB 358 277.3 1.47 1.93 
14 49600 264-GB 1241 1147 3.26 8.80 
15 49730 265-GB 656.6 591.34 1.68 2.89 
16 63560 265-GB 443.11 378.72 1.21 1.71 
17 65220 660-GB 698 698 1.74 2.09 
18 68950 664-GB 646 646 1.83 2.36 
665-GB 
19 70076 660-GB 463 463 1.31 1.81 
661-GB 
20 72321 660-GB 476 331 0.94 1.44 
21 78584 677-GB 377 299 0.93 0.91 
22 83100 660-GB 296 293 0.83 0.90 
23 84716 661-GB 590 565 1.66 1.93 
24 88890 661-GB 540 429.38 1.31 1.63 
25 89250 678-GB 574 431 1.63 2.22 
26 91240 669-GB 524 524 1.49 2.16 
27 93543 678-GB 630 518 1.61 2.51 
28 98080 678-GB 576 576 1.64 1.96 
29 99192 679-GB 711.2 589.81 1.73 1.98 
30 102584 679-GB 623 623 1.77 1.93 
31 107058 680-GB 496 490 1.41 1.64 
32 111631 680-GB 510 383 1.45 1.73 
33 113917 681-GB 372 355 1.30 
34 115000 719-GB 303 302 0.86 1.02 
35 118525 681-GB 380 357 1.02 1.24 
36 119000 719-GB 252 252 0.72 0.67 
37 121930 720-GB 610 542 1.54 1.20 
38 121985 681-GB 614 538 1.69 2.02 
39 125410 720-GB 571 563 1.65 1.93 
40 127346 682-GB 525 499 1.42 1.27 
41 128230 683-GB 659 592 1.68 1.10 
42 133910 687-GB 667 551 1.56 0.98 
43 133972 683-GB 770 758 2.16 1.28 
44 143147 684-GB 569 520 1.48 0.81 
45 144782 684-GB 616 551 1.56 0.80 
46 144854 686-GB 640 564 1.6 0.62 
47 149963 685-GB 396 396 1.12 0.54 
684-GB 
48 149942 685-GB 626 505.59 1.54 0.68 
49 151195 685-GB 414 414 1.18 0.42 
50 151200 686-GB 634 613.95 1.74 0.55 
51 156082 TL 688-GB 739 730 2.07 0.60 
52 156082 TR 688-GB 570 446 1.27 0.32 
Rakh Branch (RB) Canal, LCC-West System Khair Ali Distributary 216 293-RB 294 264 0.75 1.87 
226 185-RB 888 839 2.44 3.40 
4646 185-RB 291 281 0.8 1.30 
4646 188-RB 838 655 1.88 2.06 
7109 186-RB 1225 851 2.43 3.06 
9342 186-RB 859 629 1.79 2.52 
14798 297-RB 180 36 1.4 2.10 
14800 187-RB 957 756 2.15 2.45 
14863 187-RB 509 268 0.76 1.91 
10 14873 188-RB 533 483 1.45 1.54 
11 17095 187-RB 758 719 2.04 2.02 
12 17100 187-RB 632 456 1.3 1.67 
13 21480 188-RB 238 231 0.65 1.51 
14 22645 190-RB 461 405 1.15 1.87 
15 23010 191-RB 338 320 0.91 1.40 
16 23055 190-RB 391 303 0.9 2.11 
17 25890 191-RB 742 681 1.93 2.29 
18 28260 190-RB 569 454 1.3 1.57 
19 28823 190-RB 491 404 1.16 1.93 
20 30182 191-RB 981 802 2.27 2.94 
21 30694 195-RB 572 547 1.55 2.65 
22 33445 201-RB 615 554 1.59 1.02 
23 35356 195-RB 827 677 1.92 0.97 
24 39967 195-RB 481 410 1.41 1.01 
25 40187 195-RB 505 461 1.32 0.98 
26 41000 TR 196-RB 506 403 1.22 1.55 
27 41000 TF 196-RB 1374 562 1.65 1.25 
28 41000 TL 196-RB 479 408 1.19 2.09 
Gatti Distributary 214 198/RB 672 377 1.17 2.05 
469 192/RB 451 58 0.16 0.37 
1430 198/RB 556 455 1.32 2.23 
4253 192/RB 417 288 0.9 1.88 
6230 201/RB 545 500 1.42 2.10 
7832 197/RB 591 561 1.89 1.89 
10947 201/RB 501 454 1.29 1.41 
11500 197/RB 662 347 1.06 1.90 
15164 201/RB 468 425 1.27 1.57 
10 18628 197/RB 646 333 1.36 1.96 
11 18628 201/RB 628 517 1.5 1.69 
12 23335 TL 202/RB 309 200 0.58 0.79 
13 23335 TF 202/RB 454 193 0.57 0.90 
14 23335 TR 202/RB 1633 486 1.71 0.86 

The findings of this study are primarily divided into two sections, each addressing different aspects of the research. By dividing the results into these two sections, the study comprehensively evaluates both the effectiveness of the measurement system in controlled settings and its practical utility in field applications. This approach ensures a thorough assessment of the system's performance across different contexts, providing valuable insights for the research objectives and contributing to the overall understanding of discharge measurement techniques.

Laboratory scale validation of the discharge measurement system

This section focuses on validating the accuracy and reliability of the discharge measurement system under controlled laboratory conditions. It involves experiments conducted in a laboratory setting to assess the performance of the measurement system in accurately quantifying discharge rates.

Performance evaluations of validation testing

The validation testing of the developed discharge measurement system was a crucial step in ensuring its reliability and accuracy. This process involved subjecting the system to a diverse range of experimental flows, totaling 45 in number, as outlined in Table 1. These flows varied in magnitude to comprehensively assess the system's performance across different scenarios and conditions.

Upon analysis, it was found that the measured discharges closely matched the actual values, with all machine-acquired flows falling within a narrow margin of ±10% of the actual results. This remarkable consistency indicated a high level of accuracy in the system's measurements, resulting in an impressive discharge accuracy rate of 97.46%, as visually depicted in Figure 3.
Fig. 3

Actual versus measured discharge.

Fig. 3

Actual versus measured discharge.

Close modal

Furthermore, to delve deeper into the system's performance, various performance parameters were evaluated using statistical algorithms (Equations (1)–(5)). These parameters provided insights into the system's precision and reliability by quantifying the discrepancies between measured and actual values. Encouragingly, the outcomes of these analyses, as presented in Table 3, demonstrated that the errors were well within acceptable ranges.

Table 3

Results of performance evaluation parameters.

MAEMSERNSE
0.08 0.0109 0.9968 0.9925 0.1434 
MAEMSERNSE
0.08 0.0109 0.9968 0.9925 0.1434 

These statistically non-significant results, supporting the Null hypothesis, signify the robustness of the developed model. They suggest that the model's estimations closely align with actual values and effectively predict discharge rates in open channels. This validation process underscores the system's capability to reliably measure discharge and its potential applicability in real-world scenarios, contributing valuable insights to the field of hydraulic engineering and water resource management.

Discharge measurement on the selected sites

This section involves the application of the validated measurement system to real-world scenarios, specifically on the selected sites within the study area. It encompasses field measurements of discharge at various locations to evaluate the performance of the system under practical conditions and to gather data relevant to the objectives of the research.

Water distributions along a selected distributary

The flow distribution data, obtained through the developed mechanism, was meticulously organized and graphed as a percentage of the ‘Designed’ discharge against the corresponding outlet number along the selected distributaries. These graphical representations are depicted in Figures 47. To account for minor fluctuations, a permissible range of ±10% was established as upper and lower limits.
Fig. 4

Discharge distributions at outlets along Lagar distributary.

Fig. 4

Discharge distributions at outlets along Lagar distributary.

Close modal
Fig. 5

Discharge distributions at outlets along Pir Mahal distributary.

Fig. 5

Discharge distributions at outlets along Pir Mahal distributary.

Close modal
Fig. 6

Discharge distributions at outlets along Khair Ali distributary.

Fig. 6

Discharge distributions at outlets along Khair Ali distributary.

Close modal
Fig. 7

Discharge distributions at outlets along Gatti distributary.

Fig. 7

Discharge distributions at outlets along Gatti distributary.

Close modal

In an ideal scenario, each outlet should consistently discharge at 100% of the design discharge, denoted by the green line in the graphs. However, outlets falling within the predetermined range are considered to be in equitable order, suggesting that their discharge rates align closely with the designed values. On the other hand, outlets located outside this range indicate deviations from the design-rated discharges, either discharging more or less than the intended values. This analysis provides valuable insights into the distribution of water flow along the distributaries, highlighting areas where adjustments may be necessary to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the irrigation system.

Lagar distributary

The discharge distributions at both the head and tail outlets along the Lagar distributary, as depicted in Figure 4, exhibit a wide range of values relative to their designed discharges.

Specifically, the discharges range from 232 to 39% of their designated volumes, respectively. Notably, a majority of the head reach outlets exceed the equitable range, indicating that they are delivering more water than their allocated discharges. Similarly, the middle reach outlets also deviate from the equitable range, with only three outlets receiving water shares that closely match their allocations.

In contrast, the tail reach outlets are observed to deliver approximately half of their allocated water volumes, with all falling below the equitable range. Additionally, it is noteworthy that out of a total of 30 outlets, 4 outlets in the tail section were shut down by the farmers as a symbol of protest. This action was prompted by dissatisfaction with occasional-based least flow rates, highlighting potential issues with the current water distribution system and the need for further investigation and resolution.

Pir Mahal distributary

The discharge distributions at the outlets along the Pir Mahal distributary, illustrated in Figure 5, exhibit a wide variability in comparison to their sanctioned water shares.

The discharges range from 270% to 25% of their designated volumes. Notably, three head section outlets receive exceptionally high water volumes, exceeding 200% of their designated shares, which stands out compared to the rest of the outlets along the distributary.

Moreover, a significant portion of outlets – approximately 65% – exceed the equity principle, indicating that they are delivering more water than their allocated shares. Conversely, nearly 25% of outlets are observed to discharge water volumes below 50% of their rated discharge, suggesting a substantial deficit in water delivery. The remaining 10% of outlets fall within the equitable range.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that 38 outlets are experiencing severe water deficits over an extended period, which signifies a critical issue in the water distribution system. This indicates a need for urgent attention and remedial measures to address the disparities in water allocation and ensure equitable distribution among all users along the distributary.

Khair Ali distributary

The distribution patterns observed along the selected distributary, as depicted in Figure 6, reveal significant disparities in water allocation. Notably, both the head and middle section outlets are observed to deliver maximum water volumes, nearly 250% of their designated discharge. This indicates a tendency for these outlets to exceed their allocated shares substantially.

However, it is concerning that only three outlets along the entire length of the distributary adhere to equity-based distributions, highlighting a widespread deviation from equitable water allocation practices. In contrast, the tail section outlets predominantly experience deficits in water supply, with four exceptional outlets being the only ones to deliver surplus water supplies, reaching up to 175% of their design-rated discharge.

These findings underscore the uneven distribution of water along the distributary, with certain sections experiencing excess supply while others face deficits. Addressing these disparities is crucial to ensure equitable access to water resources and promote efficient water management practices along the distributary.

Gatti distributary

Similar irregularities in flow distributions were observed along the distributary, as depicted in Figure 7.

Out of a total of 14 outlets, a significant majority of 11 outlets were found to discharge high flow magnitudes, exceeding the upper discharge limit. This indicates a prevalent trend of overallocation of water resources along the distributary.

Across the distributary, the flow rates from head to tail exhibit a wide range, varying from 231 to 50% of their authorized discharge. Notably, only two middle section outlets adhere to the equitable range, suggesting that the majority of outlets are either over- or underutilizing their allocated water shares.

These observations highlight the ongoing challenges associated with ensuring equitable water distribution along the distributary. Addressing these disparities and promoting more balanced water allocation practices is essential for sustainable water resource management and to meet the diverse needs of stakeholders along the distributary.

Overall trend

A comprehensive visualization of water flows along all distributaries is provided in Figure 8, offering insight into the distribution patterns across the entire system.
Fig. 8

Discharge distributions at outlets of all sample distributaries.

Fig. 8

Discharge distributions at outlets of all sample distributaries.

Close modal

From the figure above, it is evident that only 10% of outlets were found to deliver supplies that conform to their equity-based allocated water standards. This indicates a widespread deviation from equitable water distribution practices along the distributaries.

Across the distributaries, a notable trend is observed wherein the majority of head and middle section outlets deliver high flow magnitudes exceeding their allocated intakes. Conversely, the tail reach outlets predominantly distribute water volumes below their rated discharges, with some outlets even falling below 50% of the sanctioned discharge.

Furthermore, out of a total of 162 outlets, only 120 were found to be functional, while the remaining outlets were shut down due to severe water shortages. This underscores the critical issue of water scarcity in certain areas along the distributaries, necessitating urgent intervention to address the imbalance in water distribution and ensure adequate water supply to all users.

These findings highlight the complexities and challenges associated with managing water resources along the distributaries, emphasizing the need for comprehensive strategies to promote equitable water allocation and address water scarcity issues effectively.

Discussion

The newly developed discharge system has demonstrated remarkable accuracy and precision in acquiring results. Through rigorous validation testing against various flow magnitudes, the evaluation parameters yielded favorable outcomes, with an MAE of 0.08 ft3/s and an accuracy rate of 97.46%. These results highlight the capability and practical applicability of the developed system in accurately predicting real-time flow rates in open field channels. The field application of the developed system offers the advantage and potential for ease in discharge acquisitions at outlets without human involvement, thus ensuring accuracy. Equipped with advanced electronic components, the device enables real-time transmission of discharge data. This real-time sharing of information provides reliable insight into the magnitudes of flow availabilities and distributions at outlets.

Subsequently, the flow distributions were evaluated at off-taking outlets of four distributaries: Lagar, Pir Mahal, Khair Ali, and Gatti. These distributaries, serving areas with extensive land holdings, rely on outlets with predefined designed intakes set by the PID. Field measurements using the developed device revealed significantly inequitable water supplies at these outlets. The data indicated that head and middle section field outlets were delivering larger intakes than their fair water shares, exacerbating the inequity in water distribution. Additionally, the tail section distributions were found to be three to five times worse than those in the head section, with many outlets receiving less than 50% of their allocated discharges.

Furthermore, out of a total of 162 outlets, only 120 were operational, while the rest were abandoned by farmers due to water deficits. These findings were corroborated during personal interactions with farmers during field visits. The absence of a reliable mechanism has resulted in unmanaged and inequitable distributions, underscoring the importance of activating previously allocated sanctioned discharges using the developed device.

In ensuring the optimal functioning of the irrigation system, it's imperative to acknowledge potential deviations in actual discharge rates from the intended design, particularly in AOSM outlets. These deviations may arise due to changes in the hydraulic properties of the channel, necessitating adjustments in the sizes of the outlet orifices.

The adjustment process may involve recalibrating and verifying the discharge of each outlet based on the size of the orifice, quantifying losses along the entire length of the channel, and redefining the elevation of AOSM outlets to maintain the desired discharge rate. Undertaking these steps ensures that the irrigation system functions optimally and delivers the intended water flow to the fields.

To further enhance the efficiency of the irrigation system, flow measurement systems should be utilized in conjunction with the lining of watercourses, whether they are main channels, branch channels, or field channels. This integration is crucial as formulating agricultural or water management policies solely based on current data may lead to less reliable outcomes. Incorporating water saved through lining into the allocated discharge values of the outlets is essential for accurate water management.

Considering the diversity and extent of irrigation infrastructure in Punjab, it may be impractical to equip every outlet with these systems. Therefore, any forthcoming research should account for water saved through lining per unit length of the channel and incorporate this saving into the allocated discharge values of the outlets.

The viability of the country's irrigation system depends on equitable and fair access to water. However, the designed water distributions defined by the PID are no longer being adhered to. This discrepancy arises from differences between the data acquired from fields using the developed device and the data reported by PID. The primary cause of uneven flow distributions is the lining of irrigation waterways in the last two decades complementing them with the adjustment in orifice size. Even during periods of low flow, a reliable discharge regulating mechanism is essential for effective management of canal discharges.

Currently, head-end farmers receive predominantly larger water supplies compared to those served by the tail-end for irrigated agriculture. This disparity has become a general constraint in the country's irrigation system and could lead to food deficits. The developed device has the potential to maintain equitable distributions at outlets along any distributary.

In conclusion, for the realistic implementation of equity practices, the developed mechanism utilizing a sustained AI approach offers an effective and operational procedure for systematic and improved rehabilitation of available flows – according to the designed discharge – through active management of orifice sizes along the canal reaches from head to tail. This approach aims to achieve the operational objective of water distribution.

We express our gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism, which significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of the paper. This work received financial support from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan under grant number TDF-02-103 and the Indigenous-5000 PhD Scholarship grant number 518-83054-2EG5-026.

All relevant data are included in the paper or its Supplementary Information.

The authors declare there is no conflict.

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