Although a wide range of flow measurement devices and methods already exist for the measurement of irrigation water, water users and water management officials still claim there is a need for more appropriate devices that are non-intrusive, reliable, easy to install and maintain, and cost effective. Meters that are typically used for irrigation water measurement were tested in a laboratory as an initial part of the research and measurement errors larger than ±10 % of the actual discharge was recorded. This study was aimed at evaluating an experimental measuring method that may meet the requirements of the users. The experimental method is based on the unique relationship between the differential pressure and the discharge of a specific pump. By determining this relationship for a specific pump over a range of operating conditions (but for specific installation conditions), a curve similar to the pump curve as developed by the pump manufacturer can be established. If this relationship is inversed (into a discharge-differential pressure relationship), it can be used to calculate the discharge of the pump by measuring the differential pressure. The volume of water discharged by the pump over a period of time can then be determined by integrating the calculated discharge over time. Laboratory tests were conducted to evaluate the validity of the proposed measuring method. The tests entailed the development of the discharge-differential pressure relationship for the specific pump being used, by simultaneously measuring the system discharge, and pressure at both the suction and delivery sides of the pump. Once the relationship had been developed, a set of independent tests was conducted and the pressure measurements used to calculate the discharge through the system. The calculated discharge values were then compared with the measured values. The experimental measuring method was also evaluated in the field through empirical testing of its application in the field. The necessary equipment was installed and calibrated at an irrigation system pump station at the Orange-Riet Water User Association, and data collected over a two week period. The laboratory evaluation of the proposed measurement method produced favourable results, with the analyses showing that discharge can be "measured" with this method at errors smaller than ± 5.4 % of the reference reading within a specified range of flow rates, which is better than the errors produced by the conventional meters evaluated during the initial part of the research. The field tests showed that the method can be applied successfully to monitor pump abstractions. The method's results were compared to two reference measurements and it was found that the volume of water abstracted according to the experimental method was within ± 2.6 % of the reference measurements. The field work also showed that from a practical application point of view, the method has definite advantages over the conventional meters, although it is not less expensive than other measuring devices. The advantages include easier installation, high turn-down ratios, low maintenance requirements, no additional head loss, and suitable for telemetric data collection. Further work that is required include investigations on the use of a differential pressure transducer (rather than two separate suction and delivery side transducers), since this may reduce costs and the number of recorded data points, as well as evaluations of the validity of the discharge - differential pressure relationship over a long period of time, since it may change due to wear on the pump or motor.
Dissertation (M Eng (Agricultural Engineering))--University of Pretoria, 2005.