Automation in Lake Country saves money and operator time

Posted October 2006

The District of Lake Country operates five separate water systems with six different sources of supply. The 118-square-kilometre watershed is managed by district staff, as are the dams, distribution systems, and facilities situated within district boundaries. Attending to and operating infrastructure in this large geographic area is difficult. Additional challenges include the community’s high rate of growth, Interior Health’s increasingly stringent water quality guidelines, recent drought, and aging infrastructure.


But despite these factors, operations staff continually look for ways to provide better service, to meet the higher level of care, and to operate as efficiently as possible. Over the last few years, upgrades to intake screening facilities and pressure reducing stations have increased efficiency and safety, which has allowed operators to meet the new demands with no net increase in staff. To continue this trend, the district has begun a program of integrating and automating operation facilities.


Automation of the Oyama Lake outlet and Oyama Creek intake was completed this July. Before the upgrade, water releases from upper storage facilities and intake valving adjustments were manually controlled based on irrigation requirements. The Wood Lake Water System, for which Oyama Lake is the primary reservoir, has no lower-level storage, so releases from upper storage facilities must meet or exceed customer demand or the distribution system will begin to dry up. During irrigation season, the lag time between releases from Oyama Lake and the water entering the pipelines is five hours, which requires that adjustments be made in advance to meet projected demands. Residents with irrigation connections serving more than two acres are required to give 48 hours notice before turning water on or off. This allows operations staff to make valving adjustments to match supply with demand.


A typical scenario would involve an operator driving to the Oyama Creek intake to view current flows, and adjusting as necessary. If an imbalance between releases and projected demand is expected, the operator then drives to Oyama Lake to adjust storage releases. If the storage has been opened to provide more water, the operator then returns to the Oyama Creek intake about five hours after opening Oyama Lake to make adjustments at the intake to allow the water to enter the distribution system.


In some form, this current scheduling and operation system has been in place since 1908, when irrigation flumes were first constructed and were common among irrigation districts in the Okanagan.


Automation includes a remote-controlled gate and real-time data logging of Oyama Lake levels and flows in Oyama Creek. Information is received by radio at the Camp Road Operations Centre: staff can monitor flows and make adjustments of releases manually or via computer program. It is expected that two or three days of labour a month will be saved, and, depending on the nature of the season, water efficiencies (that is the reduction of storage water released from storage to meet demand) are expected to increase between ten and 25 percent. The total cost to complete the project was $190,000, of which the National Water Supply Program may contribute up to one-third the total cost. 


Similar automation water system upgrades are being planned throughout the district, and will be implemented over the next few years.


This view of the Oyama Lake outflow shows the dam structure with both the manual and automated gates. Oyama Creek feeds into the Oyama Creek intake as distribution water for the Wood Lake System. Automation of the Oyama Lake outlet and Oyama Creek intake was completed this summer to allow operations staff to automatically make valve adjustments to match the Wood Lake water supply with demand.