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From TOP (Technologies Opportunities Program) Update Summer 2001 (Vol. 4, No. 3)

FACES OF TOP: ROGER HANSEN
Creating a Model for Managing a Scarce Resource

Many farmers in Utah have hailed Roger Hansen as a hero. However, he thinks of himself in more modest terms as he states, "I'm just one of a large number of individuals who are all very dedicated and have been working hard on the project." The project he refers to is in the Sevier River Basin, a large, self-contained watershed in central Utah. Critical to the basin's economy is irrigated agriculture. If crops are over-watered or under-watered, crop yields are reduced and water problems arise. The need to improve water management and help conditions along the upper and lower regions of the basin sparked a TOP-funded project to the Sevier River Water Users Association.

Hansen, who works for the Bureau of Reclamation, is the project director. The water users project employs solar powered automation and interactive real-time technologies to help manage water resources in the upper and lower regions of the Sevier River in Utah.

Technology Aids Water Users

The water users apply information technologies to manage their farms, water supplies, and improve emergency response. Prior to this project, if an area was hit with unexpected weather changes, the River Commission would have to travel to the local reservoir or water ditch to adjust the water flow. Since this project, the Commission can maintain a reasonable supply of water, regardless of weather, without having to travel to the reservoir or send out the "ditch rider."

The project not only helps water users, but also indirect users as well. The National Weather Service has asked the project to provide them with data to assist in their real-time weather monitoring system. The water users association also shares data they collect with the local airport. Many of the pilots and airport personnel use the data to help assess weather conditions.

How does this project "really" happen? In one instance, canals at the end of the open channel systems frequently have trouble maintaining a consistent and reliable water supply. With automation and real-time technology, the river commission can maintain a reliable flow of water to all users. The water users apply the technology to better manage their farms and water supplies, and to share data with primary and secondary users in Utah.

Additional Uses

Hansen alludes to the future uses of the project such as using real-time information to help with tourism since boaters and hikers rely on the river's weather and water levels. The technologies used in the project can assist with public safety, provide better advisories of lightning and flash flood threats. Overall, the project represents an environmentally sound option for improving the quality of life and the local economy. The real-time transmission of data "has helped develop trust between all users of the river system," says Hansen. TOP's Judy Sparrow agrees: "The project has proved its value to end users by delivering water with more accuracy, and providing a better understanding of what happens in the river and canal systems."

The project is a collaborative effort among many partners, including Bureau of Reclamation, Stone Fly Technologies, Utah State University, National Weather Service, and Sevier River Canal companies. Connecting over 40 data collection and automation sites, a diverse real-time data system network helps the basin in many ways. Technology such as solar powered automation, secured wireless communications networks, and interactive real-time websites will help improve the economy of the river basin area, improve public safety by providing more timely emergency information, and enhance cultural resources and lifelong learning opportunities.


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