Fen River

Fen River meets efficiency and IT objectives at 25% of the cost of traditional modernization alternatives


Country: China
Location: Shanxi Province
Organization: Fen River Irrigation Authority

The Fen River Irrigation District in China’s Yellow River Basin is managed by the Fen River Irrigation Authority. The district covers 250,000 acres and supplies water on rotation to hundreds of thousands of small landholders growing crops that include wheat, corn and vegetables.

The district’s irrigation water is supplied to farmers via 260 miles of main canals and over 1,800 miles of smaller farm canals, which are also managed by the Authority.


The Fen River Irrigation District in China’s Shanxi province consists of two reservoirs and three weirs diverting water from the Fen River into five main canals for irrigation and industrial uses. In recent years the province has faced serious water shortages resulting from drought and growing demand from domestic and industrial water users.

Built in 1950, the district’s infrastructure mainly consists of manual control gates and almost no flow measurement. The distribution efficiency of the system, which includes farm canals, is estimated to be around 45%, meaning most water is lost before it reaches farmers’ fields.

However, in recent times greatly reduced inflows have meant that the district has struggled to supply water to irrigators reliably and equitably. Shortages are now common, particularly for irrigators whose farms lie furthest downstream.

A series of central government directives requiring irrigation district modernization provided the catalyst for the Fen River Irrigation Authority to look for a solution. The Water Reform and Development Plan required districts to improve distribution efficiency through infrastructure modernization, which had traditionally involved lining canals with concrete and replacing control gates. Additionally, the Rural Water Information Transformation Plan required districts to introduce automation, metering and comprehensive data collection by 2020.

“After two seasons we are confident that
TCC technology meets our requirements. FlumeGates have proved to be very reliable and provide accurate measurement and precise flow control. Implementing Network Control will enable us to meet all of our modernization needs while providing farmers with a more flexible and reliable supply service. I highly recommend TCC for other irrigation districts. .”

Li Ming Xing

Director, Fen River Irrigation Authority


After a successful a pilot project Rubicon implemented a TCC Network Control Solution, which involved installing FlumeGates on primary and secondary canals. NeuroFlo software automatically coordinates and controls the gates to optimize the delivery of water and eliminate spills. SCADAConnect provides remote management and data collection.

With the solution, Fen River could achieve distribution efficiency improvements without the expense or major interruption to irrigation involved with concrete lining of its canals. Plus the FlumeGate’s integrated flow and level measurement and remote communications would meet all measurement and data collection requirements in a single device. This provided Fen River with a low cost and simpler alternative to integrating control, automation, measurement and communications components.

FlumeGate icon, overshot integrated gate and flow meter

FlumeGate x 75

SlipMeter Undershot integrated control gate and flow measurement icon

SlipMeter x 39

NeuroFlo Icon

SlipGate x 2

NeuroFlo Icon


Network Visualisation Icon

Network Visualization

Irrigation Radio Communication Network Icon

Radio Network

SCADAConnect Icon



The pilot project enabled Fen River to assess the costs and the benefits of the solution and work with Rubicon staff to gain a better understanding of a new way of managing their water resources. It also enabled them to trial the FlumeGate’s ability to control flows in harsh local conditions, including the very cold temperatures experienced during winter irrigations.

FlumeGates proved to be robust in these conditions and could control flows in temperatures as low as -4°F. And together with Rubicon’s SCADAConnect software, they met all of the Government’s information and communications technology requirements.

Impressed with the performance of the pilot installation, Fen River authorized the China Irrigation and Drainage Development Center (CIDDC) to assess the pilot project and compare the costs and benefits of implementing Network Control throughout the district with the alternative of lining all canals and replacing existing gates with new manual gates.


The CIDDC report found that Network Control:

  • Would provide farmers with an equitable, reliable and flexible water supply
  • Could improve efficiency by up to 20%
  • Could be implemented at 25% of the cost of canal lining and would enable the easy identification of high-loss areas of canal for targeted lining
  • Could be deployed much more quickly than traditional canal lining and gate replacement
  • Was the most effective way of reducing losses. The cost of each percentage point improvement in distribution efficiency for Network Control was 1.9 million RMB ($300 000) compared with 8.9 million RMB ($1.4 million) for lining all canals with concrete
  • Should be used by other large irrigation districts to enable them to meet their modernization objectives

CIDDC concluded that Network Control should be implemented throughout the district. Fen River has now commenced installing Network Control on a 11 mile secondary canal and will follow this with the 35 mile East Main canal in 2013.



  • Lower cost than lining all canals
  • 20% efficiency improvement
  • Operates in harsh conditions
  • Meets government directives

“The system fully meets both irrigation district modernisation and information technology requirements and is suitable for modernising China’s large scale districts.”

CIDDC Eastern Main Modernisation Implementation Report, 2012