Turlock Irrigation District (TID)

TID chooses Rubicon for accurate flow measurement in California’s San Joaquin Valley


Country: USA
Location: Turlock, California
Customer: Turlock Irrigation District (TID)

Turlock Irrigation District (TID) provides irrigation water to farms in Stanislaus and Merced counties in the Central Valley of California. TID was California’s first irrigation district and today supplies water to 145,000 acres of land, serving 4,500 customers through 250 miles of gravity-fed canals. Crops grown in the area include almonds, corn, oats and alfalfa.


The introduction of California’s Water Conservation Act of 2009, known as SBx7-7, requires irrigation districts to increase water measurement accuracy, improve reporting, and introduce volumetric water pricing.

Turlock Irrigation District (TID) had over 1,200 manual slide gate turnouts, each serving an average of six properties on a rotational basis. The approximate volume of water delivered was determined by inferring flow rate from the turnout gate’s opening height
and multiplying this by order duration. Accuracy was dependent on maintaining constant water levels – both upstream in the supply canal and downstream on each of the farms served by the turnout. Even when canal water levels and gate opening remained constant, varying farm topography and operating practices meant there was considerable downstream water level variation across farms. The same turnout could return dramatically different flow rates depending on the property being supplied. Flow measurement was not accurate enough to meet the requirements of SBx7-7 and would have led to inaccurate billing.

This prompted TID to look for accurate metering solutions, beginning with a pilot study to test Rubicon’s FlumeMeters™, SlipMeters™ and meters from two other companies for accuracy, ease of installation, maintenance requirements and overall cost.

“Installing 121 SlipMeters covering 75,000 acres will provide a better level of service to our customers and reduce fluctuations system wide which will ultimately save water. “

Wes Miller

Supervising Engineering Technician, Turlock Irrigation District, TID


While accuracy was found to be similar across all meters tested, TID chose Rubicon as the primary meter provider because of lower installation and maintenance costs. In most cases, the in-pipe meters tested could only be installed on the farmer’s property, making installation and troubleshooting difficult and expensive. They also commonly experienced blockages from weeds and trash, which required maintenance crews to travel to the site to resolve the problem.

FlumeMeters and SlipMeters feature Sonaray™ ultrasonic flow measurement, which is accurate to ±2.5% without the requirement for extensive upstream or downstream flow conditioning. This uniquely enables them to be installed in-canal, directly upstream of control gates and outlet pipes. In addition to flow measurement, SlipMeters have an integrated control gate.

TID installed SlipMeters at 121 sites serving 300 acres or more and FlumeMeters at turnouts serving between 30 and 299 acres. The FlumeMeters are mounted to slide-in frames fixed to the canal wall, directly upstream of existing manual turnout gates – making installation quick and easy and keeping civil costs low.

Retrofitted FlumeMeter Installed in California
FlumeMeter Undershot Meter Icon

FlumeMeter x 78

SlipMeter Undershot integrated control gate and flow measurement icon

SlipMeter x 121


TID now has a meter fleet that comfortably exceeds the SBx7-7 accuracy requirement of ±5%, and customers can be confident that they are being fairly charged under the new volumetric pricing structure. Remote management using TID’s third-party SCADA system means that the required reporting data is automatically recorded and readily at hand. With flow to half of the district’s irrigated acres being managed by SlipMeters, service has also improved. The SlipMeter´s integrated control gate adjusts throughout a delivery to maintain a constant flow rate, even with varying upstream and downstream water levels.

Customers supplied by SlipMeters can now irrigate more efficiently because they can count on a constant flow rate. These constant flow rates in turn improve canal operations by reducing water level fluctuations created by the manual gates they replaced, ultimately improving service for all customers while streamlining operational needs.

Flow trend showing the stabilisation of flow rates with the installation of Rubicon's automated flow meters

SlipMeter gates constantly adjust to deliver the requested flow rate, even with fluctuating downstream and upstream water levels

“One of the biggest contributing factors in choosing the Rubicon meters was they remained in-canal, whereas the other meters had to be located in areas that we lacked legal access. “

Wes Miller

Supervising Engineering Technician, TID