International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage Commission Interationale des Irrigation et du Drainage

Webinar on Organization of Irrigation Automation Systems

Date: 22 July 2021, Time: 17:30 hour (IST)

In October 2020, the Australian Government announced the successful completion of the largest irrigation modernization project in Australia’s history. The modernization of water distribution networks in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District was achieving 429 gigalitres of water savings each year.  Australia’s Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia described this investment as “one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken in this country when it comes to delivering water savings and benefits for farmers, communities and the environment.”

Water losses in unmodernized irrigation systems predominantly result from a lack of measurement and poor control. By solving these problems, enormous water savings are being achieved through precise scheduling, delivery, and application of water to crops. These considerable agricultural water savings are being achieved by precision on-demand water delivery systems that provide flexible irrigation start times and durations to deliver the precise volumes required by crops.

The irrigation distribution infrastructure in Australia is very similar to that of many irrigated agricultural regions in the world, and so a review of the Australian modernization journey can provide useful insights for water resource managers considering options to improve the management and efficient use of their water resources.

This webinar will host key contributors to the Australian modernization journey, including  the University of Melbourne who developed the required innovations in canal control algorithms, Rubicon Water who delivered much of the control and measurement technology, and a manager of distribution assets from one of the major irrigation districts who oversaw the adoption of this technology.


  1. Towards Full Autonomy in Irrigation Systems – A Complexity Point of View by Dr. Iven Mareels, Director, Centre for Applied Research, IBM A/NZ
  2. Canal Automation - System Operations and Asset Management Challenges and Opportunities 
  3. RUBICON WATER - Maximising water availability and agricultural productivity


Dr. Iven Mareels is Director of the Centre for Applied Research, IBM Australia / NZ and honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne. Prior to this he was Director, IBM Research in Australia (2018-2020), and Dean of Engineering at the University of Melbourne (2007-2018).

He received the PhD in Systems Engineering from the Australian National University in 1987, and the Master of Engineering (Electromechanical) from Gent University in 1982. Iven is a Commander in the Order of the Crown of Belgium,  a Fellow of The Academy of Technology and Engineering Australia; The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (USA), the International Federation of Automatic Control, Engineers Australia (FIEAust CPEng EngExec NER APEC) and he is a Foreign Member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts for his contributions to the modeling and control of large scale systems.

Dr. Danlu Guo currently works as a Research Associate at the Infrastructure Engineering Department at the University of Melbourne. Danlu has 8 years of research experience that extend to multiple areas centred on environmental and hydrological engineering. Her past work spans across climate change impact assessment, catchment hydrology and water quality modelling, as well as irrigation and soil water modelling. Danlu received her PhD from the University of Adelaide in hydro-climatology in 2017. Since 2019, Danlu started working on an ARC Linkage Project (LP170100710) in collaboration with Rubicon Water, which aims to develop an integrated irrigation scheduling, benchmarking and forecasting capability. Her recent work focuses on developing and uncertainty-based framework to inform irrigation scheduling using ensemble weather forecasts.

Er. Paul Byrnes is Director of PAQUA Consulting, specialising in developing ways to reduce water balance uncertainty to provide confidence and awareness of risks for decision makers. Paul’s career covers over thirty-five years in water. His career has spanned a period of constant industry reform. He has played a key role in transforming old fashioned irrigation systems, supporting policy reforms and changes to business practices to better manage water, increase water value and to contain costs. Paul acted as General Manager Technical Services for Southern Rural Water throughout their successful irrigation modernisation projects, which have changed old systems with poor service levels and excessive water losses, to systems that meet modern irrigation needs, are highly efficient and provide the data to prove their performance. As well as his engineering degree, he has both a Graduate Diploma in GIS and Remote Sensing and a Graduate Certificate in Water Engineering.

Er. Damien Pearson is Global Business Development Manager with Rubicon Water. Damien has more than 20-years’ experience in global irrigation canal networks and methods to increase their distribution efficiency. His career has focused on the development and deployment of technologies to improve agricultural water use efficiency. His professional experience includes managing the development of Rubicon’s flow measurement and control solutions and designing and implementing irrigation modernization projects. In his present role Damien is focused on developing global irrigation modernization projects throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Eurasia.



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