Rural Water Intelligence

Big Data, analytics and business intelligence to improve the long-term financial sustainability of irrigation districts.

Forecast irrigator demand and provide insights that can transform business performance

Irrigation corporations are facing some challenging long-term trends. Water availability is in decline, infrastructure maintenance and replacement costs are going up and, in common with business everywhere, customer expectations are increasing.

With prices largely fixed either by government regulation or customers’ inability to pay more, businesses are looking unsustainable.

Reducing assets through capital intensive rationalisation projects is one response but is limited by the capital available, especially when provided by budget-strapped governments.

Increased business productivity through better use of big data technology could be an alternative way to bring down operating costs. Although irrigation corporations are no strangers to using technology in the field, the benefits of exploiting the explosion in digital data promises to be a management revolution.

Irrigation system

Irrigation corporations are already generating huge volumes of data including. telemetric metering and flow gauges, IOT devices, meteorological data or satellite images. And yet, the vast majority of irrigation businesses world-wide still rely overwhelmingly on intuition and experience in decision making, for day-to-day operations and for capital investment decisions. Data is only used for reporting what has already happened, “looking in the rear-view mirror”.

But they’re not alone. IDC’s  annual review of the data universe says that in 2013 less than 5% of all data was actually analysed, and that’s across all industries.

Recently we helped the largest private irrigation corporation in Australia to develop a system to help them forecast irrigator demand out seven days using existing data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, satellite data, real time canal level and flow data and an hydrological model. Through better data management and business intelligence, they have improved planning and decision making through data sharing across the organisation. Another benefit has arisen from providing a single view of all operations through dashboards showing real-time and long range historical information on deliveries, losses and channel and storage use is improved operations.

Based on the experience of other industries, a source of increasing value for irrigation districts will come from statistical analysis tools to provide insights that can transform business performance. Such analytical tools hold the promise of predictive maintenance to reduce whole-of-life costs that are increasing as a result of large scale capital investment in automation.

Predictive maintenance will have a dramatic impact on the bottom line for asset intensive businesses like irrigation corporations as it is already doing so for urban water utilities to find leaking pipes. Analysis of delivery channel (or pipe) condition monitoring data will not only predict when maintenance is required but will also help avoid outages that affect customer delivery such as channel bank erosion or weed growth, thereby improving the reliability of customer service.


  • Managing, analysing and visualising the explosion of data now available to increase productivity and make better, faster, data-driven decisions.
  • Big Data, analytics and business intelligence have the potential to improve the financially sustainability of irrigation districts in the face of the long-term trends of declining water availability, increasing infrastructure costs and higher customer expectations.

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