Like athletes trained for gameday, practice often proceeds a live scenario. Central Arizona Project (CAP) employees charged with delivering water to central and southern Arizona aren’t necessarily developing curveballs or running sprints, but the process to “keep the water flowing” is similar: prepare through realistic repetition.
In the event of a rare disaster, the ability for CAP to remotely control water flow and equipment from its Control Center at CAP headquarters could be partially or completely lost.
What happens then?
CAP would be prepared to maintain uninterrupted water deliveries to CAP water users by operating its masses of system infrastructure that covers much of the state — all by hand.
This past fall and winter, CAP’s manual operations drill was essentially training before any catastrophe.
A statewide system to maintain
The CAP system could be thought of as a water infrastructure backbone of Arizona. Spanning 336 miles from Lake Havasu to Tucson, it includes 14 pumping plants, 39 check gates and more than 50 turnouts.
In normal operations, this complexity includes some 30,000 “data points” that are sent to the Control Center, which is like the brain of the system. CAP operators work 24/7 to remotely monitor and control the system based on real-time data. A data point could be an analogue point that represents the canal water level. Or it could include other data and signals such as the status of equipment, position of a check gate, or speed of water.
The digital points function as the “eyes and ears” of the equipment.
In a worst-case scenario, however, human eyes and ears of CAP employees would operate the system on site.
The backup plan: manual labor
In a manual operations scenario, CAP staff would put boots to the ground to control each piece of equipment and report data points throughout the critical infrastructure that delivers water to more than 80 percent of the state’s population in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties.
This could include:
- Plant employees starting and stopping pumps.
- Aqueduct maintenance employees opening, closing, or adjusting check gates and turnouts to maintain correct flow of water.
- Field employees providing critical data such as water levels, flow rates, or unusual conditions to CAP’s dispatch team.
The severity of the outage would dictate the number of CAP employees needed to operate equipment in the field.
Quite possibly, that could include 24-hour coverage.
Fortunately, many fail-safes, or layers of “redundancy”, are already in place to mitigate mishaps during normal operations.
A will to drill
The manual system-operations drills replicate a live, manual operations scenario. They help ensure CAP dispatchers and other necessary personnel are up to date on manual operating procedures, including calculations and timing.
One example: confirming the time it takes for employees to drive to a specific site such as a check gate, make flow adjustments to the equipment, and then travel to the next site. Consideration also must be given to time required for released water to move from one check gate to a siphon, tunnel, or another check gate, as well as the effect of the timeframe on the flow of water.
So before a disaster would occur, CAP ensures its team of dispatchers, aqueduct crews and maintenance teams are trained to hand-operate the CAP.
They may not be athletes in action, but someday, their efforts could keep the water flowing for millions of Arizonans.