Controlling Water Seepage in Canals with Canal Liners
Shane CarterJanuary 13, 2015Agriculture
Irrigation canals have been used for centuries to transport water to crops, and this concept has remained largely unchanged since its invention, save for the added technologies of waterwheels and hydraulics. Traditionally, canals used to transport water to where it is needed were lined with concrete or compacted earth. While earthen canals are relatively inexpensive to build, they lose more than 50 percent of water due to seepage, and also suffer from erosion and vegetative growth. On the other hand, although concrete canals are not plagued by erosion or plant life, they too have major disadvantages; they are more expensive than earthen canals, are prone to cracking over time, and still lose at least 30 percent of water to seepage.
Seepage is not only an issue for agricultural applications that require canals for water transportation, but also for parts of the world where fresh water is a rare, precious commodity. In many areas, fresh water lost through seepage can never be recovered, making properly lined canals an absolute necessity. As fresh water sources become harder to come by, it becomes necessary to conserve as much water as possible; a 1993 study by Washington State estimates that, were seepage to be mitigated from canals, the water within could prove to be a more effective water source.
Geosynthetic membranes can significantly increase the effectiveness of a canal. In 2002, the United States Bureau of Reclamation reported that seepage can be reduced from 50 percent or more for earthen canals to 10 percent for geomembrane lined canals and to less than 5 percent when a canal liner is used in conjunction with a concrete cover. With a geosynthetic pond liner, erosion and vegetative intrusion are eliminated and leakage is also greatly reduced, saving both water and money.
In addition, canal liners help water move rapidly to its destination, reduce irrigation time, and guard against leaks of pollution in landfills. Geosynthetic liners can also be readily replaced or repaired, and many liner products, such as the Aqua 24, offer a 20 year warranty as well as exceptional UV resistance. Not only are canal liners suitable for new construction projects but they are also used for lining existing concrete or earthen canals that may be leaking water. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has found that the benefits of installation far outweigh the costs. For every $1 spent on maintaining your canal liner, $10-12 worth of water is conserved.
There are several different types of canal liners available to meet your particular needs. One of the most popular lining materials is made from reinforced polyethylene and suitable for lining canals, golf course ponds, recreational ponds, construction ponds, retention ponds, and more. With adequate UV resistance for buried applications, reinforced polyethylene liners are also easy to heat weld together, making them useful for projects of any size. Another type of liner is made with reinforced polypropylene, a flexible plastic with great UV and chemical resistance. Used primarily for exposed applications, RPP liner materials can be seamed together with heat for large applications, and it can be rolled and folded for easy shipping and deployment.
Whether placed over concrete or earth in a new construction or renovation of a canal, geosynthetic canal liners provide superior protection against water loss due to seepage. As fresh water becomes even more difficult to procure, the demand for secure fluid containment and transport systems will increase. Canal liners are an economical, effective solution to the problem of seepage, erosion and vegetative intrusion.
Western Environmental Liner is a leading manufacturer of canal liners on a global scale, and our dedicated staff is ready to help you choose the right liner for your application. Use our pond liner calculator to see how many square feet of containment liner you need, or contact us today to see which canal liner material is right for you.