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U. S. DEPARTMENT
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS-BULLETIN NO. 146.
A. C. TRUE, Director.
USE IN LIFTING
PREPARED IN TIrE OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS,
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS.
A. C. TimE, Ph. D., Director.
E. WV. ALLEN, Ph. D., ;ls~itantlI Direct or.
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS. ':.
A. C. Tat'E, Phi. D., Director'.
E. W. ALLEN, Ph. D., A.ssistan t Director'.
ELWOOD MEAD, Chief.
R. P. TEELE, Editorial A.lsi.tunt.
C. E. T. IT, .Issis/Rjjt, in Charge of Central IDistrict.
SAMUITEL FORTIER, Irrigation EIngi neer, in (Chirge of IPacific District.
C. (.. ELLIOTT, Engineer, in Charge of Drainage Investigations.
LETTER OF TRANSMITFAL.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS,
IIshingiion, I). C., May 10, 1904.
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on the use of
current wheels for raising water for irrigation, and to recommend its
publication as a )bulletin of this Office.
Very respectfully, A. C. TRUE,
Hon. JAMES WVILSON,
S met'ctr/fOIf Af f' tl/' Irff/ .
LETTER OF SUBMITTAL.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
OFFICE OF EXPERIMENT STATIONS,
Washington, D. C., M1ay 10, 1904.
SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith a report describing a large
number of current wheels in use in the arid West and in Italy. P
Current wheels are often the cheapest means of raising small vol-
umnies of water short distances where much larger volumes are flowing
by. A wheel can lift only a small percentage of the water passing it,
and the cost of construction increases so rapidly with increased size
that the large wheels necessary for high lifts can not be profitably
built. But there are many places along streams and the upper sections
of canals where enough water for a few acres can be lifted a few feet
with almost no cash outlay and without injury to the lower users,
except for the small quantity of water taken.
The great advantage of current wheels is their extreme cheapness of
construction and operation where conditions are favorable. A farmer
of ordinary ingenuity, having a few tools, can usually build a wheel,
principally from materials which are lying around his buildings, with
little or no cash outlay. If the wheel is well built, the cost of opera-
tion will be limited to the purchase of oil and the making of repairs.
However, the obtaining of the best results depends upon the obser-
vance of correct principles in the construction of the wheels, but the
following of these principles involves no increased expense. The
report herewith submitted contains a discussion of the theory of cur-
rent wheels and descriptions, photographs, and drawings of a large
nunmbl)er of wheels now in use, with discussions which bring out their
good and bad features. The territory from which information has
been gathered embraces five States: Prof. S. Fortier, of Berkeley,
Cal., furnishes the data regarding wheels in California; C. G. Elliott,
engineer, in charge of drainage investigations, collected the informa-
tion from Washington; Prof. J. S. Baker, of the Montana Agricultural
Experiment Station, from Idaho; E. R. Morgan, agent and expert in
irrigation investigations, from Utah; C. E. Tait and Arthur P. Stover,
assistants in irrigation investigations, from Colorado; and Elwood
Mead, chief of irrigation investigations, from Italy. The discussion
of the theory of current wheels and of the wheels described was pre- 4
pared by Albert Eugene Wright, agent and expert. .
The publication of this report as a bulletin of the Office of Experi-
ment Stations is recommended.
Chief of Irrigation bmvustigations.
A. C. TRUE, Dir'ector.
Construction of current wheels ------.------------------------------------ 7
Theory of power in current wheels -----------------.......----------....----------- 7
Theoretical calculation of efficiency...................................---------------------------------- 8
Practical operations ..................................................----------------------------------------------- 9
Examples of wheels in actual use-.....------------------------------..........--------- 10
Wheels on the South Platte at Denver ..-------..-----.......----------..---------... 11
A big wheel in Grand River Valley, Colorado.------.-------------..------ 12
Cheap structures in \Vashington, Utah, and Colorado.................. -------------------13
A contrast in cost of two Washington wheels........................... --------------------------15
Design by a mining engineer--...-----......------....---------------......-----------... 17
Construction for a swift current in Idaho.........----------------...-------------........... 17
Direct-lift wheels in Idaho ............-----------------.--------.....-..----------.------ 18
Wheels for running pumIps ---------.......------..------...-----------..------------.. 19
Chain-and-bucket gears -----------------------.....-.....---.----------.------- 20
Italian current wheels ----------.--..----....--.------...........---...-------......---------- 21
I1. U S T" R A T1 ) N S.
PLATE I. Fig. 1. Current wheel, Farmers and Gardeners' Ditch, Colorado.-
Fig. 2. Wheel near Morgan City, Utah .......................... 14
II. Fig. 1. Wheel on Yakimna River, Washington.-Fig. 2. Wheel in
Fancher Creek Nursery, Fresno, Cal --------...---.--.--------.------- 16
III. Wheel operating a rotary pump, Yakima River, Washington ------- 18
IV. Chain and bucket. ol)erated hy overshot wheel, Selah, Wash........ --------20
Fig. 1. Diagrams of current wheels with paddles set at various angles ------ 22
2. Wheel on G(rand Valley Canal, Colorado. --------------------------23
3. Flume and brush guards for wheel on Grand Valley Canal, Colorado. 24
4. Wheel on Farmers and Gardeners' Ditch, Colorado ---------------- 24
5. Wheel at. North Yakinma, Wash ................................... 25
6. Lifting device for small wheel---...---------------...... ----------.. -------. 25
7. Wheel near Morgan City, Utah ................................... 26
8. Wheel in Lower Natchez Valley, Washington ----------------------27
9. Wheel on South Platte River, near mouth of Bear (Creek, Colorado.- 28
10. Wheel on Yakima River, Washington ---------..----...----------------. 29
11. Wheel in Fancher Creek Nursery, Fresno, Cal ---------------------30
12. Wheel on Lost River, Id(laho ------------------------------------31
13. Lifting device for current wheel on Lost River, Idaho -------------- 31
14. Kind of wheel in Payette Valley, Idaho---------..----------------- 32
15. Framing for flume for wheel shown in fig. 14 .---....------------------- 33
16. Framework and raising alpparatus for wheel shown in fig. 14 -------- 34
17. Details of Nwheel shown in fig. 14 .......--------------..........------------------- 35
18. Current wheel operating pump in Payette Valley, Idaho ------------ 36
19. Framing and gearing for wheel shown in fig. 18 --------..------------ 37
20. Wheel in Yakima Valley, Washington ...-------------.......--..-----...-------- 38
21. Chain and bucket operated by current wheel-..----------......------------ 38
CURRENT WHEELS: THEIR USE IN LIFTING WATER
CONSTRUCTION OF CURRENT WHEELS.
The practical experience of many irrigators in thle construction and
use of current wheels has been collected and is here presented as an
answer to inquiries regarding their cost and efficiency.
In its simplest form a current wheel consists of a large skeleton
roller made of wood, with paddles projecting} beyond its rim. It is
hung on a shaft and supported at both ends by piers or posts, so as to
allow the wheel to dip into the water to the width of the paddles.
The simplest device for raising water with such a wheel is a row of
buckets placed on the rim so as to fill at the bottom of the wheel and
empty into a trough near the top. A more complicated way is to
connect the wheel to chain and bucket gear, or to a purp) of some sort.
These more difficult methods of construction are necessary in all cases
where it is desired to raise the water to a height greater than the
diameter of the wheel used.
THEORY OF POWER IN CURRENT WHEELS.
While a homemade undershot water wheel develops l)ut little of
the power in a running stream, still the action of the crudest wheel is
governed by certain principles, an understanding of which will aid
the builder in improving the design of his wheel, thereby increasing
Current wheels, unlike overshot wheels, do not act by the weight of
the water, but by the impulse or dynamic pressure of moving water.
The power contained in running water is expressed in terms of the
distance through which the water would have to fall in order to attain
the velocity observed. This distance is called the velocity head. A
body falling freely 4 feet attains a velocity of 16 feet per second. Hence
water flowing 16 feet per second has a velocity head of 4 feet. In
other words, if an inclined plane were placed in such a stream, the
water would run iup it to the height of 4 feet before coming to rest.
Thus the power contained in 1,000 pounds of water running 16 feet
per second is exactly sufficient to raise a weight of 1,000 pounds 4 feet.
This weight may or may not consist of the moving water itself. The
usual velocity in streams is from 1 to 4 feet per second, representing
velocity heads of from one-fourth inch to 3 inches, so that some means
other than an inclined plane must be used to raise water to a service"::-' S"
able level. In any case work is performed only when the motion of
the water is checked. The current wheel, by checking the motion of !
a large quantity of water to some degree, raises a very small quantity !
of water to a height ten or a hundred times as great as the velocity
head in the stream, i
THEORETICAL CALCULATION OF EFFICIENCY.
The speed at which a current wheel revolves may be regulated by
increasing or decreasing the number and size of the buckets on the
rim. When the load is so heavy that the wheel does not start, it is
evident that although the water strikes the paddles with great pres-
sure no work is done. Again, if the wheel is not loaded at all, and ,i3|
turns as fast as the water moves under it, speed is developed, but no
appreciable l)pressure is exerted on the paddles. Halfway between
these extremes lies the mean of greatest advantage; therefore the
wheel should be so loaded as to move one-half as fast as the water.
Given a wheel the rim of which moves one-half as fast as the water, :|
its efficiency depends on the design of the paddles. For the amount
of work imparted to the wheel by the water depends on the change in
its absolute velocity in turning the wheel, which is largely governed |
I)by the angle at which the paddles are set. But dynamic pressure of
water varies with the square of velocity, and the work imparted will
vary as the square of the initial velocity minus the square of the final
velocity. This relation is expressed by the formula" k (x v --
in which k is the work imparted to the wheel, W is the weight of
water that conies into action each second, v is the-initial velocity of the
water, p1 is its final absolute velocity, and g is the force of gravity.
In any given set of conditions W, v, and g have constant values. The
only way, then, to increase the amount of work done is by reducing v,.
In other words, if the water could be made to leave the vanes with an
absolute velocity of zero, the power imparted to the wheel would
equal the total dynamic energy of the stream, and the efficiency of
the wheel would be 100 per cent. In figure 1 a series of wheels is
shown with the paddles arranged at various angles. At (a) is shown i
the most common form, a wheel with plain radial paddles. Since the
wheel moves one-half as fast as the water, the water will leave the M
paddle, in the direction of the small arrow, with a velocity one-half as :|
great as that of the stream. Owing to the horizontal motion of the W
paddle, the absolute discharge of the water will be in a diagonal direc- j
tion, and its absolute velocity will be the initial velocity divided by :'
V/2. Since the energy in moving water varies with the square of the |||
t Merriman-Hydraulics, 8th edition, p. 406.
"All text figures referred to will be found at the end of the bulletin. T
velocity, the water discharged has one-half of the energy of the water
striking the paddles. Hence one-half of the energy is lost, and the
efficiency of tlhe wheel is 50 per cent.
Similar reasoning will show that in the wheel marked (1), the
paddles of which slant upstream 34) degrees from vertical, thile water
is discharged with an absolute velocity one-half as great as the enter-
ing velocity, giving an efficiency of 75 per cent. At (c) the blades
slant 45 degrees from vertical, giving an efficiency of 85 per cent. At
(d) the paddles are set 10 degrees from vertical, giving an efficiency of
93 per cent. At (e) the paddles are supposed to discharge the water
in a direction directly opposite to the wheel's motion, so that it leaves
the wheel with no absolute velocity whatever. In that case the
efficiency would be 1WO) per cent.
Certain practical considerations, however, of which no account is
taken in the above theoretical discussion, prevent the adoption of
several of the forms of wheel shown in figure 1. First. the loss by
"impact," or the churning and eddying of water, is very great when
the water strikes flat on a paddle, as at (i). At (,i) the eddy formed
in the sharp angle between the paddle and the rim is equally wasteful.
It is impossible to avoid impact altogether in any water wheel, but it
is least detrimental in a wheel like the one shown at (f) in which the
paddles are curved. The intention is that thile watter shall strike the
blades nearly at a tangent, and slide smoothly up them, coming to rest
near the top. In sliding out, the reaction is in line with the motion
of the wheel, and the absolute velocity of the tail-water is very low.
A wheel of this design has reached a working efficiency of 4.S to 75
per cent." which is about twice the efficiency usually obtainable in a
wheel with straight paddles. Impact is seen to be a leading factor in
reducing the efficiency of wheels.
In all carefully built wheels where the water is run under the wheel
through a flume, it is necessary to provide ample waste way for the
tail-water. The fall in the tailrace below the wheel is of course light,
so as to get the greatest possible fall above; but it must he great
enough to make the tail-water flow away without checking the wheel.
In order to avoid unnecessary churning of the water, it is advisable
to have not less than 12 paddles, in order that at least two may at all
times be in the water. In the case of a large wheel set in a flume,
more paddles should be provided to avoid the necessary loss between
the flume and the paddles. They should dip into the water not more
than one-tenth of the diameter of the wheel, for if they dip too deep,
the pressure of the water is not applied tangent to the wheel, but at a
a Frizell-Water Power, 3d edition, p. 286.
less advantageous angle, and there is also a tendency to throw water
on the lower side. When a wheel is placed in a flume, it is always well
where possible to run the water under a gate, making the paddles
somewhat wider than the depth of the water.
As a matter of practice, the form of paddles shown in figure 1 (e) is
entirely impracticable. The water discharged with no velocity would
be in the way of the next paddle and the loss by impact and backwater
would be so large as to make the wheel worthless. For wheels with
straight paddles, the form shown in figure 1 (b) is found to be most
satisfactory. In this case the paddles leave the water vertically with
no tendency to splash water. Perhaps the most effective easy con-
struction out of flat boards is the one shown in figure 11, page 30,
where the paddle bends at an angle. In this case the usual stiff rim
may be omitted.
EXAMPLES OF WHEELS IN ACTUAL USE.
The foregoing considerations apply in general to all current wheels.
In the descriptions of wheels in actual use, attention will be given to
many points in their design and to constructive details. In the esti-
mates of the cdst of materials, lumber is put in at $25 per thousand
and hardware at about 100 per cent above wholesale prices. The
weight of wheels is computed on the basis of 4 pounds per board foot
for lumber and 450 pounds per cubic foot for ironwork.
WHEELS ON THE SOUTH PLATTE AT DENVER.
In the Farmers and Gardeners' Ditch from the South Platte River
at Denver, Colo., are four wheels of the design shown in fig. 4, and in
Plate I, fig. 1. Each is 4 feet in diameter and raises water 3 feet for
the irrigation of 5 acres in vegetables. The shaft is of 14-inch iron
pipe and works in wooden bearings. Two rows of 1 by 2 inch wooden
spokes are placed 3 feet apart on the shaft. Stiff circular rims of
4 by (1 inch material connect the ends of the spokes, forming a ri-id
wheel for the support of the paddles. There are 18 paddles of 4-inch
boards 6 inches wide and 4 feet in length. The paddles extend 1 foot
beyond the row of spokes at one end, where the buckets are swung
between them. These projecting ends are braced by a third stiff rim
which furnishes a bearing for the buckets. These are half-cylindrical
in shape, being made of tin tacked onto round pieces of wood which
form the ends. They are swung on pins of heavy wire run through
the centers of the end pieces. Being free to turn on the pins, the
buckets will always hang right. side up unless forcibly turned over.
In this case they are turned over when they reach the top of the wheel
by a slender stick placed so as to strike each bucket in turn. A piece
of rubber hose covers the end of the stick, which springs down enough
to let the bucket roll over it without checking the motion of the wheel.
Each of the 18 buckets holds 0.04 cubic foot, so that at each revolution
the wheel raises 0.72 cubic foot. Turning once in 3' seconds, the
wheel raises about 0.2 cubic foot per second. No atteml)t is made to
confine the water of the ditch to a flue so as to bring it all into action
on the wheel.
These wheels are well constructed and are said to have cost $27 each.
Most of the expense appears to have been for labor, since the amount
of material required is so small. The plan calls for 42 board feet of
lumber, 5 feet of pipe for the shaft, Sj pounds of tin (D C), and 5
pounds of No. 1 wire. At fair retail prices the cost for material is
$3.15. This estimate is exclusive of the supporting posts and the flume
for carrying away the water.
These wheels successfully water the gardens for which they were
built and so entirely fulfil the purpose of the gardeners who put them
in. With a little change in design, however, a wheel of this pattern
could be made to raise twice as much water as these raise at present.
In the first place, the wheel revolves almost as fast as the water that
turns it, so that the water which strikes the paddles exerts about one-
third of its power. The remedy is to increase the size of the buckets
until the rim of the wheel moves about half as fast as the water.
Another improvement which would increase the capacity of the wheel
would be to slant the paddles about 30 degrees upstream, or, better
still, a slanting board could be added to each paddle, so as to form an
angle opening upstream.
Of the total available power in tlhe stream, the wheel observed used
20 per cent in '"useful work." By running all the water through a
flume 4 feet wide and changing the design as suggested the amount
of water raised would be largely increased. For $10 a permanent
flume of 2-inch material with a substantial apron and wings could be
Another wheel in the same ditch is built on tile same general plan,
except the buckets are fixed rigidly inl the rimii. It is of less expensive
construction, however, being framed from two buggy wheels with
their rims removed placed 3 feet apart on a shaft. The paddles, of
I-inch boards 6 inches wide, are nailed to the spokes. As before, rows
of braces between the paddles form three stiff rims. The buckets are
formed by nailing sheets of tin to the inside and outside edges of the
paddles so that the two rims form the ends and the paddles form the
bottoms. The sheet of tin on the inside is cut narrower than the one
on the outside. But for the fact that when the wheel is in motion the
water tends to fly away from the center, nearly all the water would
spill from these buckets before reaching the flutme. For this reason a
rather high velocity is necessary to make this wheel work well.
The cost of the wheel was given as $1.85, which is probably the cot
of the shaft, tin, and nails. It was built by the gardener who usesit.
It contains almost exactly the same amount of material as the wheel
first described and, granted an indefinite supply of old buggy wheels,
could be built for about half as much. But it can not be made to raise
the water quite so high, and, on account of spilling the water, is much
less efficient than the first type. Its efficiency could be increased by
slanting the blades, but not by increasing the load; because a high
velocity is essential.
Each of these five wheels irrigates 5 acres in market gardens, an
annual tax of $5 being paid to the ditch company by each gardener.
The ditch has a very constant flow, so that there is always water
enough to run the wheels. Since the water level changes so little, no
device for raising and lowering these wheels is used.
A BIG WHEEL IN GRAND RIVER VALLEY, COLORADO.
A wheel in operation on the Grand Valley Canal, in Colorado, raises
water 30 feet for the irrigation of 40 acres of orchard. The wheel is
34 feet in diameter, the paddles being 8 feet long and 2 feet 8 inches
wide. The spokes are secured at the center by means of castings
and are set at such an angle to the shaft that they come to a point
on the rim of the wheel (fig. 2). To provide sufficient rigidity, a sys-
tem of braces is adopted, making a very substantial construction.
Braces are also run from paddle to paddle and between the arms of
the wheel, so as to form a system of six or eight circular rims.
The buckets consist of long boxes made of 1-inch stuff, set at such
an angle on the rim of the wheel that they will fill nearly full and
raise the water within 2 feet of the top of the wheel.
One interesting feature of this wheel is the method tried for adjust-
ing it to the stage of water. The plan was to counterpoise the weight
of the wheel, balancing it on two heavy supporting timbers. The
adjustment was to be accomplished by means of a windlass, but, owing
to the unexpected increase of weight which occurred when the wheel
became water-soaked, the scheme was abandoned and the support was
made rigid by additional braces.
The training flume for directing the flow of the canal against the
paddles of the wheel is of somewhat unusual construction (fig. 3). A
flume with three channels was built in the canal, the wheel being set
in the center; flashboards are inserted in the two side channels to con-
trol the flow. The effort to prevent the interference of floating mat-
ter with the action of the wheel, by means of a brush guard, as shown,
is not altogether successful, owing to the fact that it checks the current
to a considerable extent.
The quantity of water raised by the wheel was measured when all
of the water was running through the center flumnie, and was found
to be 0.36 cubic foot per second, which is the maximum capacity of
the wheel. Under ordinary conditions, with the side channels open,
it raised about 0.25 cubic foot per second. The wheel moved very
unsteadily, being so heavily loaded that its motion was entirely checked
each time a paddle entered the water, several seconds being required
to back the water Iup to a sufficient extent to start the wheel. It turned
over once in two minutes, having a rim velocity of about 25 per cent
of the velocity of the water.
The cost of the wheel, which was built in 1895, was given as $400.
It contains 1,750 feet of lumber and about 450 pounds of hardware,
which together should cost not more than $90. The operating expenses
are very low. The owner of the wheel is assessed by the ditch conm-
pany at twice the usual rate charged the other users, with the stipula-
tion that the water in the canal must not be appreciably checked. The
assessment is usually about $2 per inch (38.4 Colorado inches equal 1
cubic foot per second).
CHEAP STRUCTURES IN WASHINGTON, UTAH, AND COLORADO.
NEED OF ADJUSTMENT TO STAGE OF WATER.
A 6-foot wheel located at North Yakima, Wash., is showZ in fig. 5.
It is heavily framed of eight 2 by 4 inch arns radiating from a 6-foot
shaft of 5 by 5 inch stuff. The paddles are 1 foot wide and 6 feet
long, each carrying a 1-gallon tin can on either end. These cans are
nailed to a beveled seat, which tips them enough so that they are full
or nearly so when they leave the stream. But even allowing that the
twelve cans discharge their full capacity, the efficiency of the wheel
when observed was only 9 per cent. This low efficiency is due mainly
to the faulty design of the paddles.. They are so wide in proportion to
the size of the wheel, and they dip so deep in the water that the wheel
wastes its energy in churning the water, both as the paddles enter and
as they leave the water. The advantage of balancing a wheel of this
size by placing buckets at both ends is probably too small to pay for
the extra fluming required.
This wheel is nearly twice as heavy as the one first described (page
10) and it requires three times as much water to run it, yet it raises
less water. It is very substantial and requires little attention. It cost
$18. As it contains only 80 feet of lumber, it could easily be repro-
duced for less money, as its simple construction would require no
special skill. Not being adjustable for high and low water, it runs
to great advantage just when there is the best supply of water to
CHEAP AND EFFICIENT.
Another wheel of the same design is small and well built, and, con-
sidering that it runs in a current moving only 1 foot per second, is
remarkably efficient. It has a simple and effective device for raising
and lowering the bearings, which is shown in fig. 6. The buckets re
all on one side and raise the water much higher than necessary to reach
the flume. The wheel cost $13 and contains about 75 feet of lumber, .,.:
includingg the supports but not the flume.
AN OLD WAGON HUB AS A BASIS.
An ingenious wheel installed in a ditch near Morgan City, Utah, is.
shown in Plate I, fig. 2, and in fig. 7. It is built by inserting spokes
of 1-inch material 3 feet long in an old wagon hub. The spokes are
made rigid by two sets of braces. The paddles are 18 inches long
and 8 inches wide, and the twelve buckets hold nearly 1 gallon each,
being tilted slightly by wedge-shaped blocks placed beneath them.
The shaft is supported on one side of the wheel only, being made
fast to a tree at one end and resting on a post near the wheel. The
wheel is but half the width of the ditch, a small gate closing the other
half when the wheel is in use. This arrangement doubles the veloc-
ity of the water when the gate is closed and affords a means of regu-
lating the amount of water raised. The wheel irrigates one-fourth
acre of garden, and could be made to serve a much larger tract.
IRRIGATION FOR TWELVE ACRES OF ORCHARD.
A very simple wheel is shown in fig. 20. It is 14 feet in diameter
with paddles 9 feet long and 2 feet 8 inches wide. It raises water 10
feet. The shaft consists of a 14-foot length of 1i-inch gas pipe with
four 2 by 8-inch pieces bolted around it for stiffness and to give a
bearing for the arms. This gives the shaft alone a weight of over
300 pounds, or more than twice the weight of a 2-inch solid steel shaft
the same length. The construction calls for 328 feet of lumber, but
it could be built very much lighter without reducing its capacity.
Its cost is given as $35. The lumber could be purchased for $8.50
and the galvanized iron for $3.50, making the cost of materials about
$15, allowing for the gas pipe and bolts. The wheel raises 0.11 cubic
foot of water per second, irrigating 12 acres of orchard and garden.
BUCKETS MADE OF OIL CANS.
A somewhat larger wheel in a ditch in the Lower Natchez Valley,
Washington, is shown in fig. 8. It is 11 feet in diameter, having
paddles 9 feet long and 14 inches wide. It raises water 7 feet. Part
of the buckets are made of galvanized iron and part are made by cut-
U. S. Dept. of Agr.. Bul 146, Office o'f Expt. Stations
FIG. 1.-CURRENT WHEEL, FARMERS AND GARDENERS' DITCH, COLORADO.
FIG. 2.-WHEEL NEAR MORGAN CITY, UTAH.
ting 6 inches from the bottom of 5-gallon oil cans. The wheel alone
contains 328 feet of lumber. The method of bracing the arm is very
effective. There are no data at hand for determining the efficiency.
EFFECTIVE USE OF WAGON WHEEL AND AXLE.
An example of extreme lightness of construction in a 15-foot wheel is
shown in fig. 9, illustrating a wheel on the South Platte River near the
mouth of Bear Creek, Colo. It is built entirely of 1-inch lumber and an
old wagon wheel. The arms are of 1 by S inch boards, and are braced
by boards of the same dimension about 2 feet from the outer ends.
Baling wire connecting the outer ends of the arms helps to stiffen the
wheel. The paddles are 4 feet long and 18 inches wide; the arms are
not nailed in the centers of the paddles but a little toward one end,
the longer parts of the boards serving to balance the buckets. The
entire wheel contains about 85 feet of lumber and weighs scarcely 350
Its most interesting feature is the method of hanging it and adjust-
ing it to different heights of water. The wagon hub fits on its origi-
nal bearing, half of the old axle being bolted to a lu-inch beam about
20 feet long. This beam is suspended between two posts set near the
wheel, by a chain wound on a drum. The other end is free to move
vertically between two smaller posts set as guides. The weight of the
10-inch log balances the wheel, and it can be raised or lowered
easily by one man.
The velocity of the water was not measured, so it is not possible to
get at the efficiency of this wheel. It raises 0.25 cubic foot per second
10 feet, which is five or six times the amount of work done by the
small wheels of about the same weight.
A CONTRAST IN COST OF TWO WASHINGTON WHEELS.
A much larger wheel than any of the foregoing is shown in PI. II,
fig. 1, and in fig. 10. It is in operation on the Yakima River in Wash-
ington. It is 26 feet in diameter, and the 16 paddles are 11 feet long
and 24 inches wide. It raises water 22 feet. In a wheel of this size
and weight great strain comes on the center fastenings of the spokes.
The heavy shaft and large cast-iron rosettes" used in this wheel, with
the wedges driven in between the arms, make it a model for rigidity
and strength. The buckets of galvanized iron are placed on the out-
side of the rims and parallel to them, being beveled in such a way that
they fill about two-thirds full and begin to spill when about 4 feet
from the top of the wheel. Wooden buckets are also used, made as
shown in PI. II, fig. 1.
The device for raising the wheel is shown in fig. 10. Since the
wheel weighs about 6,000 pounds it is evident that the lever will have
to be rather long to make it possible for one man to adjust the wheel.
The materials used in the wheel are about 1,250 feet of lumber, 120 jl
pounds of flat iron for the ties, a shaft weighing 260 pounds, 4 iron I
rosettes weighing together 200 pounds, 20 pounds of 3-inch bolts, and 3
say 100 pounds of galvanized iron. Allowing 10 cents a pound for .i
the iron and 50 cents each (13 cents per pound) for the cans, the cost i
for materials is $106 for the wheel alone. The cost was given by the 1
owner as $600, this amount including the pier, platform, and flaming. :
In putting in large wheels it will usually be found that the cost of the
wheel itself is a smaller item than the cost of a single crib pier for I
mounting it. The two cribs for this wheel were placed on a sandy
bottom and rest on piles.
This large and expensive wheel irrigates but 15 acres of fruit and
alfalfa, making a total cost of $40 an acre for water. This heavy cost 2
shows first that the advantage of a swift current may be largely offset
by great expense for piers, and it shows also the rapid increase in the
cost of irrigation, as the elevation of a piece of land above the source
of water increases. The cost of materials for this wheel, disregard-
ing the mounting of it, was about $7 for each acre irrigated, while the
materials for the wheels described in pages 9 and 10, which irrigated 5
acres each, cost a little more than $3, or say 70 cents per acre. In
general, twice the height of lift means half as much water and usually
four times as great cost for materials. Again, the annual repairs and cost
of maintenance in the case of the small wheel were too small to reckon,
while this large wheel requires $25 a year for maintenance and repairs,
or nearly $1.70 per acre. So great is the disadvantage of a high lift
that, unless the value of water for irrigation is very high, the building
of large direct-lift wheels is not to be recommended. :
There are two large wheels in the Columbia River at Ellensburg,
Wash., which discharge into one flume, both being the property of
one man. Though of the crudest construction, they irrigate 40 acres
of land. Their chief claim to interest is their great size, one 42 and
the other 30 feet in diameter, and extremely low cost, one having cost
the builder in cash $10 and the other $7.50. There is almost no iron- a
work about them, the only money paid out being for nails and the |
lighter lumber. The heavy parts are built of drift logs and odd tim- |
bears. This low cost, as estimated by the builder, shows the difficulty :'
in estimating the probable cost of reproducing any certain style of
wheel. The necessary expenditure depends very largely on the inge- A
nuity of the builder. The water is carried in two siphons under pres- '
sure to avoid a high flume. The upper flume was built on account of'-
the great difficulty encountered in keeping the lower flume tight under
a pressure of 30 feet. The pressure on the upper flume is about 12 i
.... ::.::: ..
U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul. 146, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigation Investigations.
FIG. 1.-WHEEL ON YAKIMA RIVER, WASHINGTON.
FIG. 2.-WHEEL IN FANCHER CREEK NURSERY, FRESNO, CAL.
DESIGN BY A MINING ENGINEER.
The wheel shown in P1. II, fig. 2, and in fig. 11 is in use in Fresno,
Cal., for the irrigation of about 12 acres of shade trees and oranges.
It is patterned after a design by a mining engineer, and is in some
respects an admirable and efficient type of current wheel. It is 16
feet in diameter, raising water 12 feet. The stiff heavy rims found in
most wheels are entirely absent, and instead a series of braces is used
which cross the arms and support the paddles. Each paddle is made
of two 24-inch boards set at a wide angle with each other. As is
shown in the drawing, the angle is such that the paddle leaves the
water in a vertical position, with no tendency to throw water.
The form of the buckets is also commendable. They are carefnily
designed to clear the bottom of the flume and the edge of the discharge
trough, and to take in no more water than can be carried to the top)
without spilling. The entire construction requires 500 feet of lumber.
The shaft is very heavy, 215 pounds, b)ut not nearly so heavy as the
two castings which, according to the drawing, must weigh 8o0 pounds
each, making the entire wheel with the buckets weigh about 4,000
The wheel is substantial, but is unnecessarily heavy and expensive.
Admitting the necessity of a rigid center fastening, a disk of i-inch
boiler iron would serve nearly every purpose of the heavy casting.
This wheel could be reproduced the same size but made with 1-inch
and i-inch material, with an iron pipe for a shaft for less than half
the cost. Under favorable conditions the Fresno wheel raises ).5
cubic foot per second to a height of 12 feet. A lighter wheel would
do more work.
CONSTRUCTION FOR A SWIFT CURRENT IN IDAHO.
The wheel shown in fig. 12 has been in use on Lost River, Idaho.
It was built to raise water about 10 feet for the irrigation of 2.25 acres
in garden and grain. It is 14 feet in diameter, with paddles 6 feet in
length mounted on a shaft 18 feet long, spanning the stream. The
shaft is an 8 by S inch square timber. For 6 inches near each end, it is
turned round to form a bearing. The spokes are very substantial,
being made of 2 by 6 inch material. Each paddle carries a 3-gallon
pickle keg on one end. The kegs are set on a bevel, as shown in the
figure. The device for raising and lowering the wheel is very simple,
consisting of two uprights which support a pulley, beneath which a
wooden bearing is hung by a a-inch rope. A piece of gas pipe is used
as a windlass (fig. 13).
When the wheel was built, it was set between two supports at a
point where the river is about 40 feet wide, the supporting posts being
driven into the bed of the stream at either side of the deeper current.
The swift current in the center of the stream turned the wheel very
satisfactorily for a time, but owing to the soft nature of the bed,
which at this point is composed of coarse gravel, during high water
the current washed out a deep channel directly under the wheel and
left it highli and dry when the flood subsided. To obviate this difficulty,
the wheel is to be remounted between two crib piers at a point where
the river channel at high water is only about 15 feet wide. In low
water the channel is only about 10 feet wide, the current being about
5 feet per second. This narrow channel of the river is only a few
years old, and although it appears to consist of a hard cemented
gravel, still it is by no means certain that in the course of time the
wheel may not again be left stranded above the current.
Four hundred feet of lumber were used in building the wheel and
25 pounds of bolts, making the cost of materials about $12, not includ-
ing the buckets. The heavy construction of the wheel would be
unwise under most conditions; but in a current as swift as 5 feet per
second in low water and much swifter when the water is high, any but
the most substantial construction would prove unsatisfactory. The
notching of the main arms where they cross at the center of the wheel
weakens them seriously. Were this avoided by placing one set
nearer the middle of the shaft, leaving space enough so that the rim
of 1-inch boards could be nailed on the inside of one set and on the
outside of the other, 2 by 4 inch material would be strong enough.
While the 8 by 8 inch shaft would sustain a weightat the center of over
10,000 pounds, still it is none too heavy for the wheel weighing 1,600
pounds; since it is evident that the friction in the bearings is greatly
increased by a comparatively slight bending of the shaft. -
The wheel raised sufficient water to irrigate the 2.25 acres in forty-
eight hours, the water being applied four or five times in the season.
It should then raise sufficient water for the successful irrigation of 40
acres using the water for one hundred and sixty days.
DIRECT-LIFT WHEELS IN IDAHO.
In the Payette Valley, Idaho, are a dozen direct-lift wheels of the
same general type shown in fig. 14. This large wheel is very carefully
made, fitting into a flume with only 2 inches clearance. The construc-
tion is shown in figs. 14, 15, 16, and 17. The crude method of raising
and lowering the wheel contrasts with its excellent workmanship. At
the end of the season it is laboriously raised out of the water by jacks
and is blocked up till the opening of another season. While in use it
remains at one height regardless of the stage of the water.
In several ways the efficiency of this wheel could be raised. When
the water is too high to run the wheel to advantage, part of it could
be carried away in a second flume, leaving just enough running under
the wheel to give the greatest speed. Or, better still, a "stop" could
WHEEL OPERATING A ROTARY PUMP, YAKIMA RIVER, WASHINGTON.
be placed in the ditch and the water run into the flume under a gate,
giving it great velocity. In a great many cases a '"stop" or "drop"
already existing in a ditch could be utilized to good advantage in
The cost of the wheel, flume, and supports was $150. For six years
there were no repairs and no running expenses except for grease and
for raising and lowering the wheel twice in a season. In the seventh
year, 1903, repairs cost $50, mainly for a new shaft, and in subsequent
years repairs will doubtless be required to the extent of $10 or $15 a
Twenty-five acres in alfalfa and fruit are irrigated by this wheel,
the value of the crops raised being estimated at $2,337 annually.
WHEELS FOR RUNNING PUMPS.
A wheel operating a rotary pump is shown in Plate 111. It is in
use in the Yakima River, near Prosser, Wash. It is homemade, but a
fine example of a cheap, serviceable wheel. Being suspended between
two heavy timbers anchored in the banks, no expensive pier is required.
The wheel is 11 feet in diameter and 17.5 feet long. The paddles are
2 feet wide of 1-inch stuff. The whole wheel is easily raised and low-
ered by one man by means of double pulleys and .a windlass with long
spokes, seen to the left of the center of the picture.
The main driving pulley is nailed to the spokes of the wheel, and is
7 feet in diameter. A 14-inch rope runs over this pulley, carrying
the power to a 28-inch pulley on a countershaft. The driver on the
countershaft is 10 feet in diameter and is connected by a j-inch rope
to a pulley at the pump, which can be adjusted from 11 inches to a
larger size, as speed requires. The pump shaft revolves 32 times to
each revolution of the water wheel. The pump raises water 48 feet,
and at full speed discharges one-third of a cubic foot per second.
When the river is low, much less is pumped.
The cost of the wheel was $40 to $50 for materials, or, counting the
owner's time in construction, say $70 to $75. Of this cost $20 was for
a steel shaft. The cost of the pump was not given, but was probably
$75 to $85. The entire plant may have cost $200. It successfully
irrigates 18 acres in fruit and alfalfa, the land being valued at $20 per
acre. The annual expense for rope, oil, and repairs is nearly $20.
In the lower Payette Ditch, in Idaho, are eight wheels, used to run
pumps. One of these plants is here described as an example of a well-
built and expensive outfit, which is, however, eminently successful.
The plan and construction of the wheel are shown in figures 18 and 19.
The wheel is connected by chain and sprocket to a 3-piston, 5-inch
pump, which forces the water through 1,800 feet of 43-inch pipe to
the upper side of the owner's ranch, 30 feet above the canal. The
pump has three parallel pistons connected to eccentrics on the same
shaft, so arranged that each piston in turn comes into action. The
cost o(f the plant was as follows:
.5-inch triple action pump ---------.-----.......-------------------... $165
3-inch steel shaft, 18 feet long.--------..------------...-----------........... 35
3 cast-iron flanges, 3 feet diameter.............................. ----------------------------30
2 boxing for main shaft ----------...------------.......--------------... 8
Cast-iron sprocket, gear wheels, and chains --------------------115
Lumber ---.....-------------....-...---------------------.------------... 60
1,800 feet of 4a-incl galvanized-iron pipe ---..-------------------........ 274
Labor ----------...----..........-----------.---------...........----------------...... .... 50
Total .................................................---------------------------------------------.. 737
Of this cost only about $120 is for the wheel. No attention other
than daily oiling is required. As the plant was put in in 1903, no
repairs have as yet been necessary. The annual cost for maintenance
should fall below $10.
The amount of water raised is about 0.3 cubic foot per second,
which is used to irrigate 27 acres in fruit. Water is applied 145 days,
making the total depth of irrigation in the season almost exactly 3
feet. The orchard of 2,500 young trees-prunes, apples, and ptars-
should, when older, yield an annual crop worth $5,000.
A water elevator of the chain-and-bucket type is shown in Plate IV.
It is run by a 5-foot overshot wheel of ordinary construction, bat
since it is equally adaptable to current wheels, it is of interest in their
discussion. The elevator consists of two endless chains running over
sprocket wheels, each chain carrying 12 galvanized-iron buckets, as
shown in the illustration. The lower sprocket wheels are 32 inches in
diameter, set on a 3-inch shaft. The upper sprockets are 21 inches in
diameter on a 1--inch shaft. The sprockets are set 18 inches apart
and the distance between shafts is 20 feet. The cost of the outfit was
given as about $250. Of this amount the chain cost $75 and the
buckets $20. Estimating the four sprocket wheels at $10 each, the
two shafts at $12.50, and the four boxing at $4.50 each, the cost
of the lifting apparatus without the wheel was about $145. The
owner found No. 77 chain too light and recommended heavy gear
throughout for the constant service required.
A simple application of chain-and-bucket gear to current wheels is
suggested in figure 21. The power is transmitted by a rope to one
of the shafts-in this case the lower one. This arrangement makes
it easy to place the whole apparatus near the bank of a stream, or, if
desired, the elevator could be placed at any convenient distance.
U &. t)Ept of Ar., But. 145, O'fice of Expt. Statior.s
"' '. .i .
. "K:: .', *
./ -'.- -F
CHAIN AND BUCKET OPERATED BY OVERSHOT WHEEL, SELAH, WASH.
Irrigation lr., esi ;a;l',"r
ITALIAN CURRENT WHEELS.
Two wheels on opposite sides of the swift Adige River in Italy, just
above the city of Verona, are 50 feet in height, raising water 40 feet.
The construction is the lightest possible owing to scarcity of wood in
that region, the spokes being light single poles braced by two sets of
still lighter strips. The rim is a continuous wooden box divided into
compartments, each with a sort of trap door which opens when enter-
ing the water and closes of itself as it begins to rise. To this box or
rim the paddles are fastened on either side, being nailed to cleats.
They are braced at the ends by slender sticks run through holes bored
in the paddles and keyed or wedged in place. It is usual to arrange
two wheels with a flume between them, though the advantage of this
arrangement is not evident. A wing dam turns the current into a
flume running under the wheel.
A floating current wheel also in the Adige River, is used for oper-
ating a grist mill.
A typical modern current wheel in Milan, Italy, is used for power.
The curved blades are made of sheet iron, the entire framework
being of steel. The water runs swiftly down a sluice striking only
the tips of the blades. Owing to their curvature, it slides smoothly
up the blades, comes to rest, and is discharged with very little veloc-
ity. An offset in the tailrace just below the wheel provides ample
\ /\ !
FIG. 1 .-DIAGRAMS OF CURRENT WHEELS WITH PADDLES SET AT VARIOUS ANGLES. .
/ DETAIL OF BUCKET
SHOWING METHOD OF
4$STEN/NG TO WHEEL BRACES
FIG. 2.--WHEEL ON GRAND VALLEY CANAL, COLORADO.
TAIL OF HUB
'- -- 8"APPfOJ-. 3" -- B "APPROX.
,1 'I e o4t$"
8 .. .
J' '--- 1 --f-- a -
I : :: 1
,| _______ I
I __.4S_ 80.490 _.__1_74H -- -S-
FIG. 3.-FLUME AND BRUSH GUARDS FOR WHEEL ON GRAND VALLEY CANAL, COLORADO.
FIG. 4.-WHEEL ON FARMERS AND GARDENERS' DITCH, COLORADO.
FIG. 5.-WHEEL AT NORTH YAKIMA, WASH.
- -0~ L1 ~. -
FIa. 6.-LIFTING DEVICE FOR SMALL WHEEL.
EIE-A I ON
FIG. 7.-WHEEL NEAR MORGAN CITY, UTAH.
-- 9-0 -
FIG. 8.-WHEEL IN LOWER NATCHEZ VALLEY, WASHINGTON.
Fla. 1 0.--WHEEL ON YAKIMA RIVER, WASHINGTON.
FIG. 11 .-WHEEL IN FANCHER CREEK NURSERY, FRESNO, CAL.
FIG. 12.-WHEEL ON LOST RIVER, IDAHO.
FIG. 13.-LIFTING DEVICE FOR CURRENT WHEEL ON LOST RIVER, IDAHO,
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S "f/anh Vsar
w tks'IVW' l*rI' .A*, r I
S/ID visw or rifAMeO SHOWING G PLUME AND IRLCIVIVNS rfLuMr
,/PrPEa n'NO Viaw
F I F I
RAISING APPARATUS 5
FIG. 17.--DETAILS OF WHEEL SHOWN IN FIG. 14.
0 I 0
/a/, I-,* shawl ma nner
FIG. 19.-FRAMING AND GEARING FOR WHEEL SHOWN IN FIG. 18.
.! .. .
FIG. 20.-WHEEL IN YAKIMA VALLEY, WASHINGTON.
FIG. 21 ,.-CHAIN AND BUCKET OPERATED BY CURRENT WHEEL.
* I .
... .. .. .. ... ........ !E Ei'
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
iiri3 122 08iiii 11111
3 1262 08927 904
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