The dimensioning of canal geometry in a surface drainage network influences the size and functionality of canal structures, reduces flood hazard, and consequently imposes restrictions on land use. Reliable free-surface flow calculation for optimization of the canal network can be challenging because numerous hydraulic structures and canal interactions influence the flow regime. The HEC-RAS software of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Hydrologic Engineering Center is often used for this purpose as it allows the user to simulate the effect of numerous hydraulic structures on flow regime. This paper presents a MATLAB function, DrainCAN, for generating a HEC-RAS model from standard runoff input data, i.e., topographic data and canal design geometry (profile and slope). The DrainCAN function allows for fast optimization of the network geometry—it generates normal flow depth estimation and observed water levels in critical locations that need to be optimized. Advantages of the DrainCAN function are fast generation of the HEC-RAS hydraulic model files from simple input files, introduction of optimization variables in the model, and automatic adjustment of model geometry for computational junctions. This allows fast iteration of the canal design parameters, namely cross-sectional geometry, invert elevation, and longitudinal slope, and the evaluation of introduced changes on the flow regime.
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