AbstractAlthough various optimization algorithms have been developed for operational purposes, the development of new optimization algorithms is still an open problem due to the complex system of irrigation canals that must be addressed. Recently, a new algorithm named gray wolf optimization (GWO) has been introduced and applied in different contexts. It mimics the social hierarchy and hunting behavior of gray wolves in nature. In this research, GWO was formulated, developed, and linked to irrigation canal system simulation (ICSS) to schedule water delivery. A fitness (optimization) function was defined according to the standard water delivery performance indicators. Normal and water shortage operational scenarios in the E1R1 Dez canal in Iran were tested and evaluated. The results revealed that GWO is a powerful optimization method and avoids local optimal points when normal conditions exist. However, it has relatively poor performance in water shortage conditions in which there is not enough water. Water depth variations remain inside acceptable margins. Its results were comparable to fuzzy state, action, reward, state, action (SARSA) learning (FSL) in the same canal, showing a value of maximum absolute error (MAE) and integral absolute error (IAE) of 10.7% and 9.2%, respectively, and it can distribute water between turnouts adequately, efficiently, equitably, and dependably in normal conditions.