4 FM quick reads on grounds care
1. Irrigation Spotlight: Water Conservation
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, irrigation and water conservation.
Landscape sustainability is become a hot-button issue grounds managers. It also has become a boardroom priority in many institutional and commercial facilities, and managers without a plan for sustainability soon will fall into the minority. The challenge for managers developing and implementing a plan comes from tougher local conservation rules, ever-increasing water costs, and stiffer federal regulations.
The good news is that technology has come a long way. A plethora of new techniques and technologies can help produce sustainable landscapes. Using the latest intelligent water-conservation and landscaping strategies, managers can earn a three-year return on investment, as well as pretty hefty annual cost savings.
Before specifying an irrigation system, managers will need a professional design prepared by a certified irrigation designer. This design should incorporate the latest technology and most efficient irrigation methods. The design might come with an additional cost, but the long-term return on investment will provide greater benefits.
The system also should include a smart controller to take advantage of the many new technologies available within the system. Some of these technologies include flow-control valves, soil-moisture sensors, remote-control options, and on-site weather stations. To save potable water, managers can recycle many water sources from buildings and grounds for use on landscapes. For example, managers can recycle captured rainwater, blowdown water from boilers and cooling towers, recycled gray water, and even air-conditioner condensate.
Managers also can arrange to have treated water from a public agency conveyed to the landscape for non-potable landscape use. Reusing this water creates a net benefit to the local watershed by using the landscape as a filter and part of the natural water-treatment process.
2. Water Conservation: Focus on Irrigation
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, water conservation and irrigation.
As water conservation continues its rise up the list of priorities for many grounds managers, the search continues for new strategies and areas of focus. For some facilities, the single largest user of water is the irrigation system. Reviews of irrigation-system operations show that on average, these systems waste 40 percent of the water they use. The key to minimizing water use is to limit watering schedules and volume based on plant needs and recommended schedules.
For example, crews cannot simply set watering schedules and forgot them. Water requirements change based on changes in daily temperatures, wind speed, humidity, and length of day. Setting and forgetting watering schedules not only wastes water. It can actually damage plants by overwatering.
Managers can automate watering schedules through the use of smart controllers, which monitor environmental conditions and adjust the schedule to reflect these conditions. Smart controllers keep the irrigation system off when it is raining or just after a rain, and they regulate the amount of water supplied based on actual requirements. Smart controllers on average reduce irrigation-system water requirements by 30 percent.
Another way to reduce irrigation-system water requirements is to follow the recommended watering rates for the types of plants in each area. Ideally, managers should divide the irrigation system into separate zones based not on location, but on watering requirements.
3. Water-Efficient Irrigation
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, water-efficient irrigation.
The primary goal in irrigation for institutional and commercial facilities is reducing use of potable water in landscapes — ideally, by about 50 percent from established baselines. Inefficient irrigation is a big culprit in water waste. Most irrigation systems installed more than five years ago operate at less than 45 percent efficiency. WaterSense guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require a minimum of 70 percent efficiency.
The first step in improving efficiency is to conduct a water audit. Call a licensed landscape or irrigation contractor who can pinpoint waste and recommend strategies for savings. These strategies likely will include installing flow meters to monitor and control water use. Most systems have automatic shutoff features, so if a line happens to break, water flow will cease.
From an efficiency standpoint, drip-irrigation systems are an excellent option. The lines run about 2 inches below the surface, and water drips directly into the roots of plants. Drip-irrigation systems have an efficiency of 95 percent, compared to 50-65 percent efficiency of a traditional, overhead system.
If an existing irrigation system requires optimizing, managers can use several strategies. One strategy involves replacing older irrigation heads. Newer models can greatly improve the accuracy of water disbursement. These models irrigate turf and plants based on the individual amounts required, rather than overwatering in some areas and under-watering in others.
Managers also can have irrigation systems designed and installed so trees, shrubs, and ground-cover plants are in separate zones. As plants become established, the system adjusts or discontinues watering by zone.
4. Sustainability: Integrated pest management
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, integrated pest management.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is gaining popularity among grounds managers seeking more sustainable options for traditional methods of protecting buildings, turf and landscapes from pests. IPM programs offer guidance based on information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment, along with available pest-control methods, to manage pest damage more economically, safely, and sustainably.
One organization, the IPM Institute of North America — www.ipminstitute.org — has developed a certification entitled Green Shield Certified, recognizing institutional and commercial facilities that meet IPM guidelines. A closer look at some of the institute's requirements can offer managers a framework for making the move to IPM.
To achieve the Green Shield certification, a facility must meet minimum requirements. For example, the facility needs to meet legal requirements for posting and notification of pesticide applications, for pesticide applicator training and certification, and for recordkeeping on pesticide application. The facility also must provide proper personal protective equipment and ensure it is in good condition and used when appropriate.
The facility also must have corresponding copies of the pesticide label and material safety data sheets for applied pesticides in a central location and available to staff or the public.