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Water Conservation: Focus on Irrigation




June 5, 2012 - Grounds Management

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.

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