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As with any major purchase, managers need to gather essential information before making a decision.
"Be very clear on what your needs are," says Warren Gorowitz with Ewing Irrigation. "Do you need flow management? You can't manage what you can't measure. Do you want remote access to your system? Evaluate your irrigation system, and make sure everything is working properly. You can put a smart controller on a dumb irrigation system and waste lots of water." He also advises managers to consider costs beyond the system's installation. Among the biggest long-term need, he says, is "having the maintenance budget to keep the systems working properly. You can't ignore maintenance on an irrigation system."
Clark advises managers to evaluate landscapes and turf areas to understand their irrigation requirements.
"The first thing is to evaluate what they're trying to irrigate," he says. "If it's a university, it might be a sports turf manager who's trying to irrigate sports fields. That may be an intramural field, which would be nearly as important as the stadium, and in that case, they would have different needs. On the other hand, the person might not be responsible for athletics but is responsible for campus grounds. In that case, he's got to look at the campus and determine what he needs to irrigate and how he needs to irrigate it."
For managers who already have an irrigation system, they need to evaluate the system's condition and efficiency.
"It's always amazing to me when I discover that people don't do a routine wet check on systems," he says. "Turn the system on and have it operating and go out and observe how all of your devices are working."
As with any complex undertaking, the process of specifying, purchasing, installing and operating an irrigation system with smart controller is fraught with potential problems.
Consider long-term costs for system operation and maintenance, Gorowitz says: "Don't go with the lowest bid for installation or materials."
Clark says managers also can avoid mistakes by getting outside help in making the decision.
"Either do your research on an independent basis and learn about products that are available and make your own judgments, or hire an independent person who does that for a living to help you learn about the products so you can make good decisions," he says. "You need to understand your needs before you go out and spend $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 to upgrade your irrigation system."
Finally, managers need to avoid treating all areas of landscapes the same when it comes to irrigation.
"Even though they have the right plant, they don't necessarily have it in the right place because the drought-tolerant or native species is going to receive as much water as the turf is receiving," Restuccia says. "You have to really be sure you are placing plants with the same water requirements in the same area so that you are not overwatering some plants to meet the water requirements of the heavy-water-using plants."
Spotlight: Irrigation Association
The Irrigation Association is the leading membership organization for irrigation equipment and system manufacturers, dealers, distributors, designers, consultants, contractors and end users. The association promotes efficient irrigation technologies, products and services by:
For more information, visit www.irrigation.org.
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