Landscape Contractor / Design Build Maintain

NOV 2014

LC/DBM provides landscape contractors with Educational, Imaginative and Practical information about their business, their employees, their machines and their projects.

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The concern for water conservation, even in areas of the country not affected by drought, is great. The Toro Company puts it plainly when they state that, "…it is the cost, quality and availability of water that are the issues; and they are growing in importance throughout the country and the world." ETwater, a smart irrigation product manufacturer asserts, "Con- sumers and businesses throughout the U.S. have been facing… great - er water restrictions, and fines for overwatering their property. Water is scarce and the costs for using it are increasing." The most recent drought monitor map showed only a few states that did not have at least one area designated abnormally dry or worse. And according to the EPA, up to 4.5 billion gallons of water are wasted every day in the U.S. - lost to evaporation, wind drift, overlap, overspray, and excessive runoff - because of inefficient ir- rigation systems. It's not an exaggeration to say the need for efficient irrigation design and installation is also great. As the Toro Company concludes, "Our industry needs to be part of the solution. Our future demands it." The Right Aim The technology and knowledge for more sustainable irriga- tion management are at hand. The technology includes smart controllers, precision sprayers and nozzles, rain and soil sensors, valves with pressure regulation, flow sensors and more efficient drip emitters. The knowledge includes the all the science that helps landscape professionals decide when, where and how to use this technology. Probably the biggest hurdles you will face with installing smart ir- rigation systems are customers balking at the added costs. But real cost savings can be realized over the long run. A case study, which will be referenced throughout this article, will show that. In 2004, Pacific Green Landscape began working for Westview Neighborhood HOA in Mira Mesa, Calif., near San Diego. At the time, water bills for the property including its nine acres of slopes, two acres of planters and half acre of turf were running around $16,000 a month. A Green Blueprint As with all irrigation installations, whether new or retrofitted, Pa- cific Green had to first determine the best system design based on the particular landscape they were working with. An exhibit that just opened at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., illustrates this well. Called the Grass Roots Initia- tive, its objective is to promote the economic, environmental, aes- thetic, and recreational benefits of turf grass. "Obviously the industry has come a long way in the last 15 to 20 years," says Geoffrey Rinehart, Grass Roots program coordinator. "You see more precise irrigation, more slow-release fertilizers, bet - ter turfgrass varieties. So this offers an opportunity to showcase the newer varieties in conjunction with best management practices." The exhibit's irrigation system, which was designed by the Irriga- tion Association, has to facilitate many turf elements including a golf hole and a sports field. The plan called for a smart controller, a 2-inch mainline that branches off to 1-inch laterals, and seven different heads from three different manufacturers, not only to demonstrate the numerous op- tions available to landscape professionals but also to serve different purposes. And even though the display does have some ornamental beds, no irrigation was installed in them due to the area's 40 inches of rain annually. Above: Smart irrigation systems include controllers that can adjust schedules based on weather and soil moisture, valves with pressure regulation to prevent misting, and sprinklers that deliver more precise watering such as these from IrriGreen. Modeled after commercial inkjet printer nozzles, they have a digital valve-in-head, pop-up rotor with a 14-stream, multi-volume nozzle. As the sprinklers rotate, a server automatically adjusts stream direction, flow and distance to precisely place water on the turf. Each zone can have up to 50 mapping points. (IrriGreen) 26 LC DBM By Mike Dahl, LC/DBM Water Water W a t e r B y M i k e D a h l , L C / D B M Smarter Smarter S m a r t e r

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