Take steps to improve commercial customer irrigation efficiency

It is the height of irrigation season and everyone is struggling to keep their greenery green. While tips for water conservation often focus on residential lawns or agricultural crops, commercial landscaping offers significant opportunities to save water and reduce utility bills. For municipalities and multi-service utilities, helping these customers improve irrigation efficiency can yield benefits for both consumers and providers.

According to an article in Buildings, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a facility management trade publication, inefficient irrigation methods and systems can waste up to 50 percent of the water they consume. That quickly adds up to a painful water bill for your commercial customers and puts pressure on local water supplies and treatment systems. Share these tips to help facility managers at office parks, golf courses and other public green spaces get control of their irrigation practices.

Take care of your system
Failing to maintain irrigation systems may be the biggest factor leading to massive water waste.

Watering sidewalks is a big waste of water that can be prevented by periodically tuning up an irrigation system.

Watering sidewalks is a big waste of water that can be prevented by periodically tuning up an irrigation system.

One of the reasons for this neglect is that maintenance staffs often lack experience with irrigations systems. For example, when systems break down, they may attempt to make repairs with whatever equipment they can find, not understanding that every sprinkler waters differently. A replacement sprinkler head that does not work properly with the remaining original heads could affect the efficiency of the entire system.

Even working systems need a tuneup from time to time by someone who knows about irrigation. Something as simple as routine landscaping tasks can accidentally redirect a sprinkler head. Watering areas that don’t need it—like sidewalks and pavements near landscaping—can waste enormous amounts of water.

Choose your method
The critical question of which type of sprinkler technology to install–drip or overhead–is best answered in the system design phase. The two main types of irrigation systems each have their own set of pros and cons, many depending on the specific area to be watered.

The drip method of irrigation provides a steadier flow of water that goes directly into the soil, and can reduce water use by as much as 20 percent compared to an overhead sprinkler system. The down side of drip irrigation is that it is susceptible to breaking, and requires a higher quality of water. If you don’t have an in-house irrigation specialist, this may not be a good choice for your facility.

Overhead systems—more traditional sprinklers that spray water above the targeted plants—are likely to be less efficient with water use, but they require less maintenance. This method is suitable for larger lawn spaces, whereas a drip system might be more appropriate for localized shrubs and flowers.

Control, schedule watering
Setting a schedule for your system’s operation over time is vital to reducing water use and will have a big impact on conservation efforts.

The article states that a common mistake is turning on the irrigation system in the spring and keeping the same watering schedule until it is shut off for the winter. Plants generally need less water in May or October than they do in the middle of summer. Adjusting the schedule throughout watering season can not only reduce water waste, it can improve the look and health of the plants.

Big water savings can come from replacing a simple timer with a smart controller that determines watering schedules based on climate or soil moisture. However, educating staff members is critical to getting optimum results from a smart controller. Otherwise, your crew is likely to revert to a time-based schedule because it is easier to understand and gives them more control.

Try xeriscaping
Landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants is another proactive strategy for reducing water consumption. But unlike switching to a new type of sprinkler system, this change is relatively cheap and easy and offers a lot of flexibility.

Using native and drought-resistant plants can drastically reduce the amount of water required to maintain landscaping.

Using native and drought-resistant plants can drastically reduce the amount of water required to maintain landscaping.

The Environmental Protection Agency did a case study on a Texas shopping mall that coupled xeriscaping with changes to its irrigation system to reduce its water use by 60 percent. The Village at Stone Oak in San Antonio saved nearly 14 million gallons of water annually by converting around 50,000 square feet of turf grass to xeriscape and modifying almost 85,000 square feet of its irrigation system.

Utilities in the West have become increasingly aware that combining energy and water conservation efforts often improve the results of both. Feel free to share your ideas for taking customer programs out of silos and getting a bigger bang for your programming buck.

Source: Buildings via RCM Newsletter, 7/31/17

Water conservation strategies topic of California seminar series

CalWaterSeminarsIn response to the historic mandatory restrictions on potable water use enacted by the California State Water Resources Control Board, Redirecting to a non-government site the nonprofit Green Technology initiative Redirecting to a non-government site is presenting seminars throughout the state for utility and construction industry professionals.

Reducing Potable Water Use: Understanding Opportunities in Recent Plumbing Code Changes will explore how changes to the California Plumbing code can help to reduce potable water use. The new codes open the door to establishing standards and guidelines for greywater systems, on-site water recycling and rainwater catchment systems.

Low-flow fixtures and other common water-saving measures cannot reduce water consumption enough to meet the required reductions. This five-hour seminar will introduce building owners and water utility employees to the non-potable water strategies that will take conservation programs to the next level.

Featured speaker Greg Mahoney has more than 25 years of experience in building code enforcement, and is currently the chief building official for the city of Davis, California. In addition to being a certified combination inspector and plans examiner, he is a certified building official, certified access specialist, Leadership Energy Efficient Design accredited professional, Building Performance Institute building analyst and certified Home Energy Rating System rater.

Get an in-depth look at the code specifications and learn how to successfully navigate the design, permitting and inspection process. Mahoney will also cover emergency water conservation regulations Redirecting to a non-government site found in CALGreen that were approved May 29 and went into effect June 1.

Facility managers and design and construction professionals who attend can earn five continuing education units, or CEUs, from the American Institute of Architects. Sessions will also offer renewal points for Build it Green Redirecting to a non-government site (one credit per hour) and Construction Management Association of America Redirecting to a non-government site (one per hour).

To make it easier for busy professionals to attend the seminar, Green Technology is presenting it at five different locations in California:

The $265 registration fee includes lunch, and discounts are available for groups of four or more. Please call 626-577-5700 if you have any questions.

Source: Green Technology, 6/17/15