By Michael Gutierrez
One of the highlights of every October in the world of water-use research is the WaterSmart Innovations Conference (WSI). The event gathers experts, academics and utility personnel in Las Vegas for several days of presentations on a wide range of water-use related research and initiatives. UF-ABE’s Dr. Michael Dukes, an irrigation specialist focused on efficiency, was in attendance this year and agreed to report back on his WSI experience.
Was there any theme to the presentations you chose to attend this year?
MD: I guess the theme would be my interest in landscape irrigation water conservation. This ranged from rebate “coupons” (as SNWA calls them for smart controllers) to the use of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) for customer messaging and future programs that utilities might implement. It is interesting that SAWS gave a talk on the power of randomized control trials as the best approach to evaluate experimental conservation programs. We here at IrriGator have been doing that from the beginning since its conventional scientific experimental design!
Did you have a favorite of all the talks you attended?
MD: My favorite talks were the ones I tweeted on in general. The SAWS and SNWA talks I tweeted on were excellent based on their thoroughness and relevance to my interests.
You presented on irrigation efficiency at WaterSmart. Can you offer a summary for those not in attendance?Karen Guz w @MySAWS at the @WSIConfExpo points out the importance of behavior in conservation programs... eg rain barrel program increased use! Recommend randomized control trials not pre/post analysis. An @_rachio install on high users looks promising #wsi2018 pic.twitter.com/qJtL46Doth— Michael Dukes (@mddukes) October 4, 2018
MD: I discussed the definition of irrigation efficiency and how it can be used to determine a baseline for evaluation of irrigation systems when improving them such as adding smart controllers (Orange County Utilities) and comparing FFL (Florida-Friendly Landscaping) sites to traditional sites.
You rarely miss a WaterSmart Conference. Why is this an important annual event on your calendar?
MD: Correct! I think I’ve made all of them since inception (2007?). It is the premier water conservation conference in the U.S. It has not just scientists, as many conferences, but also practitioners such as industry and utilities. Great way to see what’s going on across the U.S. and to share what we are doing here in Florida, since most of the dire conservation issues are in California and other western states.
Anything we did not cover that you feel the audience should know about your WaterSmart Innovations experience?
MD: One last thing is the new wireless soil moisture sensor (SMS) company Spiio (my final WSI tweet). We’ll see what happens with that. Everyone is very interested in wireless tech for SMS but the reality in range and battery life hasn’t panned out in the real world.
The B-hyve and Rachio (cloud-based controllers) have been very popular in the SNWA coupon (rebate) program, averaging 800 units/year for the last three years. I’ll be following up on more irrigation tech at the Irrigation Show in Long Beach!Final @WSIConfExpo tweet for 2018. Met this exciting wireless soil moisture sensor @spiio_official company. Looking forward to seeing more of this tech #WSI2018 pic.twitter.com/ZJ2XS1g58K— Michael Dukes (@mddukes) October 9, 2018