Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Four Elements of Smart Irrigation

If you work in water you know that July is smart irrigation month. If you don’t work in water perhaps you stumbled onto something about it online or in the media if your local water utility is a savvy marketer. 
Why July? 
Traditionally, the numbers indicate that outdoor water-use peaks in July. And if data also indicates that 50% of water applied to landscapes is lost to inefficiency, then we might also conclude that outdoor water waste spikes in July as well.

How many bath tubs?! A Ewing Irrigation infographic

The Four Elements 

Here at IrriGator we know a good educational/marketing opportunity when we see one. So in the run up to this month we set about unpacking the smart irrigation concept. In irrigation the term is usually used to describe a device or technology, but the practice of watering wisely encompasses much more. Here, then, are the four elements of smart irrigation as interpreted by UF/IFAS experts Gail Hansen, Michael Dukes and Kati Migliaccio.

Meanwhile In the Community
While we were busy contributing to the wealth of smart irrigation content online, there were plenty of workshops and events around Florida to inform the public in person. Some of which included:

Further, the main UF campus saw the inauguration of a new trial for the Smartirrigation urban lawn app in North Florida. 

The study site for this trial includes a host of smart technology and will generate additional useful data on the water saving potential of these devices.

Closing Big
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the smart irrigation efforts of Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit. The South Florida-based group saved the best for last in July with an informative video polling a variety of industry and academic experts on how each defines smart irrigation. The answers may surprise you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Taking Its Talents North: Smartirrigation Turf App Under Study in Gainesville

Following successful trials in South Florida that established its water saving potential at between 30 and 40 percent, the Smartirrigation turf app begins testing on the UF campus in Gainesville this week. 

Part of a suite of weather data-informed irrigation apps, the turf app was released in fall 2013. The app works with user location and irrigation system specifics to recommend an appropriate irrigation schedule while also sending notifications about incoming or recent rain events. 

Turf app scheduling will be compared to that of weather-based irrigation controllers 
Trials in 2014 at a test site on the IFAS Tropical REC campus in Homestead compared app scheduling to that of widely available time-based and weather-based controllers. The app demonstrated water savings between 30 and 40 percent.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio is leading the North Florida turf app trial
Why North FL?
“The differences in North Florida and South Florida have to do with rainfall and temperature,” said lead researcher Kati Migliaccio, associate professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE). “The variation in temperature is greater in North Florida, and the variation in precipitation is greater in South Florida.”

The turf app’s water saving potential will also be compared to timers controlled by three different brands of soil moisture sensors.

Right in the root zone: installing a soil moisture sensor at the research site
Study Site
The app trial is taking place on an irrigation plot on the UF campus. In preparation for this study, the Bermudagrass in the plot was rehabilitated during most of 2014. More recently, the research team has replaced older, worn parts on the irrigation system there and determined the distribution uniformity (DU) of the sprinkler heads in use in the plot.

Dr. Jason Kruse leads the Bermudagrass sprig application during summer 2014
Day to day research tasks will be executed by ABE graduate student Ian Hahus. “In contrast to my other work related to large-scale water conservation through water supply with municipalities, this project is more about what each homeowner can do to manage their water,” Mr. Hahus said. “All those little incremental savings can add up to big changes hopefully.”

Graduate student Ian Hahus assists with setting up catch can grids during DU testing
Try It Yourself
While the Smartirrigation turf app proves its mettle under trial in Gainesville, it’s also available now for download on Android and iOS devices. Any Florida or Georgia resident can use this informative guide to learn about the app and begin making weather-based turf watering decisions today.

“A lot of times when you’re setting a controller you aren’t exactly sure how many minutes to program,” Ms. Migliaccio said. “What the app does is it tells you based on evapotranspiration how many minutes you should set your controller to get the best water-use efficiency out of that water and also to keep your plants healthy.”