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Water Management: Key Tips for Commercial Properties

Water management is an important consideration for most individuals and businesses. And with a large number of users, each of whom has a wide variety of needs, it becomes even more important for commercial properties. Inefficient usage and outright waste can become commonplace and difficult to detect, and a lack of foresight can make it more challenging to fix the problems going forward.

But along with those challenges are hidden opportunities to improve water management and maximize the resources you already have. Reducing waste and reusing existing water can go a long way in creating a smart water management system.

Outside Efficiency/Conservation

Landscaping creation and maintenance can use a great amount of water, and at first glance, it might seem like there are limited ways to reduce that usage. In reality, most commercial properties can do a better job in this area, and there are a number of considerations that can make landscaping water uses more efficient.

Plant choices and care. Plants that are native to the area are used to thriving in current rainfall patterns, as opposed to decorative flora that require more water than the area produces naturally in order to stay healthy. Keeping the areas free of weeds is also important since they use valuable water and using herbicides can contaminate the water already in use, which increases your landscape requirements. Manual weed-pulling and raising mower blades to strengthen root growth are a couple of additional simple ways to maximize water usage.

Soil Maintenance. Taking care of a plant’s soil can make a significant difference with regard to its water usage. Using quality mulch (and reapplying it every year) helps trap moisture and retain soil nutrients. Maintaining topsoil captures rainfall and makes it available to plants. And incorporating soil amendments, such as compost, can help reduce the rate at which the soil drains and improve irrigation usage significantly.

Reclaimed water. Using reclaimed water for landscaping needs is not only a good use of existing resources, it also provides extra benefits to the plants that utilize it. Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen (which are often more abundant in reclaimed water) help fertilize landscaped areas, saving money and resources on two fronts.

Inside Efficiency/Conservation

While plants and flowers use their share of water, human needs can be even greater, including both potable and non-potable needs.

Water savers. Water-efficient toilets and urinals, sinks, showerheads, and faucets will go a long way toward reducing water consumption without restricting its use for common needs. Water aerators and flush valves are inexpensive tweaks to existing facilities and can reap great savings in monthly water usage. And the use of no-touch faucets and water-free urinals and Energy Star-rated appliances can reduce the need to water even further. While each location has its own needs and uses, many solutions can be utilized by almost every commercial property.

Education. While plants can’t be taught how to use less water, people can benefit from education in conservation methods. If making smart water decisions is a priority, employees and tenants will get the message and contribute to the effort. A mindful adherence to a water savings plan, and an understanding of why some changes are being made, will contribute toward successfully reducing the use of (and demand for) water in several areas of everyday life.

Commerical Water Management
Commercial Water Management Facility

Creative Reuse and Other Tips

With a little creative planning, commercial properties have additional opportunities to re-use or gather water. Regulating water pressure in a facility can not only save water but reduce stress on pipes and lines. Collecting condensation and rainwater can be practical and useful in some circumstances. Sensors on irrigation systems can determine when rain has met a landscape’s needs, reducing unnecessary usage, and optimizing cooling towers can reduce evaporation rates as well.

While no one strategy will maximize a property’s water usage alone, a comprehensive plan will incorporate many feasible options and make an impact on both the environment and the bottom line.

Water Balancing and Feasibility

Even the best conservation methods can’t succeed without a clear picture of where a property stands with regard to water demands and reuse opportunities. A water balance allows property managers and owners to identify needs and availability through current usage and conservation methods. Timing is also an important consideration, as supply and demand change during the year. This is especially true of irrigation, as landscape needs can change dramatically in a matter of weeks.

By quantifying available black water and grey water, which needs to be treated but can be reused, as well as stormwater, rainwater, condensation, and other sources, a property can determine if supply is truly matching up with their needs.

A feasibility plan offers an evaluation of a property’s current situation, and the viability of different projects to improve it. A plan is just a collection of ideas unless they’re achievable and affordable, and a feasibility plan can identify which projects are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t a good fit. Together, water balance and feasibility studies determine whether a property’s plans are working in the real world and whether specific improvements can make the situation better while remaining within time and budget constraints.

Here to Help

Irrigation Technical Services has more than four decades of experience working with developers, engineers, and commercial property owners to ensure that water management is at the forefront of smart planning. Combining experienced professionals with state-of-the-art technology, we can help improve your water management and conservation at any stage of development. Simply contact us for answers to your questions and next steps.

Why Irrigation Maintenance Is So Important

Having a beautiful property takes an investment, an investment of time and money. Whether it is your home, a small property, a master-planned community, ball field, park, or roadway, you are spending good money on sod, plant material, and an irrigation system.

When you make your landscape commitment you need to protect that investment. The best way to do that is to budget for regular, comprehensive irrigation maintenance.

Create an Irrigation Maintenance Budget

Proper irrigation maintenance should be an important part of any site management plan. Not only is maintaining your current irrigation system key to keeping the vegetation green and blooming, but it will also save you money in the long run. Many costly issues faced by property owners or managers could be avoided with regularly scheduled irrigation maintenance.

Having regularly scheduled irrigation maintenance is a proactive way to protect your irrigation system and your plant material. What happens when you have a bad sprinkler head or two, clogged nozzles, a zone does not turn on, etc.? The end result could be a loss of sod or plant material. It is the domino effect because if your irrigation system does not run properly, plants, grass, and trees could die. These items are costly to replace.

Irrigation Maitenance Musts

What should you be looking for during an irrigation maintenance period? It is simple and straightforward. Here are some items that should always be checked regarding your irrigation system during a maintenance visit.

Controller – irrigation technician should check the controller to ensure it is operating properly and that the rain shut-off device is connected and working. You also need to check the programming and make any needed adjustments are needed. Some smart controllers can throw alarms (of issues) that can be seen from the controller itself.

Irrigation zones – irrigation technician should walk each zone and look for any clogged zones, broken heads, etc. and make all necessary repairs. You also need to check for any coverage-related issues. Are correct nozzles being used? Are there are hot spots (areas not receiving enough water) due to poor coverage or lack of coverage?) While walking zones, identify any lateral breaks and make repairs. Does your property have low volume (drip) irrigation? Animals can chew through the drip tubing or weed whackers can wreak havoc as well. These are simple and easy repairs you can make on the fly.

Are control valves functioning properly? If not, why? This could be a failed solenoid or even worse, a wiring issue. Any leaking valves or manifolds? These are issues, if not repaired, that could have an entire zone down or not working properly until fixed. Again, think of dominos and what happens if your sod or plant material does not get water when a zone is completely down.

Irrigation Maintenance
Irrigation Maintenance

Pressure – how is the water pressure when running? If pressure looks light you likely have a leak somewhere in the system. It could be the mainline or lateral break (if it is zone line pressure that looks low).

Are there filters and how often are you cleaning them? It’s proper to have a filter on drip zones and these filters need to be cleaned. Some properties have filters before the manifold. Depending on the water quality your site is pulling from, these filters need to be cleaned as much as once per month.

Harbor Isle Rotor
Harbor Isle Rotor

Knowing how to maintain your irrigation system is step one to preserving your lush landscape. Regular, professional irrigation maintenance will identify issues within your irrigation system. As an owner or property manager, it is always helpful to be aware of the landscape around you and to have an understanding of how the irrigation system should be running. Property owners/managers benefit from understanding the generalities of their irrigation systems so they may monitor the day-by-day working of their irrigation system and alert their irrigation maintenance specialist of any problems before they compound into larger, damaging issues.

Commercial irrigation systems cover a much larger area than a residential irrigation system. Commercial systems can be small in size or they can be absolutely enormous. What kind of budget do you have? If you do not have a budget, one needs to be created and funded. Is your system older, relatively new, or brand spanking new? If older, what kind of irrigation repairs have you made in the past, and how does your landscape look? Ask yourself these things and come up with a plan and budget.

Depending on your system and landscape needs, maintenance can be determined. Proper irrigation maintenance can be done monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly.

A blooming and blossoming green landscape will leave a lasting impression and is easy to sustain with proper irrigation maintenance.

Contact Irrigation Technical Services now for maintenance on your irrigation systems before the Florida heat takes hold, and your lawn and landscape pay the price.

What is ET?

When asked, most people refer to the 1982 hit movie by Steven Spielberg.

In the irrigation world, ET is a vastly different answer.

ET is an abbreviation for evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration combines two scientific words – evaporation and transpiration. Evaporation plus transpiration equals evapotranspiration (ET).

Quite simply, evapotranspiration is the loss of moisture in the landscape caused by evaporation from the soil and transpiration of moisture from plant leaves. Studies have found that transpiration accounts for roughly 10% of the moisture in the atmosphere. The other 90% or so comes from bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.

With each breath we take we release water vapor. A plant does the same, but the term transpiration is used. A plant’s root system will draw water and nutrients from the soil up to its stems and leaves. From there, the plants transpire some of this water into the atmosphere. During dry periods or drought-like conditions, transpiration can contribute to the loss of water in the upper root zone. This can have a huge, negative effect on the plant.

Transpiration is not a process you can visibly see. Remember, water is transpiring from the leaf. To put this in some perspective, a large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons of water per year or 110 gallons per day!

ET is affected by the length of the daylight hours (solar), temperature, wind, and humidity. ET is usually expressed in inches or fractions of inches of water loss per day, week, or month.

ET rates go up as the temperature rises, especially during the growing season. When humidity rises around a plant the transpiration rate falls because it is easier for a plant to transpire into drier air. Increased movement of air (wind) will blow the saturated (wet) air away from the plant and this air is replaced by drier air.

Evapotranspiration Graphic
Evapotranspiration in Action

Two other factors for plant transpiration are the moisture in the soil itself and the type of plant. When moisture in the soil is lacking the plants could begin to lose leaves, therefore transpiring less water into the atmosphere. Different plants transpire water at different rates. A cactus is vastly different than a Schefflera.

Soil conditions are very important to ET. The top layer of soil is where you have a majority of a plant’s roots, sometimes, up to 75%. There is moisture there for the plant’s taking under normal conditions but it’s likely not totally saturated. When it rains or there is an irrigation event, water will infiltrate this top layer. When there is no precipitation this layer will dry out.

Think about ET this way, in the Tampa Bay area, ET is relatively low during the cooler months, running at a rate of .10 or so. When we are knee deep in the Florida summer heat, ET can run between .25 through .30. Another way to look at it is plant and sod growth itself. I know I mow my grass about every 2-3 weeks between December and March whereas the remaining months of the year it’s at least once per week, sometimes every 4-5 days. What does this mean? Well, during the growing/hot season ET will be substantially higher.

Generally speaking, whatever water is lost to ET is the amount that should be replaced by rainfall and or irrigation. That’s why keeping track of this amount is the single most important factor to consider in scheduling your irrigation. It allows you to replace only the water that is lost. Apply water beyond ET and you waste it, either through evaporation, runoff, or percolation through the soil. Measuring ET is very similar to measuring rainfall, except where rainfall is a water gain, ET is a water loss.

As stated above, ET is affected by a number of factors and a weather station is a device that measures these factors with very high accuracy. It then communicates this information back to the entire network of irrigation controllers, which then adjusts the irrigation.

Having your own on-site weather station would be the most accurate because it would be providing information directly for you, as opposed to an off-site station that may be in a different microclimate and may require adjustments.

If we can accurately determine how much water has entered and left plants and the surrounding soil, we can determine how much water to replenish the landscape at any point in time. For instance, say you are set to run your irrigation on Mondays and Thursdays. There is no rain. Weather station shows ET data as –

Tuesday – .21

Wednesday – .22

When you irrigate on Thursday your goal is to water .43 inches. You want to replenish what was lost through ET.

Do you currently use ET at your property? If so, how do you use ET to benefit your property? If not, is ET something you want to introduce into your irrigation water management? If so, please ask yourself these questions –

  • Where will you pull necessary ET data?
  • Do you have a weather station or do you want to purchase a weather station?
  • Do you have the proper irrigation controller?
  • How will you monitor ET and adjust your irrigation controller?

ET-based irrigation programming allows irrigation managers to increase the efficiency of irrigation based on plant water requirements. In the end, this will lead to optimum irrigation water use.

Why It Is Important To Maintain Your Irrigation Pump Station

By Daniel Hodges, Pumps and Controls Director, Irrigation Technical Services, Inc. (ITS)

 

It is very important to service your pump station. Let me say that one more time – IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO SERVICE YOUR PUMP STATION.

The pump station is a vital component of every irrigation system, think of it as the heart of your irrigation system. It draws water from your lake or well, feeding your irrigation mainline to water your sod and plant material.

Irrigation Pump Station Basics

Across the country, people expend a lot of time, effort, and money into installing irrigation pump stations. In Florida, that cost can range from a few thousand dollars to $400,000.00, depending on its size, components, and capabilities.

Irrigation pump stations are no different than your car. Without periodic preventative maintenance, its longevity will decrease. Think about that for a minute. You have made this commitment and investment, not only for the pump station but for the irrigation system (and sod and plant material) as well. You have to protect that investment.

With that being said, it is vital that you routinely test your irrigation pump station. Regular pump station maintenance, conducted by professionals, will reveal any issues with your pump, avoid build-up, and reduce the risk of getting blindsided by an expensive repair down the road.

Without proper pump station maintenance, multiple failures can take place. Let’s take a closer look at the irrigation pump station design.

1) Motors

Without periodic verification of motor amperages, motors can and will fail due to heated connections. It can be very costly to replace motors and the mechanical seal. Motors should also be properly greased at least once a year to prevent failure of bearings.

2) VFD

Variable frequency drives (VFDs) can eventually fail if they are not properly serviced. These failures typically occur when connections heat over time and burn internal components. Once this happens the VFD must be replaced. A VFD controls the speed, torque, and horsepower of the motor.

3) Exposure to Elements

There are times a pump station fails due to exposure to the elements. Internal and external piping can rust, especially in the Florida climate. Without maintenance on your pump station, piping and other components for the pump station will deteriorate over time. If periodic rust mediation is performed, these failures are greatly lessened.

4) Pump Station Protective Devices

Most pump stations have some amount of built-in protection devices for a range of variables such as temperature, low pressure, or loss of prime. These should be tested and verified in operation on a regular basis.

5) Pressure Tanks

The integrity of the pressure tank and the correct air pressure must be checked often. If a pressure tank is not functional, the pump station will experience more cycling and become vulnerable to a loss of prime. Cycling is very detrimental to the pump station. This happens when pumps turn off and on too quickly or too frequently. Loss of prime happens when the pump is operating but there is no water.

6) Centrifugal Stations

There should be certain suction line testing when it’s service time. This prevents restricted pump intakes and air intrusion, which both can cause multiple failures. These are all very expensive repairs.

Pump Station
Irrigation Pumping Station

Overall station performance

All pump stations are comprised of multiple components, which all have to function properly and together. This is even more profound on a pump station with multiple pumps. One failing component or one incorrect adjustment can cause costly repairs to the pump station.

As you can see, protecting your pump station with proper maintenance is critical. The pump station is too important and too expensive to neglect. Depending on the pump station, service can be performed monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. This is a service Irrigation Technical Services provides all over the state of Florida.

Get in touch with an Irrigation Technical Services professional today.

Your Complete Guide to Irrigation Systems

irrigation system in action

Irrigation System Basics

Water: the holy grail, one of the most critical things on this planet. Every living thing needs it, including your lawn. But when was the last time you made sure each square inch of your grass was catered to? Throughout history, the water needed for basic tasks like agriculture, drinking, showering, and so on has not always been conveniently accessible. Mother Nature is unpredictable, making it hard for farmers and community members to depend on rain. However, hundreds of years of innovations have led to the convenience of wholly controlled watering events with the creation of irrigation systems

Irrigation systems serve one primary purpose: keeping the grass and foliage on your property alive and vibrant, at minimal inconvenience to you. 

We are going to start with the basics. Utilizing an irrigation system at your business will be extremely beneficial for you and your landscaping! Depending on the type of system installed on your property, there will be different practices, uses, and costs associated with your unit. In the long run, they will all save you time, water, and money.

First and foremost, irrigation systems are going to save you lots of time. The most significant benefit of employing lawn care like an irrigation system is that you will not have to monitor your lawn consistently or plan your watering events around rain and other possible natural events.

Installing a tool like this will keep your yard healthier in more ways than one! While keeping your grass, trees and plants saturated, correctly designed and installed irrigation systems also work to apply the appropriate amount of water. Coupled with devices like the Soil Moisture Sensor, it will prevent turf diseases, mold, and other adverse effects caused by excess moisture, all while conserving tons of water each month. According to National Geographic, around 60% of household water use goes toward garden and yard care, which needs to decrease.

Your efforts will not go unnoticed! With time, the lawn of your dreams will be right in front of your home. The neighbors will gawk just like you imagined, and your wife will be happy with your new savings! A win-win, right? It is time to level up your lawn care.

The Different Types of Irrigation Systems

There is not a singular irrigation system perfect for every situation. The different systems each have their own advantages and downfalls, so it is essential to discuss which type of system would work best for your property with a trained professional, like a Newberg Irrigation Specialist!

Sprinkler Irrigation

Sprinkler Irrigation is a traditional and popular irrigation system choice. To mimic rainwater, a sprinkler system uses multiple tools to water your crops or yard in droplets, like natural rainfall.

This easy and convenient method of watering your landscaping can be used in many spaces, regardless of the area’s size, the slope of the space, or the soil type. Sprinklers work in a very straightforward manner. While we always recommend working alongside a professional, it is not necessary for this irrigation system installation.

The even droplet dispersion promoted by the sprinkler head will allow fertilizers and water to hit every part of your greenery. This is still going to conserve water, and it will be promoting the growth of robust produce.

Although this sounds ideal, sprinklers can get pricey. If the cost does not inform your decision, note that this form of irrigation consumes a great deal of energy while not guaranteeing effective water distribution in high winds and other unplanned weather.  Other than those setbacks, as long as clean water is flowing through your sprinklers, you should be good to go!

drip irrigation system
Drip Irrigation System

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation uses a network of pipes and tubes, allowing the nutrients and water that plants need to drop directly onto the roots. One of the most efficient irrigation methods, drip irrigation, manages to minimize evaporation of water and potential weed growth. Drippers work best in rows of plants and trees, keeping only the necessary areas of soil moist.

Catering to each plant, this direct watering system is ultra-efficient because it eliminates outside factors from getting in the way! Wind, weeds, or worse, drip irrigation, is going to protect your plants, trees, and grass.

The intricate system will require expert installation and routine cleaning and care to prevent any pipe blockage. This sought-after irrigation system is costly, but your landscaping will thank you for the investment.

 

How Much Do Irrigation Systems Cost?

Taking the step to better your landscaping will improve your lifestyle, stack your savings in the long run, and conserve water, helping the entire world. If that does not seal the deal, modernizing with convenient and high-quality appliances and tools, like one of these systems, is also going to keep your property, increasing its value!

The benefits of integrating sprinklers or drip irrigating into your landscaping put the irrigation system cost into perspective. While it seems like you will be spending a pretty penny, the advantages it will provide outweigh the price in years to come. Getting started is the hardest part. Professional installation varies depending on the system, your location, and your property size. 

If you have been looking for the opportunity to design and install an irrigation system reach out to a Newberg professional today!