Smart Technologies Using Technology to Save Water

By Brian E. Vinchesi, CGIA, CIC, CID, CLIA, CLIM, CLWM

Today’s technology changes our lives on almost a daily basis, and irrigation is no different. In the last decade, the turf land- scape irrigation business has seen major advancements from the use of technology. Soil moisture sensors, smart controllers, internet-based communications and computer-controlled sprinklers are just a few areas where technology is making a difference in landscape irrigation.

The Irrigation Association is at the forefront of promoting the use of technology in new products with manufacturers, regulators and ends users. The IA works closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other codes- and standards-producing organizations to ensure that technology based irrigation is included. Saving water is a primary component of green and sustain- ability initiatives and the impetus for new standards and codes that include irrigation.

works with the EPA WaterSense Program using standards and testing protocols, to set the specifications for their WaterSense product-labeling program for irrigation products. Labeled irrigation products can be found on the EPA WaterSense website. Performance results for SWAT tested prod- ucts are at

SWAT also works with water purveyors and the irrigation industry to market these new technologies for acceptance into the mar- ket place. Although more expensive than conventional irrigation products, these technologically based products save water and can have quick returns on investment.

Currently, the SWAT group is working on testing protocols for pressure regulating sprinklers, flow sensing, and measuring sprinkler performance. Testing proto- cols have already been developed for climate-based controllers, soil moisture sensors, spray head nozzles, check valves and rain sensors.

In addition, through its Smart Water Appli- cation Technologies initiative, IA develops testing protocols for water-saving irrigation equipment that utilize these new tech- nologies. Once developed, the protocols are standardized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers complying with the American National Standards Institute process. SWAT actively

Technology has also added many new, small companies to the irrigation indus- try. Using their knowledge of technology, these companies are very nimble and quick with their product development, and although they do not necessarily know a lot about irrigation, they are rapidly chang- ing the irrigation product landscape. This is probably most evident with the prom- ulgation of internet-based controllers now on the market and computerized sprinkler prototypes.

Internet-based controllers, primarily tar- geted at the end user, are app based and easily accessible through any smart device. Mostly sold on the internet or through big box stores, they are selling at a rapid rate as consumers satisfy their appetite for technology on every level. Although the scheduling engines for these controllers may have some challenges, they are good at notifying the end user as to the status of their irrigation — for example, notifying when the system is suspended from oper- ating due to rain.

Computer-based sprinklers are more in their infancy than smart controllers, but basically their concept is to use fewer sprinklers to cover an area by installing a sprinkler or sprinklers that automatically change the distance of throw of the sprin- kler as it rotates. The area to be irrigated is mapped and the water stream radius adjusted based on the map. There are still questions on uniformity and longevity, but these types of sprinklers are becoming more visible in the market. Expect to see more of them in the future, as the technol- ogy improves and the costs come down.

The landscape irrigation industry has seen substantial technologically based product improvements in the last decade. There is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue in the future as new technolog- ically based companies enter the market with new ideas.

Brian Vinchesi, CGIA, CIC, CID, CLIA, CLIM, CLWM, the 2015 Irrigation Association Industry Achievement Award winner,

is president of Irrigation Consulting, Inc., an irrigation design and consulting firm with offices in Pepperell, Massachusetts, and Huntersville, North Carolina, which provides innova- tive irrigation system designs throughout the world.

24 Irrigation TODAY | July 2016

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