WaterSense Celebrates 10-Year Mark

Over the past decade, EPA’s WaterSense program has sparked a market transformation all across North America for irrigation products that save water, energy, and money.

The program was recently threatened by Trump administration budget cuts. (See related article, “AWE Fears WaterSense May Lose Funding.”) But that threat is on hold for now. (See box below.)

Let’s take a look at some of the program’s accomplishments in the last 10 years…

Label and Certification Milestones

Since 2007, more than 21,000 product models of plumbing fixtures and irrigation controllers have earned the WaterSense label for efficiency and performance.  More than 5,000 new models earned the label in 2016 alone. Nearly 68 million individual labeled products have been shipped to date. 

Beginning in 2006, WaterSense certification programs have focused on water-efficient techniques and technologies for certified irrigation system designers, auditors, and installation and maintenance professionals. Since then, thousands of irrigation specialists have been certified and gained an edge in the competitive marketplace.

The Three “P’s” — Products, Practices, People

In an effort to reduce the waste of outdoor water, the EPA program has promoted the three “P’s”— products, practices, and people. This includes:

  • Designing water-smart landscapes that are well-suited for the local climate
  • Installing WaterSense-labeled irrigation controllers, and
  • Hiring WaterSense-certified irrigation professionals.

Their efforts have paid off. For instance, in 2016, the number of labeled irrigation controllers increased by an impressive 63% over the previous year.  These new, web-based models allow users to adjust their irrigation systems via an app on their smartphone.

What’s Next?

In 2017, the WaterSense program is focused on product labeling for pressure-regulating sprinkler bodies. The idea is that large amounts of water can be wasted whenever spray sprinklers operate under higher-than-normal pressure. In other words, significant water savings can be realized by regulating this pressure. To this end, the program recently released a draft specification for these new pressure-regulating sprinklers.

Let’s Keep It Going

The AWE is working to ensure that the WaterSense program can continue unabated. But they need help. Which is why they are seeking signers of letters supporting their proposed legislation to keep it going. To join in this effort, click here.


Environmental Protection Agency

Alliance for Water Efficiency

Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

Wi-Fi-Based Irrigation Technology Explained

Are you still in the dark about how to best incorporate Wi-Fi-based irrigation technology into your business?

The national Irrigation Association recently aired a webinar focused on the growing popularity of this technology, as well as the advantages and opportunities it brings to the landscape irrigation market. (See related article, “Internet-Based Smart Irrigation Systems.”) To purchase the IA webinar, click here.

Landscape Management magazine recently spoke with webinar presenters Stuart Eyring, president of Hydro-Rain, and Chris Klein, CEO and co-founder of Rachio. Here are some highlights of that interview:

How They Work

Q: How do Wi-Fi irrigation controllers work?

Chris Klein (CK): A Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller uses the homeowner’s Wi-Fi network to connect to the cloud. That’s where a lot of the process and scheduling takes place, and then that information is sent back down to the controller. You can have access to it through an app on any device you want—a desktop computer, mobile phone, tablet, etc.—and they all communicate with the same computers in the cloud.

Q: Have you seen examples of Wi-Fi controllers being used to upgrade older systems?

CK: Yes, this is happening at a rapid pace. Eighty-five percent of our customers are replacing working controllers, and it’s just as easy as replacing any other controller.

Q: How do you program Wi-Fi controllers?

Stuart Eyring (SE): In terms of programming, the smartphone apps dramatically add to the ease of which programing is done—it’s much better than programming a typical display controller. But there’s a difference in comfort level in terms of where the user base is coming from. There is a transition point to getting people comfortable with this.

Weather Station Access

Q: Traditional smart controllers had their own weather instruments on-site, but Wi-Fi-based irrigation controllers now have access to millions of weather stations. How do they get evapotranspiration (ET) information?

CK: We use a variety of weather data providers and run them through equations to get ET. This process is getting more and more sophisticated. The other cool thing is homeowners can choose a weather station, which promotes continued engagement with their irrigation system.

SE: In our case, we use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service database in the U.S. Internationally, we use a database out of Norway. But it actually can be very helpful to have a rain sensor at the location, as well, because it can improve reliability.

Q: So you can add other sensors to a Wi-Fi controller?

SE: Yes, we’ve seen an increase in the use of sensing devices like weather stations and moisture sensors on-site that improve the quality of data.

Connections, Security and Updates

Q: What happens to the controller if it loses the Wi-Fi connection?

SE: The majority of the data is kept in the cloud, but there is a basic operating program that’s stored on the actual controller. While the controller won’t typically make any adjustments based on environmental conditions while in that mode, it will continue to run. When the connection is reestablished, the adjustments will begin again. This is typical across manufacturers.

Q: How do you protect security in terms of Wi-Fi and passwords?

SE: Security definitely can be a concern to a homeowner when they allow someone access to their network. But there is a difference between a contractor connecting to a homeowner’s network and connecting through the cloud. In an ideal case, the homeowner is sharing an access code through an app that would allow their contractor to control the system through the cloud, but not have access to the homeowner’s network.

Q: What happens if I buy my controller today and in 60 days it’s out of date?

CK: Updates to the firmware and the app happen automatically, so customers always have the latest and greatest version. In terms of hardware, who knows what will happen in the future, but as of now, our Generation 1 and 2 products work the same.

SE: In most cases, you won’t even know the firmware has been updated unless you go in and look at it. 

(The above flyer can be downloaded and customized for your business. Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply offers it to irrigation contractors as a free sales tool.)

Opportunities and Support

Q: What are the business impacts and opportunities that can be enjoyed by contractors venturing into this arena?

CK: There is a great opportunity to impact a contractor’s business by having a number of connected customers. By installing that product and working with them you have a connection with them. You can stay in touch, the homeowner knows where to go for help and it presents an opportunity for customer retention.

Q: What about support? How do you help contractors when they are stuck?

CK: We have a dedicated contractor phone line and can be reached through email and chat, too.

SE: We have noticed that there is really more upfront hand-holding required. But once the Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller is installed and operating, support requirements go down. That’s because of the ease of the interface and how intuitive it is. Getting started can be challenging, but once contractors get the hang of it, it’s really very easy.


Sources:

Landscape Management

Irrigation Association

AWE Fears WaterSense May Lose Funding

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) believes that the EPA’s WaterSense labeling program is in grave danger of losing its funding as part of Trump administration EPA budget cuts.

Which is why the AWE recently delivered a letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt to urge continued funding for the labeling program. WaterSense labeling has been proposed for elimination in the White House budget, along with the EPA’s Energy Star program.

The AWE’s letter outlines the numerous benefits of WaterSense. And it represents the support of 187 manufacturers, businesses, water providers, and other organizations.

EPA Administrator Holds Key to Funding

The 10-year-old WaterSense program was designed to help consumers save water by labeling products that use at least 20% less water, while performing as well as or better than standard models.

But the program has never been congressionally authorized and has been funded at the discretion of the EPA Administrator.

“The WaterSense program is a cornerstone of our nation’s water sustainability strategy, and has become vital to American communities, manufacturers, and service providers.”  That’s according to Mary Ann Dickinson, AWE President and CEO.

“Defunding the program will be harmful to US businesses and families.”   Mary Ann Dickinson, AWE President and CEO

She believes the Trump administration’s budget “undervalues the contribution water efficiency makes to economic growth and the benefits of efficiency for US-based manufacturing.” According to Dickinson, “Defunding the program will be harmful to US businesses and families.”

The AWE letter calls on Administrator Pruitt and Congress to maintain the $2 million budget for WaterSense, stating in part that WaterSense is “a voluntary public-private partnership that has saved American consumers more than $33 billion (in 2015 dollars) on their water and energy bills over the past decade.”

The letter goes on to state that “WaterSense has already saved more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water. That’s more than the amount of water used by all of the households in California for a year!”

Click Here to view the complete letter.

Corporate Support

The letter was supported by leading American companies and organizations such as the Irrigation Association, Hunter Industries, Rain Bird Corp, Kohler Company, and more than 183 other organizations, including water providers from around the country.

According to the AWE, the WaterSense program has more than 1,700 partner organizations that rely on the program to support their businesses or water efficiency strategies. The WaterSense standards are also the basis for legislation in four states and other local plumbing codes that reference it. In addition, the program helps consumers manage their water costs and can help American families reduce their water bills by up to $350 per year. 

Others agree that defunding the program is a bad idea. Such as Pete DeMarco, AWE Board Chair and Executive Vice President of Advocacy & Research at the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. “Eliminating WaterSense would destabilize the marketplace for manufacturers… and irrigation professionals that market their WaterSense certification.” 

As a result, the AWE is working closely with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, Plumbing Manufacturers International, American Water Works Association, and the High-Performance Buildings Coalition to preserve the labeling program. They invite all organizations with a stake in water resources to join them in the effort.
 

Want to Get Involved? Here’s How…

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) is accepting new members.

The AWE is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to the sustainable and efficient use of water in North America.

The Alliance is carving a path to a water-efficient and water-secure world, and they invite you to join this group of leading thinkers, decision-makers and pioneers.

To Join the AWE or to Learn More…
Click Here

Sources:

Alliance for Water Efficiency

WaterWorld

What Are YOU Doing to Promote Smart Irrigation Month?

It’s that time of year again…July is Smart Irrigation Month and, as usual, there are many ways  for businesses and consumers to participate in the campaign.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month continues to gain traction each year as consumers and irrigation specialists alike recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides to all of us.

Give This a Try!

Place a few empty tuna cans around your lawn while you’re watering and measure how long it takes your sprinkler to fill them with a half inch of water. Then, try watering that amount of time twice a week, gauge how your landscape responds, and adjust based on weather conditions. Or simplify by replacing your standard clock timer controller with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller.

Smart Systems

Among the strategies being presented to consumers, first and foremost is proper programming of automatic watering or sprinkler systems to deliver just the right amount of water at the right time.

Additional strategies include:

  • Proper landscaping, keeping soil healthy, mulching and routine landscape maintenance
  • Investing in an irrigation system that uses the best, most flexible, components, has “smart” controls, and meets code requirements
  • Watering during the evening and early morning to prevent evaporation, taking soil type and sprinkler placement into consideration
  • Maintaining the sprinkler system regularly by adjusting sprinkler heads, repairing leaks and monitoring pressure

WaterSense

According the the EPA’s WaterSense website, adopting water–savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending our communities’ water supplies, especially during peak use. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers/distributors, and utilities to bring high-performing, water-efficient products to the marketplace.

WaterSense also partners with professional certifying organizations to promote water–efficient landscape irrigation practices. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a total of 1.5 trillion gallons of water, resulting in more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bill savings.

Smart Ideas

Since July is the peak month for water consumption, the national Smart Irrigation campaign is also encouraging industrial firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies.   Here are just a few of the many  “Smart Ideas” to promote the national campaign that are listed on the Irrigation Association website:

  • Add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your website, ads, customer presentations, field signs, invoices and more.
  • Submit a press release or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Ask employees to add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to their e-mail signature block.
  • Host a live demonstration of water-saving irrigation technologies, in the field or at your location.
  • Feature water-efficient products and services in displays, ads, promotions and product demos with the Smart Irrigation Month logo.
  • Use a banner, outside signage or counter sign to encourage customers to ask about smart irrigation.

smart irrigation month

  • Make smart irrigation the theme of sales calls.
  • Give awards to customers and/or business partners who promote water-efficient practices.
  • Volunteer to speak to a local homeowner association, garden club or civic group.
  • Distribute copies of the Smart Irrigation Month coloring book at a farmers market or county fair.
  • Ask your local radio station to play a public service announcement, promoting July as Smart Irrigation Month.

Remember…Every Drop Counts! What are YOU doing to promote Smart Irrigation Month? 


Sources:

Irrigation Association

EPA WaterSense

Incorporating Green Infrastructure into Irrigation Systems

As an irrigation specialist, if you’re not already on the “green infrastructure bandwagon,” what’s holding you back?

The green infrastructure (or GI) movement is growing in communities throughout the U.S.  In its position statement, the national Irrigation Association has officially recognized GI as “a promising new market” for irrigation contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers.

(To access the Irrigation Association’s 2014 webinar titled “Green Infrastructure: The Role of Irrigation in Stormwater Management,” Click Here.)

What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

In a nutshell, green infrastructure utilizes living plant material to create a more natural method for stormwater mitigation. GI tools include vegetated swales, rain gardens, porous concrete, green roofs and rain barrel installations.  (See related article, “Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!“)

Why is this an important topic for irrigation and landscape professionals?

Well, for one thing, in our current era of heightened water quality concerns, new state and federal investments are being aimed specifically at green infrastructure.

“The opportunity here is to be a resource for water quality managers and sustainability professionals.” That’s according to Paul Lander (Ph.d, ASLA, LEED AP), a consultant with Dakota Ridge Partners in Boulder, Colo.

“In almost every city across the nation, they’re going to have a whole suite of things on their plates. If there’s an opportunity (for irrigation professionals) to be seen as a resource, the profession’s going to go a lot further, and we’ll get more resources coming our way to help with this green infrastructure movement.”

It’s All About Runoff

The big issue, of course is stormwater runoff. Particularly with combined sewer systems, where the stormwater pipes connect to the sewage pipes. Combined sewer systems are found in approximately 860 municipalities across the U.S.. These are mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes.

Not only is this a waste of stormwater, but the sewage treatment facilities are not designed to handle the large volume of water that occurs from a rain event. With as little as a 1/4 inch of rainwater, the combined systems will overflow the rainwater mixed with untreated sewerage into the local waterways.

You may recall when Ohio’s stormwater runoff issues became national news in 2014. That’s when the pollution in Lake Erie forced the City of Toledo to shut off its water supply. For three days.

Green infrastructure has been heralded as a more efficient and effective solution to these water pollution issues than traditional gray infrastructure.

For Municipalities and Neighborhoods

John  Farner, Government and Public Affairs Director for the Irrigation Association, recently explained that, at the municipal or county level, GI refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provide habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water for the community.  (See related article, “Can the Ohio River Be Saved?”)

With neighborhoods, on the other hand, GI refers to stormwater systems that mimic nature by soaking up and storing water. Many states and municipalities (such as Philadelphia) have adopted holistic approaches to watershed management that strongly feature green infrastructure. 

Unfortunately, landscape overwatering is commonplace, Lander said. And it’s the bane of water quality managers. These local, state and federal officials are tasked with ensuring compliance with regulations to minimize ill effects on water sources.

“Increasingly, nonpoint-source pollution, like irrigation runoff, is coming under scrutiny by these folks,” Lander said. Landscape and irrigation professionals who aren’t familiar with nonpoint-source pollution are behind the times, he added.

Opportunity Missed?

Not only that, but they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to partner with water quality managers in pursuit of GI projects.

“It’s all the little things around us that in aggregate can have a big impact,” Lander said. He believes the onus is on the professional irrigation community to step up and participate.

Why? “Sites need green infrastructure and green infrastructure will need smart irrigation,” he said.


Sources:

Irrigation Association

Irrigation Market Watch

NPR.org

Rainwater Harvesting: Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!

With April upon us, we are reminded that every year Mother Nature provides us with trillions of gallons of water. Free of charge. In the form of rain.

Last year, for instance, the storms which pummeled the Carolinas dropped enough water to halt California’s five-year drought. And yet, few of us take advantage of learning how to capture this precious resource.

Instead, it flows off lawns into streams, then rivers, then oceans.

A recent article in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine suggests that, when irrigation specialists build cisterns to harvest rainwater, they are providing their customers with “manna from heaven.”

But they’re also helping to build the water infrastructure of the future. And providing themselves with an additional revenue source.

New Revenue Stream

Paul Lawrence, president of Texas Land & Water Designs LLC, has been installing rainwater harvesting systems for the past seven years, and he’s a huge proponent of the practice. Lawrence feels that, not only is it a good source of revenue, but startup costs are low for the contractor.

“Licensed irrigators already have many of the skills that are required for rainwater harvesting; it’s a real natural fit for them,” he says.

And it’s not as complicated as it might seem. Virtually every house and commercial building already possesses roofing, gutters and downspouts. The catchment system simply takes the rainwater that now flows down the street and stores it for use at a later date.

The Basic Setup

There are several different options for storing rainwater: above-ground storage tanks, below-ground cisterns, or downspouts directed to bioswales. Smaller systems (such as those that capture less than a hundred gallons) can use rain barrels for storage.

Whatever option is chosen, a pump may be required to release the water when it’s ready to be used. Most pumps on residential systems are between one-third and one horsepower. That amount of power is sufficient to pressurize the water for either spray or drip irrigation. The pump can be activated manually, or a controller can be used to automate the rainwater flow into the irrigation system.

A couple of important considerations:

  • Sanitation should be the first consideration. At the very least, a screen should be placed in the gutter over the downspout. This will keep out large particulate matter, large solids and leaves.
  • Storage tanks must be properly sealed against pests and bacteria; otherwise, the water inside can become toxic.

  • Every storage tank needs to have an overflow device to prevent backup in heavy-rain situations.
  • The overflow device should be fitted with a flapper valve that will close up immediately after excess water has stopped flowing out. This will keep vermin from crawling up the spout.

An Attractive Option

For property owners who find traditional storage units unattractive, more aesthetically-pleasing options are available. For instance, Aquascape, an Illinois-based company, offers its “RainXchange” system, which combines a recirculating, decorative water feature with an underground storage basin.

According to Irrigation & Green Industry magazine, RainXchange offers the same functionality of other storage systems. Specifically, “It makes use of modular storage basins, stackable blocks that are somewhere between milk crates and Legos, which can be arranged in different shapes to fit a variety of application settings. They sit inside a rubber membrane to form a single, water-tight unit underground.”

Contractors can install the RainXchange system under turf grass. An increasingly common option is to install the system beneath a patio made of permeable pavers. According to Ed Beaulieu, director of field research for Aquascape, “This way, the pavers act as a catchment area that prefilters the rainwater before it enters the blocks. It’s very, very efficient.”

The following video demonstrates the installation of a similar underground system by a Texas-based vendor, Innovative Water Solutions:

 

Closer to home, Rain Brothers, a rainwater-harvesting company based in Columbus, offers system design services throughout Ohio and much of the Midwest.

A simple residential project typically runs between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on a variety of factors, such as size and excavation costs. For instance, if a client’s property doesn’t allow room for heavy equipment, digging by hand will increase the labor time substantially.

Who Are the Target Customers?

According to most irrigation contractors, conservation is the primary motivator when property owners consider installing a rainwater catchment system. Despite the fact that the installation costs them money, these clients are more worried about the long-term consequences of water shortages, pollution and soil erosion.

They may have heard that capturing rainwater is a tried-and-true method of simultaneously controlling runoff and withstanding drought conditions.

“In a residential setting, it’s next to impossible to show an ROI in three to five years,” Lawrence says. “By and large, those clients are doing it for environmental concerns.”

Add It to Your Menu of Services

Rainwater harvesting is a viable permanent addition to the menu of services offered by landscape professionals. As homeowners rediscover this ancient practice of capturing rainwater, contractors will have increasing opportunities to offer their services for installation projects.

Contractors can easily acquire the skills necessary to get started with catchment system installations. And there is an abundance of resources to ensure your success. The national Irrigation Association offers online classes on the subject, such as “Water Quality of Alternative Water Sources” and “Earning Points for Green Projects.”

In addition, the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) hosts workshops across the country for those seeking to pass their accredited professional exam. The ARCSA also offers a Resource Guide of rain harvesting designers, educators and suppliers.

Once you’re up to speed on best practices, rainwater harvesting can become a highly profitable source of revenue for your company… and a valuable service for your customers.


Sources:

Irrigation & Green Industry Magazine

Irrigation Association

Innovative Water Solutions

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

It’s National Fix a Leak Week!

Did you know….

Each year, household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide? That amount is:

  • Nine percent of the total water needed to end California’s five-year drought
  • Enough to fill 40 million swimming pools and 24 billion bathtubs
  • Almost equal to the capacity of Florida’s vast Lake Okeechobee
  • Equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes

Plug Those Leaks!

The EPA’s “Fix a Leak Week” is a national effort to stop that waste. This year’s event runs from March 20 through March 26.

Much of the problem stems from leaky kitchen and bathroom faucets, malfunctioning toilets and errant sprinkler systems. Fixing some of these easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills, according to the EPA.

Karen Wirth is in charge of marketing and outreach for the EPA’s WaterSense program. In her view, most folks are clueless about the total amount of water wasted because they “see a couple of drips coming out of their shower head, or sprinkler outside, or faucet, it doesn’t seem like that much.” 

So each year, the EPA hones in on the drips during Fix a Leak Week. Special events are planned from coast to coast to teach homeowners how to find and fix household leaks. To download the EPA’s Fix a Leak fact sheet click, click here.

Easy Fixes

There’s a simple way to check for leaks in the toilet, Wirth said. “Just put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If that shows up in the bowl, you have a leak.” This problem can often be fixed by simply replacing the flapper.

Replacing old and worn faucet washers and gaskets fixes most faucet leaks. For leaky shower heads, use pipe tape to secure the connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem.

For the EPA’s complete list of leak fixes, click here.

Leave It to the Pros

Irrigation systems can be another problem area. But this one best left to the professionals.

“An irrigation system that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month,” according to the EPA.

They suggest that homeowners consult an irrigation professional certified by WaterSense to check for leaks throughout the system.


Sources:

EPA.gov

The Washington Post

Alliance for Water Efficiency

Water Efficiency in the Trump Administration

 

With a new administration in Washington, water efficiency advocates will be changing their tactics.

It’s All About Jobs… 

Instead of focusing almost exclusively on policy issues, they will now concentrate on job creation and water infrastructure. “Water efficiency is a non-partisan issue,” according to Mary Ann Dickenson, President and CEO of Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). That’s because it’s implications are so broad, reaching across both public and private sectors.

For instance, the infrastructure spending for water efficiency creates jobs in both public and private sectors. And implementing new technologies and efficient products also creates jobs. This fits in well with President Trump’s agenda, Dickinson said.

The AWE cites a recent study that showed a government investment of $10 billion in water efficiency would result in the creation of 150,000 to 220,000 jobs. The economic benefit to the nation would be $1.30 to $1.50 for each $1 invested.

…and Taxes

Another priority for the AWE will be the introduction of  legislation to authorize tax-free water-efficiency rebates. Whereas energy-efficiency rebates have been tax-free since the 1990s, not so with rebates received from water utilities. Right now, taxpayers who receive water-efficiency rebates are sent a 1099 by the utility at the end of the year.

The Water-Energy Nexus

The rebate issue also draws attention to the so-called “water-energy nexus” — another hot-button issue which the AWE believes must be explored, both in policy and funding. 

“Right now, policy and funding (for water and energy) are very unequal,” said Gene Goldenberg, AWE’s Legislative Director. “Billions are spent on the state level for energy efficiency,” Goldenberg said. “Very little supplemental funding goes to water efficiency. Water utilities bear the burden; energy utilities do not.”

What’s Being Done?

So far this year, three water-efficiency bills have been introduced:

  1. H.R. 301 – NIST Plumbing Research Act of 2017. This bill would establish a laboratory within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research on standards for home and building plumbing to increase water efficiency, safety and sustainability. 
  2. H.R. 306 – Energy Efficient Government Technology Act. This bill requires that government data centers develop an implementation strategy for the maintenance, purchase, and use of energy- and water-efficient information technologies. The resolution has passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate.
  3. H.R. 448 – Water Conservation Tax Parity Act. This bill would amend Section 136 of the Internal Revenue Code to include rebates provided by water utilities for water conservation and storm-water management.

Our Decaying Infrastructure

According to the most recent report card (2013) from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), America’s water infrastructure is in a shambles.

“Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States,” the report stated. “Pipes and mains are frequently more than 100 years old and in need of replacement.” The estimated cost of replacement would total about $1 trillion.

In addition, the report card indicated that our nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems will require a capital investment of $298 billion over the next twenty years. Three-quarters of this must be spent on repairing and expanding pipes.

The ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card will be published on March 9.

What Can We Expect?

With the new administration, “the playing field has changed,” Goldenberg said.  Just how well the Republican leaders will be able to work with President Trump remains to be seen.

The AWE expects that a lot of legislation will continue to emerge and will probably be signed. However, it will still be difficult to bring House resolutions to a vote in the Senate.

Fortunately, water-efficiency advocates have an ally in Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), chairman of  the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to Dickinson, the AWE has a “good relationship” with Murkowski.

As a result, they are hopeful that water-efficiency bills will not remain stalled in the Senate.

What Can We Do?

The AWE believes that support from business interests will be crucial in the Trump administration. Which is why they are suggesting that concerned citizens get their CEO’s and boards of directors involved in the water-efficiency issue.

To this end, the AWE has created a sample resolution for support of the Water Conservation Tax Parity Act. 

“Water efficiency is a local issue, with local influence,” Dickinson said. So local businesses and community leaders must get involved. The AWE will provide them with support, she said.

In the meantime, individual states can continue to act on their own, as they have in the past, Dickinson said. She cited examples of Texas, Georgia, California, Colorado, where water-efficiency regulations have already been enacted.  

Want to Get Involved? Here’s How…

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) is accepting new members.

The AWE is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to the sustainable and efficient use of water in North America.

The Alliance is carving a path to a water-efficient and water-secure world, and they invite you to join this group of leading thinkers, decision-makers and pioneers.

To Join the AWE or to Learn More…
Click Here

Sources:

Alliance for Water Efficiency

Congress.gov

American Society of Civil Engineers

Can the Ohio River Be Saved?

ohio river

The Ohio River is the most polluted body of water in the United States.

In fact, more than 24 million pounds of chemicals were dumped into the Ohio River by industries and businesses in 2013. That’s according to the most recent Toxic Release Inventory report produced by the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission.

How Bad Is It?

Although this sounds alarming, that figure is actually down from the high point of 33 million pounds in 2006. About 92% of the pollutants are nitrate compounds, commonly found in pesticides and fertilizers.

And, even more surprisingly, the river technically meets the human health standards for nitrates. So minimal changes are being made in their regulation.

But nitrates on the only problem the Ohio River has. Levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin that impairs fetal brain development — in the Ohio River increased by more than 40% between 2007 and 2013, according to EPA data.

On the Waterfront

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works is well aware of the chemical levels in the Ohio River. Apparently, they have both carbon filtration and ultraviolet (UV) disinfection treatment systems in place to remove the toxins.

According to Jeff Swertfeger, Water Works’ Superintendent of Water Quality Management, “This facility is specially designed in order to remove the industrial-type contaminants like the gasolines, herbicides, pesticides, and things like that. If they get into the Ohio River and they get into the water, we can remove them here with our system.” 

He added that the Water Works monitors chemical levels hundreds of times a day to ensure the drinking water is safe.  

So Who’s to Blame?

Despite several clean-up initiatives and stricter regulation over the years, Ohio River industries still discharge more than double the amount of pollutants than the Mississippi River receives.

Most of the toxic compounds emanate from AK Steel’s Rockport, Indiana, plant, according to environmental website Outward On.  But the plant shifts the blame to farm run-off from nitrogen-based fertilizers. Currently, the EPA does not require farm run-off to be reported in their Toxic Release Inventory.

Science has shown that nitrates contribute to toxic algae blooms and oxygen-depleted dead zones. (Once such area in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, is about the size of Connecticut.)

One Vision for Restoration

But Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, is hoping to ignite a new vision for the region’s most vital natural resources.

“Twenty-five million people live in the Ohio River Valley Basin,” O’Mara said. “That’s almost a tenth of the country. And yet we’ve seen virtually no investment of federal resources in trying to clean up the legacy pollution. The Ohio is still the most polluted waterway in the entire country.” 

That is not acceptable, according to O’Mara. “We’ve been working with some of the mayors and different advocacy groups in the region, trying to just begin talking about the Ohio River as a system and [develop] a vision for the entire watershed.”

Because the Ohio is considered a “working waterway,” it’s typically been treated as simply a support for larger industrial facilities. And while industrial jobs are important, O’Mara says, we cannot afford to degrade our waterways.

“Right now across America, the outdoor economy is about a $646 billion economy. It employs more than six million people. And that puts it on par with many of the largest industries in the country. A lot of those jobs are water-dependent jobs related to fishing or swimming or outdoor activities. So one of the cases we’re trying to make is that it doesn’t have to be ‘either/or.’ The technologies exist now that we can actually have some industrial facilities and still not have to contaminate the waterway.”

O’Mara added that “Given the political power that’s in the region between Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky—I mean, you have some of the most important people in Washington that live along this watershed—there’s no reason why we can’t have significant investment go into the region.”

One thing is clear: Without significant change, the environmental future for the Ohio River is grim.

Hope Floats

But O’Mara is optimistic.

“If we can show progress in the Ohio River Valley…in a place that has a lot of legacy pollution…we can make it work anywhere.”

Until then, lest we forget what crystal clear water actually looks like:


Sources:

WLWT Cincinnati

Outwardon.com

WESA.fm

Environmental Law & Policy Center

Internet-Based Smart Irrigation Systems

Internet-based smart irrigation system technology is rapidly expanding throughout the industry, particularly for residential usage.web-based

Internet-based smart irrigation system technology is even featured in Forbes magazine, “Tired Of Wasting Water With That Dumb Sprinkler? Meet The Smart Sprinkler Controller.” This irrigation system technology allows residential users to control and monitor their sprinkler systems from anywhere in the world using a web browser or iPhone/Android app. It also uses the homeowner’s wireless internet (wifi) to access a live stream from nearby weather stations.  As a result, residential users are provided with real-time weather data, without the need to install a personal weather station or rain sensor.

lawn1Using adaptive algorithms to generate custom and dynamic watering schedules from this weather data, the smart controller automatically determines the optimal watering schedule for the irrigation site. The system automatically adjusts watering cycles, duration and frequency for optimal results in any weather condition. Some smart controllers will even take into consideration local watering restrictions.

swat_logoWeb-based irrigation systems are certifiable through both the EPA’s WaterSense program and the Irrigation Association’s Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) testing.  For a comparison of WaterSense and SWAT testing protocols, click here.

Let’s take a look at some of the web-based irrigation systems currently available…


Skydrop

Skydrop’s WiFi-based smart controller entered the market in September of 2014. The company is based in Lehi, Utah, and promotes its product as helping residential users to abide by local watering restrictions. (“Don’t be a lawn bandit, and don’t risk hefty fines.”) According to Skydrop, the typical homeowner can install and set up its controller in less than 30 minutes.

Malibu-GardenIn addition to using real-time weather data, the Skydrop smart controller also measures soil moisture to determine how much water the landscape is losing.  Like most other internet-based systems, the Skydrop device is programmed by zone according to soil type, plant type, sprinkler type, slope and shape. The  Skydrop controller can also be integrated with other smart home systems such alarm controllers, solar heating/cooling, and outdoor lighting.

logo-90The controller includes a “cycle and soak” feature to eliminate or reduce runoff when landscapes are sloped. The company claims that watering each zone separately and only when required results in an average reduction in water usage of 35%. The Skydrop smart controller has qualified for the EPA’s WaterSense® Certification, yet the company does not plan to pursue SWAT testing at this time.

The Skydrop controller operates eight zones plus a master valve/pump, and is expandable to 16 zones with an expansion unit. The retail price for the Skydrop 8-zone controller is around $300, and the expansion unit retails for $50.


Hydrawise (Hunter Industries)

flowerHydrawise was recently purchased by Hunter Industries. The Hydrawise smart controller provides interactive online reporting and alerts that allow the user to view water usage for each watering cycle or the water flow rate at any time. Email alerts notify the user of water flows (e.g., due to a broken pipe or faulty valve) when no zone is currently running. Alerts can also be configured when the water usage for an irrigation zone changes by more than 10% (such as, from broken spray heads or faulty wiring).

Hydrawise2ColorTrim260Hydrawise is one of the products which does not require port forwarding on the user’s router in order to control the irrigation system from anywhere in the world. Rather, wireless functionality is provided inside the controller; the user enters a wireless password on the controller itself.

hydrawiseAccording to Chris Foster, Midwest Sales Manager for Hunter, the Hydrawise system utilizes Cloud technology, allowing the residential user and support technician to “meet in the cloud,” thereby preventing any potential security risks.  “Hydrawise is fourth-generation technology,” he said.

The Hydrawise controller is available in 6- or 12-zone models; expansion modules allow an individual system to be expanded up to 36 zones. The product is WaterSense certified and was the winner of  The Australian Backyard Innovation Challenge in 2015. Hydrawise has not been SWAT tested. Pricing is available through a Hunter distributor.

According to Michael White, Vice President of Turf & Landscape Sales for Automatic Irrigation Supply, one of the best features of the Hydrawise system is the professional support that is now available through Hunter Industries.


Cyber Rain

The Cyber Rain smart controller is manufactured by Israel-based Galcon, which is owned by Kibbutz Kfar Blum.  According to the company, Cyber Rain was the very first central irrigation product to earn the EPA WaterSense certification (in 2012). It also claims that the Cyber Rain controller can reduce water costs by up to 40% annually. Cyber Rain is SWAT approved.

LogoCyberRain1Cyber Rain supplies a small device called an “Access Point” that is plugged into a router so that the controller can access the internet using Cloud technology. The Access Point communicates with an unlimited number of Cyber Rain controllers through its own two-way wireless network. The standard radio can communicate up to 200 feet, while the longer-range radio can reach up to two miles with the optional antenna.

downloadCyber Rain offers a Smart Scheduling Wizard to set up the water-wise irrigation schedule customized to the particular landscape. For zones with dense soil or on a slope, for instance, the Cyber Rain smart controller offer a cycle and soak feature to avoid run-off.

Controllers are available in 8-, 16- and 24-zone models. (The optional antenna can be attached to increase range.) Prices for the residential systems range from $500 to $600.  Professional installation is not required for the residential systems, but appears to be recommended.


Rachio

Rachio introduced its first product (“Iro”) in 2014; Iro is an intelligent irrigation controller that is powered by Rachio’s cloud-based software.  It an be rachio-logo-for-web-300px (1)controlled either through a web-based dashboard or through an intuitive Android or iPhone app. During setup, the homeowner’s smartphone sends a signal to the Iro, connecting it to the internet through a WiFi network. It then communicates with Rachio’s cloud-based software. The company claims that installation and setup take less than 30 minutes with no special tools or expertise required.

The Iro will automatically check the local weather forecast and issue adjustments based on evapotranspiration and precipitation data to match soil moisture depletion. The Iro also learns from the customer’s adjustments over time. As a result, users can personalize the balance between water use and the level of plant health in each zone.

Irrigation-Flowers013Iro’s Smart Cycle will automatically schedule cycle and soak irrigation events to eliminate or reduce runoff when landscapes are sloped and/or the infiltration rate of the soil is less than that of the precipitation rate of the nozzle for the given zone. A virtual rain sensor will suspend irrigation events if rain is forecasted within the next 24 hours.

Iro controllers are available in 8-zone ($199) and 16-zone ($249) models. The Iro system has received the EPA’s WaterSense certification. Rachis is SWAT tested and has earned the prestigious EPA WaterSense label for irrigation efficiency.

Comparison of Residential Web-Based Smart Irrigation Controllers

 SkydropHydrawiseCyber RainRachio
SmartPhone CompatibleYesYesYesYes
Ipad/PC CompatibleYesYesNoYes
Android CompatibleYesYesYesYes
Uses Real-time Weather DataYesYesYesYes
Provides Online ReportingYesYesYesYes
Uses Cloud TechnologyYesYesYesYes
WaterSense CertifiedYesYesYesYes
SWAT TestedYesNoYesYes
Do-It-Yourself InstallationYesNo
YesYes
Professional SupportNoYesNoYes
Interfaces with Other Home SystemsYesYesNoYes
Includes Cycle and Soak FeatureYesYesYesYes
No. of Zones Available8, 166, 12*8, 168, 16
Price$299.99-$348.99 $260.00-$310.00$499.00-$599.00$199.00-$249.00

*May be expanded up to 36 zones.


The Future

Having recently attended a trade function focused on what water management will look like in the year 2065, Automatic Irrigation’s Michael White firmly believes that the web-based systems are crucial to allowing homeowners to be better stewards of water resources.  “Twenty-five years from now, water will cost much more than it does today,” he said. Consequently, “These new systems are good for the consumer and they’re good for the industry.”

(Editor’s note: Rachio’s data was corrected and updated from the original post based on additional information provided by the manufacturer.)


Sources:

U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, “Weather- and Soil Moisture-Based Landscape Irrigation Scheduling Devices”

Every Drop Counts…July Is Smart Irrigation Month

water

It’s that time of year again…July is Smart Irrigation Month and, as usual, there are many ways  for businesses and consumers to participate in the campaign.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month continues to gain traction each year as consumers and irrigation specialists alike recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides to all of us.

Give this a try!

Place a few empty tuna cans around your lawn while you’re watering and measure how long it takes your sprinkler to fill them with a half inch of water. Then, try watering that amount of time twice a week, gauge how your landscape responds, and adjust based on weather conditions. Or simplify by replacing your standard clock timer controller with a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller.

Smart Systems

Among the strategies being presented to consumers, first and foremost is proper programming of automatic watering or sprinkler systems to deliver just the right amount of water at the right time. Additional strategies include:

  • smartProper landscaping, keeping soil healthy, mulching and routine landscape maintenance
  • Investing in an irrigation system that uses the best, most flexible, components, has “smart” controls, and meets code requirements
  • Watering during the evening and early morning to prevent evaporation, taking soil type and sprinkler placement into consideration
  • Maintaining the sprinkler system regularly by adjusting sprinkler heads, repairing leaks and monitoring pressure

WaterSense

According the the EPA’s WaterSense website, adopting water–savvy habits also is essential to maintaining and extending our communities’ water supplies, especially during peak use. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers/distributors, and utilities to bring high-performing, water-efficient products to the marketplace. WaterSense also partners with professional certifying organizations to promote water–efficient landscape irrigation practices. Since the program began in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a total of 1.5 trillion gallons of water, resulting in more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bill savings.

Smart Ideas

Since July is the peak month for water consumption, the national Smart Irrigation campaign is encouraging industrial firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies, as well.   Here are some of the many  “Smart Ideas” to promote the national campaign that are listed on the Irrigation Association website:

  • SIM_LogoAdd the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your web site, ads, customer presentations, field signs, invoices and more.
  • Submit a press release or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Ask employees to add the Smart Irrigation Month logo to their e-mail signature block.
  • Hand out Smart Irrigation Month bumper stickers at your next contractor meeting.
  • Host a live demonstration of water-saving irrigation technologies, in the field or at your location.
  • Feature water-efficient products and services in displays, ads, promotions and product demos with the Smart Irrigation Month logo.
  • Use a banner, outside signage or counter sign to encourage customers to ask about how smart irrigation can save water and money.
  • Smart Irrigation Controller RebateMake smart irrigation the theme of sales calls.
  • Stick a Smart Irrigation Month label on every box that goes out the door.
  • Give awards to customers and/or business partners who promote water-efficient practices.
  • Volunteer to speak to a local homeowner association, garden club or civic group.
  • Distribute copies of the Smart Irrigation Month coloring book at a farmers market or county fair.
  • Ask your local radio station to play a public service announcement, promoting July as Smart Irrigation Month.

What are YOU doing to promote Smart Irrigation Month?  Remember…Every Drop Counts!


Sources:

Irrigation Association, http://www.irrigation.org/Resources/SmartIrrigationMonth/SmartIdeas.aspx

EPA WaterSense,  https://www3.epa.gov/watersense/pubs/efficient.html

 

 

Ohio CENTS Show Offers Irrigation Training Classes

Here is the schedule of irrigation training classes at the 2016 Cents Show In Columbus, Ohio January 11-13

The 2016 CENTS Show offers seven technical irrigation training classes at this year’s show. From water conservation to trouble shooting irrigation controllers, the CENTS Show has an extensive list of irrigation classes.

Below is a list of the training classes being offered

Click here for the complete schedule

Water Conservation and Cost Savings

11 Jan 2016
10:30 am – 11:30 am
C226
Scott Knowles

Scott KnowlesSaving water is a hot topic in many drought stressed parts of the nation. Lack of water is a very good reason irrigation systems must monitor and reduce water usage.

Even in the Midwest, where abundant water is more often the issue, owners of irrigation systems want to save the precious resources and money via Smart irrigation practices.

The Irrigation Association is leading the way to help consumers and green industry professionals understand water conservation. Smart Irrigation is a slogan and a category of vitally useful products and practices that can save 35-40% of the water “normal” irrigation systems and practices use.

Come learn to use Smart Irrigation practices and products as a money-making opportunity that provides your clients cost reduction and environmental benefits.

Sponsored by: The Wolf Creek Company

2016 Landscape & Irrigation Industry Trends

Capture the Growth

Tom Barrett PortraitTom Barrett will keynote the Ohio Irrigation Association’s Annual Meeting.

6:00 pm, Monday, January 11, 2016 – at the Ohio Irrigation Association’s Annual Meeting

Well known throughout the landscape industry, Tom Barrett,  has a reputation of being an innovator and accomplished corporate growth and change agent.Tom’s presentations empower people to become masters of change, rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformative thinking.

Sponsored by: Hunter, Rain Bird & Toro

Irrigation Pipe Connections

12 Jan 2016 12:30 pm – 1:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

How to make the common pipe connections for a landscape irrigation system.  Most consider pipe connections simple and easy, but there are some things to know to make long lasting connections that won’t fail in the future.  We’ll cover the tips to successfully make common pipe connections.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Controller Repair

12 Jan 2016 2:30 pm – 3:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

When my irrigation won’t come on where do I start looking for the problem? Is it the controller? Are the stations off, run times off or is there a mechanical problem?

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

Making Irrigation Wire Splices

13 Jan 2016 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Wire connections tend to be the most common electrical problem for a landscape irrigation system.  Several  easy and inexpensive wire connectors exist to help contractor make good field wire splices.  We’ll examine the most common and show how to use them.  Will also talk about the Best Practices to make a good wire connection.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Hydraulics (Tues)

12 Jan 2016 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Why do some stations come on and others do not? Is there a hydraulic problem or an electrical problem? Learn the difference in open and closed valves.

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

Irrigation Wire Path Diagnostics

11 Jan 2016 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

How to quickly determine the nature of irrigation field wire problems using a multi-meter at the controller will be demonstrated.  A time saving method to find out what issues are present on the field wiring before hunting for issues around the property.  Participants will receive a chart of possible problems and shown how to use a multi-meter to with the chart.

Sponsored by: Ohio Irrigation Association

Irrigation Trouble Shooting-Hydraulics (Mon)

11 Jan 2016 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm ONLA Garage, Hall E

Why do some stations come on and others do not? Is there a hydraulic problem or an electrical problem? Learn the difference in open and closed valves.

Sponsored by: Century Equipment

WaterSense® Program Accomplishments

U.S. EPA WaterSense® Program Accomplishments

Since the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has grown dramatically. Here are some of their most significant accomplishments:

  • The program has more than 1,613 organizational partners.
  • The program has helped consumers save a cumulative1 trillion gallons of water, resulting in saving over $21.7 billion in water and energy bills.
  • Through the use of labeled products, by the end of 2014 reductions of 146 billion kWh of electricity and 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were achieved.
  • The  labeled products program has proven to be overwhelmingly successful. Originally there were twenty-two labeled products. Today, the label is found on more than 1,600 models of showerheads, 1,900 models of tank-type toilets, 6,800 models of faucet or faucet accessory models, and 150 models of weather–based irrigation controllers.

Water Savings

  • Labeled products that are 20 percent more water-efficient and perform as well as or better than standard models.
  • Labeled faucets—or aerators that can be installed on existing bathroom faucets—are about 30 percent more efficient than standard faucets while still providing sufficient flow.
  • Labeled toilets use 20 percent less water per flush but perform as well as or better than today’s standard toilets and older toilets that use much more water.

Key Milestones

  • The launch of the Single-Family New Home Specification, and the first labeled homes entered the market in December of 2009. As of the end of 2014, the total number of  labeled homes across the country is at 449.
  • Celebrated their eight annual Partner of the Year awards in October 2015.
Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson

“The WaterSense® program is a great way of empowering consumers to make a difference for our environment. WaterSense continues to raise awareness about the value of smart water use and, by growing our green economy, is moving the marketplace to preserve one of our most precious resources.”

– Lisa P. Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

2014 WaterSense Accomplishments

 

 


Program Accomplishment Sources:

http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/about_us/milestones.html

http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/about_us/facts.html

EPA WaterSense® – Friend or Foe

WaterSense® – Is it Working?

As reported by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), “America’s consumption of the public water supply continues to increase.” Our use of water can be improved, and in many cases, at little or no cost. Water efficiency can be effectively achieved through education and the implementation of conservation strategies such as the use of non-potable water in the landscape.

The Need for the WaterSense Program

EPA WaterSens LogoCommercial and residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for more than 7 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation. As much as half of that is lost or wasted due to evaporation, wind, or improper irrigation design, installation, and lack of consistent maintenance.[1]

From all of the controversy centering on landscapes being a waste of water and natural resources, the EPA developed the WaterSense program to foster water conservation and the efficient use of water both indoors and out.

The program is designed to help protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting water efficiency and enhancing the market for water-efficient products, programs, and practices.[2]

Jeff Carowitz, an long-time industry veteran, is hopeful that the EPA’s WaterSense Program will enjoy the same success as the ENERGY STAR® Program

User Feedback on the WaterSense Program

The EPA’s WaterSense program has the potential to have a profound effect on the landscape irrigation industry.

 John Newlin, Quality Sprinkler Services, Likes the Program

John Newlin, owner of Quality Services, an irrigation contractor in Cleveland, Ohio shared his thoughts:

John Newlin, Secretary, Ohio Irrigation Association

“I like the program. The EPA has been very professional with their marketing materials. This helps me promote my business. The information and marketing materials provided by the WaterSense program are excellent. The best part is that it does not cost me anything.”

Newlin says the EPA is doing an excellent job of developing consumer awareness toward water conservation. WaterSense is helping to modify behavior without resorting to restrictive legislation.

“I am not sure I liked it when the EPA opened the door for irrigation certification to companies like Rain Bird and other associations. I think the Irrigation Association should be certifying irrigation contractors, but I like the certification requirement.”

Overall, Newlin likes the EPA’s WaterSense program. Newlin says, “By continuing to raise the standards for performance in the landscape irrigation industry, it will make the industry stronger.”

 

Kurt Thompson, Training & Technical Director – Irrigation for Massey Services in Florida sees both positive and negative effects of the EPA WaterSense program.

Kurt Thompson“I like the product labeling program and the professional certification program. The WaterSense program can provide good pull-through for manufacturers’ products. The certification standard helps to raise the level of professionalism in the landscape irrigation industry.”

Thompson dislikes the ‘one-size-fits all’ component of the WaterSense home program. “The data provided by the EPA does not allow for the differences in climate across the country,” says Thompson, “Because the data is based upon a fixed climatic condition, it cannot be an effective tool where those conditions are not typical. On the West coast it will do a great job. However, on the East coast it will not work as effectively.”

“I would like to see some provisions for irrigation system maintenance,” continues Thompson. “I see too many irrigation systems that have not been looked at since installation. The state of disrepair in these systems is disheartening. It is so easy to save water with a little bit of attention.”

Overall, Thompson says, “The beauty of EPA’s WaterSense program is that it is encouraging more people to be properly trained in correct irrigation practices.”

Brain Vinchesi, Owner of Irrigation Consulting, is a Proponent

Brian Vinchesi, consultant and owner of Irrigation Consulting, Inc. and winner of the EPA’s WaterSense Partner of the Year – 2009, is a proponent of the WaterSense program.

Brian VinchesiHe spends much of his time advocating for water conservation and promoting water efficiency throughout the industry. Vinchesi shares, “The public relations effort by the EPA’s WaterSense program is excellent for the industry. Generally speaking, the EPA’s attempt to look at water savings like energy savings is great.”

Vinchesi has reservations with the water budget inaccuracies in the technical data. Evapotranspiration in July is the basis for the water budget. There are wide variations in evapotranspiration rates across the country. July is not always the peak water-use month. The water budget gives too much water to drier areas of the country and not enough water to wetter areas of the country. In wetter areas, using July as the driest month will not save as much water. In wetter climates, more water savings could be achieved in other months. Additionally, in other parts of the country, Arizona for example, July is not the month with the highest level of evapotranspiration.

Vinchesi feels the WaterSense label campaign for products is working well. However, he feels that the WaterSense labeling for new homes is a little too prescriptive and the science behind some of the assumptions is lacking.

Vinchesi’s biggest concern for the future of the WaterSense program is that the limitation on funding has kept the EPA from doing more. “Overall,” Vinchesi says, “everyone at the EPA works very hard. The awards program is good and has been expanded. The EPA has done an excellent job.”

“The irrigation industry needs to see more products with the WaterSense label. The plumbing industry has more experience in working with government agencies and is more adept at consensus-based decisions. The irrigation industry is slowly learning how to work with this style of decision making.”

Vinchesi believes that in the future, the WaterSense program will need additional funding. “It is taking too long to get things done. The EPA is on-track with product labeling, but there needs to be better research and science behind the water budget and WaterSense labeling for new home construction. Commercial and institutional standards need to be developed.”

Tim Malooly – 2008 WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year

Tim Malooly, President of Water in Motion and 2008 WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Tim MaloolyYear, has been involved with the EPA’s WaterSense program since its inception in 2005. He likes the program’s goal of achieving a 20% water savings without adversely affecting the lifestyle of consumers.

He feels that the premise of developing consumer awareness of our water resources through a strong educational effort is great. “It’s all about affecting behavior,” says Malooly, “There is a great deal of work to do in building consumer awareness. The consumer can have a huge impact on saving water by understanding the difference between a properly designed and installed irrigation system and a poorly installed irrigation system. Additionally, the consumer can save even more water by interacting and adjusting their irrigation controller on a regular basis.”

Malooly’s concern lies in the tendency of concentrating the agency’s efforts on developing a standard for a technological device like weather-based controllers that will reduce water usage when educating consumers can have a far greater impact.

“Picking SMART controller as the initial product for the first WaterSense labeled irrigation device was probably a mistake,” says Malooly, “There are other, more conventional devices, like rain sensors and spray heads with built-in pressure regulators, that could have been WaterSense labeled faster because of a wider level of acceptance within the landscape irrigation industry.”

Malooly is concerned that the WaterSense New Home Specification has some flaws. Developing a specification that is easily administered across the country is difficult. Malooly adds, “The water budget tool is workable but needs some refinement. There are regional differences that are vital to consider.”

“In the future, realizing that this is a living document and the specifications are subject to change is important. All of us in the landscape irrigation industry can play an important part in the development of this program,” says Malooly.

The EPA’s opinions carry a lot of weight in conservation organizations. Working with the landscape irrigation industry is important as the EPA moves forward in increasing consumer awareness of water conservation. “Hopefully, the International Code Council will assist in developing a standard for the irrigation industry,” concludes Malooly.

Judy Benson – 2010 WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year

Judy Benson EPA Award

Judy Benson, left, receiving the 2010 U.S. EPA WaterSense
Partner of the Year Award

 

Judy Benson, owner of Clear Water Products & Services and 2010 WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year likes the EPA’s WaterSense program. “The EPA WaterSense program is on the right track,” says Benson, “Although there is some room for improvement, this program raises the bar by requiring certification for performance standards. This helps to professionalize the industry. We need more contractors to get on-board with the program.”

While the WaterSense product labeling is a good idea, its implementation has been too slow for the irrigation industry. Benson would like to see more outdoor products with the WaterSense label, and adds, “The WaterSense New Home Specification needs some adjustment.”

Benson would also like to see a recertification program for older properties. “Too many irrigations systems are installed here in Florida and not looked at afterwards,” says Benson, “All irrigation systems require attention and maintenance to perform properly.”

“Overall, the EPA WaterSense program is on the right path. The program is more suggestive than prescriptive,” says Benson, “and that is a good thing.”

Jeff Carowitz, owner of Strategic Force Marketing, thinks the EPA’s WaterSense program is a good program. He sees a lot of changes facing the irrigation industry today, and believes the EPA’s WaterSense program raises consumer awareness. Carowitz exclaims, “In building business, it is up to the contractor to effectively use the program.”

Carowitz is hopeful that the EPA’s WaterSense program will enjoy the same success as the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. The ENERGY STAR program, by creating a standard for energy efficiency, has helped create demand for energy efficient products. This helps consumers make more informed decisions on their purchases. Carowitz believes that the EPA’s WaterSense program can assist manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors in positively promoting water efficiency to consumers.

The U.S. EPA WaterSense Program is on the Right Track

From the interviews conducted for the landscape irrigation industry, the EPA is on the right track with the WaterSense program. Those familiar with the program appreciate the program’s ability to educate the public about water conservation and water efficiency. Concerns point to the program’s ability to create products and procedures usable in variable locations and climates, both nationally and internationally.

The EPA exerts considerable influence with the American consumer and throughout the world. With that said, the program’s product labeling campaign helps manufacturers increase product sales and gives consumers more information about a product’s water saving ability.

Most agree that water is a precious and vital resource; water conservation is readily accepted as something both consumers and industry professional must address. Creating programs that educate, standardize, and work effectively are no longer optional. The best solutions are often those that are created from a shared responsibility for a positive and effective outcome.


 

[1] http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/cert_programs.html

[2] http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/about_us/why_watersense.html

What is WaterSense®?

What is U.S. EPA WaterSense®?

EPA WaterSens LogoLaunched in June of 2006, the EPA’s WaterSense program created a goal to educate the public and consumers in the importance of water conservation. During the 2006 American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition in San Antonio, Texas, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson informed, “Commercial and residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for more than seven billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation.” The EPA estimates over three and a half billion gallons of water are wasted every day from inefficient and ineffective landscape irrigation practices. More than fifty percent of irrigation water used in residential and commercial irrigation systems is wasted.

The EPA’s WaterSense Program is a program designed to promote water conservation and the efficient use of water through education, not regulation. There are four primary features of the program.

Consumer Education

WaterSense is working towards protecting our nation’s water supply by educating consumers and businesses in water efficient practices, programs, and products.

FixALeakWeekThe Fix a Leak Week campaign, held annually in March, is one of the ways WaterSense is bringing water conservation awareness to the public. The EPA reports that the average American home leaks over 10,000 gallons of water each year. Nationally, this represents over 1 trillion gallons of water lost.

We’re for Water” campaign was launched to encourage consumers to make simple changes to save water. The cornerstone of the campaign is a series of print public service announcements featuring Flo, the WaterSense spokesgallon. The public outreach campaign traveled the country passing out 500 WaterSense labeled aerator faucets in order to raise awareness about how easy water conservation can be at home.

We're for WaterAs part of the “We’re for Water” campaign, the “I’m for Water” program asks individuals to take a pledge and commit to checking off one or more simple tasks each month to save precious water resources. The program provides tips on how to use less water and spend less on utility bills.

Professional Certification Programs

EPA Watersense Product LogoIrrigation professionals can earn a WaterSense labeled certification by demonstrating expertise in water-efficient irrigation technology and techniques. The specifications cover three areas: irrigation system design, installation and maintenance, and system auditing.

Irrigation professionals can distinguish themselves from competitors through certification and a documented commitment to the program of water efficiency. Certified irrigation professionals are listed in WaterSense’s Directory of Certified Professionals, making it easy for consumers and businesses to find local irrigation experts.

The Irrigation Association’s certification program was the first certifying partner to be approved by the EPA. The following is a list of professional certification programs that have earned the WaterSense label[1].

Irrigation System Design

§  Certified Irrigation Designer (CID) (landscape/turf specialties only) – Offered by the Irrigation Association, available nationwide.

§ Irrigation System Installation and Maintenance

§  Certified Irrigation Contractor (CIC) – Offered by the Irrigation Association, available nationwide.

Irrigation System Audits

§  Certified Golf Irrigation Auditor (CGIA) – Offered by the Irrigation Association, nationwide.

§  Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA) – Offered by the Irrigation Association, available nationwide.

§  Certified Water Management Program – Offered by the California Landscape Contractors Association, available in California.

§  Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) – Offered by the Sonoma–Marin Saving Water Partnership, available in California, Utah, New Mexico, Florida, Wyoming. Available for adoption nationwide.

§  Texas Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor Program (TxCLIA) – Offered by Texas A&M AgrilLife Extension Service, Texas A&M School of Irrigation, available in Texas.

§  Watershed Wise Landscape Professional (WWLP) – Offered by G3LA, LLC, available in California and west of the Rocky Mountains.

Product Labeling

Products that carry the WaterSense label generally demonstrate a 20% water savings over conventional products. WaterSense labeled products are tested by independent, third party testing and certification agencies. The certification process is rigorous, assuring consumers that a WaterSense labeled product will deliver exceptional performance and water savings.

WaterSense has issued final product specifications and technical clarifications for the following product categories[2]:

WaterSense New Home GraphicNew Home Specification

The WaterSense New Home Specification is designed to reduce residential water use, both indoors and outdoors, when compared to a conventional new home. The program focuses on hot water, as well as water use in the bathroom, kitchen, and landscaping.

American homes average 75 gallons of water use per person per day. The EPA claims that compared to an existing home, a WaterSense labeled home could save more than $200 per year on water and energy bills. The WaterSense New Home Specification works well with other green building programs like ENERGY STAR, LEED®, and the National Green Building Standard.

The water we use everyday is vital and limited. We as an industry have both an opportunity and a responsibility to increase our water conservation efforts. The EPA’s WaterSense program has proven we can increase water efficiency and develop practices that help preserve this precious resource. To find out more about the benefits of a WaterSense labeled home and the latest in program news, read the WaterSense Blueprint, a quarterly update dedicated to news and events related to WaterSense labeled new homes.



[1] http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/cert_programs.html

[2] http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/partners/product_program_specs.html

 

Brave New World – Trends and Opportunities in the Emerging Green Environment

Tom Barrett Portrait

Tom Barrett

Three Latest Trends

Tom Barrett, an international business consultant and a nationally known landscape and irrigation industry expert, keynoted the Ohio Irrigation Association’s Annual irrigation contractor meeting at the CENTS convention on January 7, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. Tom’s presentation focused on the top three latest trends:

  • Current economic conditions;
  • National industry trends in the environmental movement; and
  • Social trends that affect the emerging purchasing behavior in today’s consumer.

In 2014 the irrigation and landscape industry grew between 6% to 8% across the nation. However, this trend was not uniform throughout the country or even in metropolitan areas. Wealthy areas, like northern Columbus, Ohio, experienced greater growth than poorer areas of the city and the country.

In 2015 Expect a 9% Increase in Commercial Construction

Dodge Reports,  the largest provider of commercial construction project plans and news, latest trend reports a 9% increase in commercial construction projects for 2015. Overall, the economic outlook is good for landscape and irrigation construction.

University of Cincinnati Extensive Green Roof

Extensive Green Roof at the University of Cincinnati.

Water Pollution Caused by Stormwater Runoff Creates Additional Opportunities

The increasing emphasis in environmental issues through the world can also benefit landscape and irrigation contractors. The U.S. EPA is coming under increasing scrutiny for water pollution caused by stormwater runoff.

Over 175 communities across the United States have stormwater systems that feed stormwater through their sewage treatment facilities. It seems wasteful to treat rainwater as sewer water but, more importantly, the sewage treatment facilities are not designed to handle the large volume of water that occurs from a rain event. Such facilities, with as little as a 1/4 inch of rainwater, will overflow the rainwater mixed with untreated sewerage into the local waterways.

University of Cincinnati Extensive Green Roof

Extensive Green Roof at the University of Cincinnati.

The issue of stomwater runoff was especially noteworthy in Ohio where the pollution in Lake Erie forced the City of Toledo to shut off it water supply to half a million people for three days this past summer.

Green infrastructure has been heralded as a more efficiency and effective solution to the nation’s water pollution issues. Green infrastructure utilizes living plant material to create a more natural method for stormwater mitigation.

The following green infrastructure methods are areas that require greater landscape and irrigation contractor expertise and participation:

  • rain gardens;
  • bioswales;
  • green roofs;
  • rainwater harvesting; and
  • condensate recovery.

 Social Trends

Finally, in closing, Barrett’s presentation focused on three broad social trends most landscape and irrigation contractors are missing out on:

  1. Digital marketing and social media;
  2. Aging population; and
  3. Dramatic increase in women’s affluence in the United States.

There were several questions from the audience about the lower prices for gasoline predicting an economic recession. Barrett replied that he did not see lower gasoline prices reducing the demand for landscaping and irrigation.

Business Do Not Create Jobs; Consumers Create Jobs

In fact, Barrett went on to say, “The current economic recovery has missed the mark in job creation by focusing on large multi-national corporations. 70% of jobs in America are created by smaller business with fifty or less employees. Additionally, no business will create jobs without consumer demand. The job creation focus needs to be on putting money into circulation through consumers.”

Reviews And Comments

The most memorable concept from the presentation was women’s impact in the workforce today.

My favorite part of the presentation was the statistics on how the world is changing.

 

Water Rates Go Up Three Times Faster than the Consumer Price Index

The Price of Water

Wasting Dollars Water ImageWater rates continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation. Most major U.S. cities have experienced a 25% water rate increase over the last three years. At this rate of growth, landscape and irrigation contractors throughout the U.S. will no doubt incorporate this reality in their water conservation plans on all future projects.

Click Here for the full report base on the Circle of Blue‘s annual survey of water rates for single-family residential customers.

In 2013, the increase in the water rates for residential customers averaged 6.7%.

In 2013, the increase in water rates for residential customers averaged 6.7%. This is three times higher than the Consumer Price Index of 2.1% for 2012. Surprisingly, the residential cost of water for a family of four is lower in states within arid regions than in more temperate regions of the country. In comparison: a typical family of four in Phoenix, Arizona pays about $35 per month; whereas, in Boston, Massachusetts a typical family of four pays about $65 per month for the same amount of water.

Not surprisingly, average residential water use is significantly higher in areas of low rainfall. Fresno, California, with an average water use of 200 gallons of water per person per day, has the highest per capita water use in the nation. Conversely, Boston, Massachusetts, with an average water use of less than 50 gallons of water per person per day, has the lowest per capita water use of any major city in the United States.

Water Rates & Water Conservation

Water conservation continues to be a major focus in cities where water infrastructure is at capacity. However cities with excess capacity, such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are encouraging water consumption. Over the last three decades Milwaukee water use has dropped over 40%. The declining use of water in Milwaukee is because of the disappearance of breweries and tanneries, both water intensive businesses, who went out of business or relocated out of the area.

Water conservation is working. Per capita water use is decreasing. Water demand throughout the United States is falling or remaining steady despite increases in population. Water use in the United States peaked around 1980. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported, “after 1980 water use started to decrease a bit, possibly due to the Nation making more use of water-conservation measures.”

Ohio Domestic Water Use Increases 25%

Midwest Water Rates

2010 – 2013 Water Rates Midwest Cities – Circle of Blue

In 2005, domestic water consumption in Ohio averaged 69 gallons per person per day. The average consumption rate ten years prior was 54 gallons per person per day. This represents a 25% increase in domestic water consumption within a ten-year period.

Water rates are also on the rise for many communities. Across the country water rates increased nearly 7% in thirty major U.S. cities. Columbus, Ohio water rates have increased 4% in 2013. In Chicago, water rates have increased 15%. Whereas other Midwestern cities, such as Indianapolis and Milwaukee, reported no increase in their water rates.

Water Conservation Strategies

There is more work to do in conserving outdoor water use. Newer technologies like rain sensors and ET-based controllers help; however, simpler methods are available.

Professionalism – Join your national and local irrigation association. Get certified, become an EPA WaterSense Partner and promote professionalism.

Rain Sensors – Install a rain sensor on every irrigation system.

Drip Irrigation – Use low-volume micro-irrigation or drip in shrub areas and flowerbeds.

Monthly Water Budget Adjustments – Adjust the water budget monthly during the season.

Irrigate Only When Necessary – Encourage homeowners and property managers to irrigate only when necessary.

Weather – Watch the weather forecast for upcoming rain events and turn off the irrigation controller.

Correct Sprinkler Head Spacing – Insist on head-to-head coverage fro sprinkler spacing on every job.

Nozzle correctly – Match sprinkler head precipitation rates by installing the appropriate nozzle.

EPA WaterSense Milestone Graphic

Since the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 487 billion gallons of water and $8.9 billion in water and energy bills.

 

July is Smart Irrigation Month – Are You Ready?

Are you Ready for Smart Irrigation Month?

What is Smart Irrigation Month?

Irrigation Association's Smart Irrigation Month Color LogoMost homeowners overwater their yard, unintentionally wasting money every time they take out the hose or turn on the sprinklers. To raise awareness of the benefits of efficient watering practices, the Irrigation Association has named July Smart Irrigation Month.

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month is gaining traction as stakeholders recognize the positive impact efficient irrigation and water use provides.

Focused on July, this campaign provides a unified marketing platform and is designed to:

  • Educate businesses, homeowners, growers/producers and other users about efficient water use.
  • Encourage industry firms and professionals to promote smart irrigation practices and technologies.
  • Position your organization as a leader in smart water stewardship.

How Can You Participate?

Lawn Irrigation Spray HeadWhether your business is big or small or focused on agriculture, turf/landscape or golf applications, there are many ways to participate in the Smart Irrigation Month campaign.

Smart Irrigation Month is an industry campaign to increase public awareness of the value of water-use efficiency. Join other irrigation companies and professionals to:

  • Educate customers about efficient water-use.
  • Grow demand for water-saving technologies, products and services.
  • Provide real solutions to today’s water challenges.
  • Position your company as a leader in smart water-efficient practices.

Getting involved is as simple as adding the Smart Irrigation Month logo to your web site, ads or newsletter, or highlighting water-saving products during July.

 

How Can You Benefit from Smart Irrigation Month?

Wasting Dollars Water Image

Creating an efficient irrigation system requires specialized knowledge and understanding of irrigation design principles and local environmental conditions — something most weekend gardeners don’t have. Complying with local installation codes is another consideration.

Hiring a certified or licensed irrigation professional and insisting on high-quality components is the smart way to make sure your system will operate at peak efficiency for years to come. Always get multiple bids, check references and confirm your preferred vendor is properly insured.

Here are some Tips from the Ohio Irrigation Association

The Smart Marketing Contest honors the best Smart Irrigation Month marketing ideas and campaigns.

Large or small, agriculture or landscape, water provider or affiliate – all organizations will be recognized for their help in promoting this initiative. Celebrate the month, share the benefits of smart irrigation and position your company as a leader in water conservation.

Plan your campaign before July arrives, and prepare your contest submission for the Aug. 30 deadline.

Contest Details

Winner with TrophyWinners will be selected from a range of categories representing the diversity of the irrigation industry. Businesses large and small are encouraged to enter. Submissions are judged by a neutral panel based on messaging, quality, creativity and implementation of Smart Irrigation Month messaging.

All contest participants will be recognized:

  • On the IA and Smart Irrigation Month web sites.
  • In the Irrigation Show Guide, distributed on-site to all attendees and exhibitors.

Winners will be:

  • Recognized at the General Session of the Irrigation Show.
  • Showcased at the Smart Irrigation Month Idea Gallery and briefing at the show.
  • Highlighted on the IA and Smart Irrigation Month web sites.
  • Featured in an article in IA Times, IA’s monthly e-newsletter.
  • Profiled in free publicity to industry media.

Submission Requirements


Contest submissions are due Aug. 30. The contest is free to IA members and open to nonmembers for a $250 fee credited toward their membership application. The entry must include reference to the Smart Irrigation Month campaign or logo. Your submission should include:

  • Samples of all campaign materials (electronic samples preferred).

Submit all samples to smartcontest@irrigation.org or:

Smart Marketing Contest
Irrigation Association
6540 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22042-6638

Click here for smart ideas, logos and other free resources.

Smart Irrigation Month is an initiative of the Irrigation Association, a non-profit industry organization dedicated to promoting efficient irrigation. Learn more at www.smartirrigationmonth.org.

What is an Irrigation Audit?

by Tom Barrett

Saving Water in the Landscape is Precisely What an Irrigation Audit is All About

 Water Conservation

An irrigation audit is a process that develops the maximum efficiency possible from an installed iLawn Sprinklerrrigation system.  Simply, an irrigation audit saves water.  How much water can be saved with irrigation system audit?  In many cases, after an audit, a landscape will use forty to sixty per cent less water than before the irrigation audit was completed.  Can you image saving over fifty percent of the water used in a landscape? This is a lot of water to save.

Saving water in the landscape is precisely what an irrigation audit is all about. Besides conserving water, an irrigation audit reduces fertilizer usage and water runoff. The net result is a better looking landscape. There are fewer wet or dry spots. The landscape thrives when properly irrigated.

It takes a trained professional, knowledgeable in irrigation and the audit process, to develop an effective irrigation audit. There are three steps in developing an irrigation system audit.  Step one is testing the system to be certain all the irrigation system components function properly.  Often, significant water savings are achieved by simply fixing and adjusting the existing irrigation system. The second step is to field test each zone of the irrigation system. Each irrigation zone is operated. The precipitation rate and efficiency of each irrigation zone is collected under actual operational conditions.  The final step in an irrigation audit is to calculate irrigation schedules that are based on plant type, soil conditions, weather patterns, and field test results.

Step One – Test the System

Irrigation Audit Catch Can

The first step in the irrigation system audit is to test the system. During this process the irrigation auditor will make sure all the components of the irrigation system function properly.  A site inspection worksheet is used to record the data. The following components are inspected and tested:

  1. Static Pressure – Test the static pressure of the irrigation system.
  2. Backflow Test – Pressure test the backflow preventer. On commercial buildings the backflow preventer is usually a reduced pressure principle backflow device.  On small commercial and many residential systems the backflow preventer maybe an atmospheric backflow preventer or an atmospheric backflow preventer.  It is important that a trained, professional test the backflow preventer for proper operation.
  3. Zone Test – Operate each station or control zone on the controller.  Visually inspect every sprinkler head to determine if the arc is properly adjusted and the proper nozzle is installed.  Additionally, inspect the sprinkler heads for clogging, leaking seals, missing sprinkler heads, tilted sprinkler heads. Finally inspect the sprinkler to insure that the landscape has not overgrown and is deflecting the spray pattern.  Also, look for sunken sprinkler heads.
  4. Controller Test – Record all current controller or timer settings.  The manufacturer, model, and location of the controller are noted on the site inspection worksheet. The current irrigation schedule is recorded.  The current irrigation watering schedule will be used to determine the amount of water savings achieved after the audit is completed.

Step Two – Irrigation System Field TestIrrigation Audit Image

The purpose of the irrigation system field test is to determine the precipitation rate and efficiency of each sprinkler system zone. During the field test, catch cans are systematically placed, in a grid pattern, throughout the landscape.

Catch cans are specialized water collection devices.  Each station or zone is operated for a specified time.  Usually each station or zone is tested separately. The water collected in the catch cans are measured and recorded.

The precipitation rate of each zone is calculated by measuring the average amount of water collected in each catch can.  The efficiency of the zone is calculated by measuring the variance of the water collected in each catch can.  The smaller the variance between catch can results the more efficient the irrigation system is.  Ideally, a properly installed irrigation system is between 65% to 75% efficient.

Last year we announced a  the release of the first electronic, hand-held catch can reader for irrigation audits. Click Here for more information

Step Three – Creating an Irrigation Schedule

Calculating the irrigation schedule, based upon the actual field information, is where sustainable water savings occur. In calculating the base irrigation schedule the following factors are used to create the most efficient irrigation schedule possible:

Evapotranspiration

Evapotranspiration is the amount of water used by a landscape.  Evapotranspiration is the water loss in the landscape due to evaporation and the water used by plants in transpiration. Evapotranspiration varies by geographic location, seasonal weather patterns, plant material, local site conditions, and soil type.

Soil

The type of soil effects the amount of water that can be stored in the soil.  Sandy soils will hold less water than clay soils.  The infiltration or percolation rate will vary by soil type.  The infiltration or percolation rate is how fast a soil type can absorb water.  This will vary based upon soil texture, structure, degree of compaction, and slope.

Plant Materials

Different plants have different water use requirements and different rooting depths.  The size, age, and location of the plants all effect water usage.  Location, exposure, and the active root zone depth all effect plant water usage and must be considered when creating the base irrigation schedules.

Sprinklers

The information developed in the Irrigation System Field Test is used to determine how long each zone needs to operate to apply the correct amount of water.  The more efficient the irrigation zone the less time the zone needs to apply water.  Lower precipitation rates will result in longer run times and potentially less water runoff.

Baseline ScheduleGolf Course Catch Can Test

A baseline irrigation schedule is then developed for each irrigation zone. The landscape water requirement is adjusted based upon the efficiency of the irrigation system as determined by the field test information.   The soil type is used to determine how much water to apply.  Additionally, since most sprinkler systems can apply water faster than the soil can absorb water, a maximum run time is developed for each irrigation zone.  This prevents water from running off the landscape.  The soil and root depth determine how long to run a zone. The amount of time between irrigation cycles is also determined by the soil type and rooting depth.  Allowing the water to soak into the soil to the proper root zone depth without saturating the soil for long periods of time is an important feature of an irrigation audit.  Most irrigation systems will never reach this level of efficiency without an irrigation audit.

The objective of a great irrigation schedule is to apply the correct amount of water necessary for the optimal growth of the plants in the landscape.  When properly developed, this prevents over and under watering the landscape.  When the irrigation schedule is not properly developed, shallow rooting occurs with short frequent irrigation cycles or run off occurs when water is applied faster than the soil can absorb the water.

Finally, after the base schedule is developed, the irrigation zone run times are adjusted for seasonality.  Additional adjustments are made throughout the season based on visual inspection to compensate for local factors.

Irrigation audits are an essential part of any water conservation program.  An irrigation audit is a very sophisticated process used to create an optimized irrigation schedule.  Most irrigation systems apply more water than needed to maintain a healthy landscape.  The savings in water is worth the time and expense of an irrigation audit.

Irrigation Association Landscape Irrigation Auditor Seal

The Irrigation Association

An irrigation system audit is a complex process and requires the services of a trained expert.  The Irrigation Association’s internationally recognized Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA) program and examination is widely acknowledged as the industry standard.  To learn more about the Irrigation Association, the Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor program, and the other irrigation industry certifications contact them at:

Irrigation Association

6540 Arlington Boulevard

Falls Church, Virginia 22042-6638  USA

(703) 536-7080
(703) 536-7019 fax

Click here to email

 

Author’s Biography

Tom Barrett PortraitTom Barrett is an accomplished corporate growth and change agent with over thirty years of industry experience.  Tom is the owner of Green Water Infrastructure. Green Water Infrastructure is a consulting company that integrates water resources for sustainable site development. Tom’s leadership experience, holding executive level positions, drives corporate revenue growth through change and innovation for business start-up’s, corporate expansions, and divisional turnarounds.  Tom has been delivering dynamic presentations and training for over twenty years.  These presentations empower people to become masters of change rather than victims of circumstance by developing tools for transformative thinking.

Tom can be reached at Green Water Infrastructure, Inc., 317-565-9964 or Click Here to Email

Fix A Leak Week – March 18-24, 2013

Fix a Leak Week 2013Fix A Leak

Because

Every Drop Counts

March 18-24, 2013

Did you know that the average American family can waste, on average, more than 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks?

Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That’s why WaterSense reminds Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems each year during Fix a Leak Week.

WaterSense is teaming up with our partners to promote the fifth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 18-24, 2013.

From New Mexico’s search for bad flappers to leak detection efforts in Texas, West Virginia and across the nation, explore our list of some of the Fix a Leak Week 2012 events. For all the latest on Fix a Leak Week events happening across the country, be sure to follow us on Facebook Exit EPA Disclaimer and Twitter

 

Checking for Leaks

To check for leaks in your home, first you need to determine whether you’re wasting water, then identify the source of the leak.

  • Take a look at your water usage during a colder month, such as January or February. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.
  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
  • Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)
  • Examine faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of the pipe to check for surface leaks.
  • The Regional Water Providers Consortium has a video on detecting household leaksExit EPA Disclaimerthat you may find helpful.

Top of page

Fix a Leak: Toilets

A common reason why toilets will leak is an old or worn out toilet flapper (sometimes called a “valve seal”). Flappers are inexpensive rubber parts that can build up minerals or decay over time. Replacing them can be a quick and easy fix for your water woes. To fix this leak, consult your local hardware store, home improvement retailer, or licensed plumber. Here are some online resources from WaterSense partners:

Tip: Bring the old flapper to the hardware store for comparison to make sure you buy a new flapper that fits your toilet model. You can also check the owner’s manual, if you have it, or the manufacturer’s Web site for the appropriate replacement part number for the flapper.

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Fix a Leak: Faucets

Old and worn faucet washers and gaskets frequently cause leaks in faucets. Many tutorials are available online for how to fix a wide variety of faucets. Here are a couple of examples:

Tip: Don’t forget to turn off the water line before you start!

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Fix a Leak: Showerheads

Some leaky showerheads can be fixed by making sure there is a tight connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem and by using pipe tape to secure it. Pipe tape, also called Teflon tape, is available at most hardware stores, is easy to apply, and can help tame unruly leaks. For more complicated valve leaks in showers that drip when not in use, contact an experienced handyperson or licensed plumber.

Tip: It’s also a good idea to check and, if needed, replace the washer or “o” ring inside the showerhead while making this repair.

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Fix a Leak: Outdoors

If you have an in-ground irrigation system, check it each spring before use to make sure it wasn’t damaged by frost or freezing. Or hire a WaterSense irrigation partner to inspect it for you. These professionals have passed a certification program focused on water efficiency. They will not only help you detect and correct leaks in the system, but also maximize its efficiency.

Finally, check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.

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Leaks Still Flowing Overboard?

Have you done all that you can to try to eliminate leaks from your home but still can’t nip that drip in the bud?

If you’ve already determined you have leaks and you find these step-by-step solutions aren’t enough to stop them, it might be time to replace your leaking fixtures. If you consult with a plumbing professional, and look for the WaterSense label if you are considering a new toilet or faucet, you could increase your home’s water efficiency.

See a complete list of WaterSense labeled products.

The Facts on Leaks:

  • Leaks can account for, on average, 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home every year, which is enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.
  • The amount of water leaked from U.S. homes could exceed more than 1 trillion gallons per year. That’s equivalent to the annual water use of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined.
  • Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.
  • Common types of leaks found in the home include leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. All are easily correctable.
  • Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners more than 10 percent on their water bills.
  • Keep your home leak-free by repairing dripping faucets, toilet valves, and showerheads. In most cases, fixture replacement parts don’t require a major investment and can be installed by do-it-yourselfers.
  • The vast majority of leaks can be eliminated after retrofitting a household with new WaterSense labeled fixtures and other high-efficiency appliances.

Leak Detection:

  • A good method to check for leaks is to examine your winter water usage. It’s likely that a family of four has a serious leak problem if its winter water use exceeds 12,000 gallons per month.
  • Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak.
  • One way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Make sure to flush immediately after this experiment to avoid staining the tank.

Faucets and Showerheads:

  • A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. A home with WaterSense labeled toilets could use that water to flush for six months!
  • Leaky faucets can be reduced by checking faucet washers and gaskets for wear and replacing them if necessary. If you are replacing a faucet, look for the WaterSense label.
  • A showerhead leaking at 10 drips per minute wastes more than 500 gallons per year. That’s enough water to wash 60 loads of dishes in your dishwasher.
  • Most leaky showerheads can be fixed by ensuring a tight connection using pipe tape and a wrench.

Toilets:

  • If your toilet is running constantly, you could be wasting 200 gallons of water or more every day.
  • If your toilet is leaking, the cause is most often an old, faulty toilet flapper. Over time, this inexpensive rubber part decays, or minerals build up on it. It’s usually best to replace the whole rubber flapper—a relatively easy, inexpensive do-it-yourself project that pays for itself in no time.
  • If you do need to replace the entire toilet, look for a WaterSense labeled model. If a family of four replaces its older, inefficient toilets with new WaterSense labeled ones, it could save more than 16,000 gallons per year. Retrofitting the house could save the family approximately $2,000 in water and wastewater bills over the lifetime of the toilets.

Outdoors:

  • An irrigation system should be checked each spring before use to make sure it was not damaged by frost or freezing.
  • An irrigation system with pressure set at 60 pounds per square inch that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • To ensure that your in-ground irrigation system is not leaking water, consult with a WaterSense irrigation partner who has passed a certification program focused on water efficiency; look for a WaterSense irrigation partner.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.