Smart irrigation for landscaping and crops

This week 2,000+ scientists, policy makers, NGO leaders and corporate representatives convened in Stockholm for World Water Week, where they grappled with water scarcity, access and other thorny water issues.

But what should companies be doing about it—now? Just like with energy efficiency, there is much low-hanging fruit to be picked where water is concerned.

Landscaping, which consumes more than 50% of urban water, is just one place to start.

Surprisingly, automatic irrigation systems can contribute to either the problem or the solution. Currently, there are about 60 million of these automated watering systems across the U.S., used by governments, real estate developers, suburban office parks and retailers. Most operate on timers—that is, they water the grass or plants every few days for a set number of minutes, regardless of whether it has been raining or not or the weather is sunny or cloudy.

"This current technology makes about as much sense as having a timer instead of a thermostat in your house," says Chris Spain, the founder of a company called Hydropoint, which offers smart irrigation systems.

Water conservation, cost cutting and increased yields

Born from parched necessity, a new crop of hydrological innovations, featured in EDF's Innovations Review 2009 has sprouted up. By combining weather data, soil sensors and wireless communication, companies like PureSense, Hydropoint, and Acequia are helping companies use less water—and save money—by precisely scheduling irrigation for commercial landscaping, as well as for agricultural crops.

The city of Newport Beach, CA., an early Hydropoint customer, says it reduced landscape runoff (and associated pollution) to its popular beaches by 70%. Other Hydropoint customers include Amazon, Advanced Micro Devices, Cisco, eBay, Lockheed Martin, McDonald's and Wal-Mart.

PureSense markets to farmers, particularly California's big growers of grapes, nuts and fruits. Its customers include The Wine Group, which says it increased its yield three years in a row, by 20 to 60%, and reduced its operating costs by 15% after installing a PureSense system.

On the financing side, Austin, Texas-based Acequia uses a model similar to energy service companies (commonly-known as "ESCOs"). Acequia fronts the capital costs of putting in the system in return for a cut of the savings its clients (including American Airlines and Hilton Hotels) realize from reduced water bills.

5 comments

  • Filteration system is one way to reduce consumption of water in landscaping, patio landscaping.

  • The landscaping we find in Tucson, AZ is mostly drip irrigation. It's very upsetting when we see people using spray head type nozzles mixed with drip line systems and then they end up watering for the application rate of the spray nozzles. The plants on the drip then suffer for lack of proper irrigation.

  • You're right on the money highlighting Smart Irrigation controllers. The technology is here now. And it works. Smart controllers can easily reduce watering by 50% vs. standard timer-based controllers. It's all our company installs now. We've installed over 35 of them this year alone. I prefer the Rain Bird ESP-SMT Smart controller myself. But any of them are a giant leap better than traditional controllers. You're speaking my language with this article. Great subject. The more people learn about this the better. I'd like to be able to keep irrigating 20 years from now. And we'll only be able to do that if people start to change their habits in regards to water use.

    Portland Irrigation Company

  • caglar keskin | 4 years ago

    It is a useful information about drip irrigation. I am a farmer and we have very large fields, before drip
    irrigation system was found it was a nightmare to irrigate all those fields because where i live is a place
    that does not rain so much. Now we use drip irrigation, saving so many water and it is a lot easier to irrigate
    the field with that. I am trying to read everything about drip irrigation and i recommend every farmer to use that
    technique, so i am grateful for everyone who gives information about it. I also found a very good guide about drip
    irrigation and it may be useful too for those who want to learn more information about that;

    http://agricultureguide.org/

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