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Potable Water Irrigation Reduction using Weather Station

 

Who: Matthew Layne, Turf Manager, Landscape Services in Facilities Services

Summary: The Grounds team within the Building Services unit, under Facilities Services requested funds to purchase a weather station and supporting software, in addition to running a dedicated electric line to the station. Their findings have resulted in a preference to utilize a weather station that communicates with the Rain Bird irrigation system to ensure no overwatering occurs and excess water is no longer an issue on campus. Other alternatives such as hundreds of moisture sensors across campus continue to be cost prohibitive and unmanageable. The simplest approach of a weather station providing real time data related to rainfall remains the best match with the current Rain Bird irrigation system.

Background: The Grounds team currently utilizes a manual and scheduled timer irrigation system to water campus grounds, not including Athletic fields. They currently have 50 irrigation systems on campus. In the instance a shower moves over campus around the same time watering of the grass/beds are scheduled, a grounds employee must return to campus or if on campus, pull up the watering program to shut down the scheduled watering to prevent both overwatering of the lawn/bed, but also to reduce water consumption. This has proven to be both ineffective and wasteful at times. The proactive culture within Grounds has led the team to research alternatives.

Why is this Needed: If a rain shower does occur on campus, the station will adjust the schedule automatically to ensure UT does not overwater, in addition to providing a delayed response if there is a prolonged stretch of rain. This frees up the time it takes to adjust to a local rainfall and enables UT to manage watering schedule during non-business hours, which was previously not possible as Grounds employees live 20 – 30 minutes away from campus.

This will save the university funds in watering costs, as well as help to reduce water usage on campus. Exact savings are unknown at this point, however once they system is installed they will be better to both understand UT’s current water usage, and then see where there can be improvements. This also provides benefits to stormwater management at UT.

Project Funding:

Weather Station and software $11,752
Electrical connection and unforeseen costs $3,248
Total Request: $15,000

Green Fee Notes: The full $15,000 was approved. The project should start this spring semester (2019), and aims to be complete by May, 31st 2019.