Here’s Some Tools That Will Help You Improve Your Irrigation System And Conserve Water
by James Coulter
Owning an automatic sprinkler system certainly beats watering your lawn manually with a water hose; however, when it comes to watering your lawn while conserving water, irrigation can often lead to irritation.
Fortunately, thanks to the valuable data collected by the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), Florida homeowners have plenty of tools to help prevent them from being irritated when getting their lawn irrigated.
Winter Haven residents had the opportunity to learn more about the tools provided by FAWN’s website to improve their irrigation system and conserve water during a lecture hosted on Wednesday evening by the Winter Haven Utilities Services.
A few dozen local residents attended that evening’s event, which included a brief lecture hosted by representatives from The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), as well as provided information about UF/IFAS’s many services.
The event that evening also offered a raffle, which allowed four attendees to win a door prize of an irrigation system starter kit as provided by Winter Haven Utilities Services.
Rick Lusher, M.A., Information Technology Senior, served as the guest speaker that evening, offering information about FAWN, the weather and rainfall trends it analyzes across the state, and how their website provides that data to the public to help meet their irrigation needs.
FAWN operates 42 test sites across the state, two of which are located in Polk County in Frostproof and Lake Alfred. These sites collect data about rainfall and other weather patterns. The data is then used to provide irrigation scheduling for farmers and homeowners, as well as assist with chemical application and freeze protection for crops.
Their website (fawn.ifas.ufl.edu) provides this data, which can then be utilized to help people schedule their irrigation. The following are a few of the tools provided on their website for that purpose:
Urban Irrigation Scheduler: A simple tool that provides recommendations about when to set your irrigation system. Enter in your zip code, and the tool will inform you about the data collected from the nearest testing station. Using this data, people can ensure their irrigation coincides with recent weather trends, setting their systems on or off based upon current weather, recent rainfall, and especially local water restrictions. (https://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/urban_irrigation/)
Irrigation Application Rate Worksheet: This provides a PDF form that can be downloaded and used to calibrate your irrigation system. By formulating the calculations within this worksheet, people can learn how much water their irrigation system is using, and which amount is the optimal amount to use. (https://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/irrigation_presentation/fawn_app_rate.pdf)
Virtual Lawn Tool: Want to learn what irrigation system is best suited for your lawn? The best system that can save money while saving water? You can learn exactly that using this tool. Just enter in the specific information about your lawn such as the type of soil and the type of system. It will then calculate how much water you are using and how much water you would use otherwise if you were to switch to a new system. (https://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/tools/interactive_irrigation_tool/)
SmartIrrigation Turf App: If you want to get more involved with your landscaping, then this is the tool for you. Download it for your iPhone or Android phone, enter in the specific details about your lawn, and even segregate your lawn into specific zones. This app will then tell you how much water you are using by each zone. You can even receive automatic notifications from your local FAWN testing station about the local temperature, rainfall, and other data necessary to customize your irrigation schedule.
Lusher discussed how his organization collects such data and monitors local trends as to provide the best information to the public about setting their irrigation schedules, allowing them to optimally irrigate their lawns and crops while conserving water in the process.
“One of the best things people can do at our website is look at the rainfall,” he said. “The main thing is to take a little bit of time to see what data sources there are for things like rainfall and calculations that will allow you to make wise irrigation decisions.”
Keeli Carlton, Water Conservation Specialist at the City of Winter Haven, was very impressed by the small yet lively turnout. With more than 40 percent of the local water supply being used for lawns and landscapes, irrigation is an especially pressing issue within the city, which is why the information provided at this evening’s lecture was most important, she said.
“We wanted to get the word about water conservation, and irrigation being the biggest culprit with the water use in our region, why not host an event like this to spread the word about how we can conserve our water supply,” she said. “And we want people to know that and get the word out so we can save our water supply and not [waste] it on our yards.”
For more information, visit their website at: fawn.ifas.ufl.edu