The University of Texas at Austin’s Facilities Management initiated a comprehensive program in 2007 to develop and implement water conservation measures after a task force on sustainability was established. The goal: reduce domestic water use by 20% and at least 40% of total water use coming from reclaimed sources by 2020. During this project, it was determined the campus’ irrigation system lacked qualities needed to meet the new sustainability requirements. As a result, the system was upgraded to Calsense smart computer technology to monitor detailed water usage, detect and report daily irrigation problems, and provide the expertise to support staff in being effective in using the smart technology. Irrigation sprinkler heads were also replaced with more efficient, Hunter® MP Rotator® rotary nozzles and various areas of turf were replaced with drought tolerant plant material.
- Consistent irrigation reduction of at least 66% since 2012
- Over one million dollars in cost avoidance
- Saving over 100-million gallons of fresh water each year
An audit of the main campus irrigation systems was performed in 2008 by the general contractor, Water Management, Inc. with assistance from the City of Austin. The audit inventoried all irrigation control points with regard to water supply type, size, and location, and assessed the current irrigation systems’ scheduling and water distribution efficiency. The following issues were identified and analyzed to develop appropriate solutions:
- Various controller products were unable to communicate with each other or to a central location
- Irrigation distribution systems (sprinkler heads) were inefficient
- Landscape Services staff could not automatically adjust watering schedules based on real-time weather conditions
- Landscape Services staff could not accurately measure water usage
- Landscape Services staff could not shut off water automatically when a leak or break occurred
How Calsense Helped
After test driving the product and consulting with Water Management, Inc., the University selected Calsense based on performance, data collection ability, ease-of-use, factory-direct training and support, and a 10-year warranty. In 2011, the University obtained funding for installing 104-controllers, along with ET gauges, tipping rain buckets, flow sensors, and master valves. Tracking gallon usage, detecting system breaks, measuring usable rainfall, and tracking water evaporation from the landscape to automatically calculate station irrigation minutes was underway. The Calsense system can be controlled from anywhere by laptop, tablet or smartphone. This allows shut down of the system if an unscheduled event occurs after hours, or troubleshooting a problem without sending an individual to the site. The controllers are equipped with radio modems and are communicated to through a HUB via Ethernet and radio, operating in the UHF 450-470 MHz band.