Ten miles northwest of Phoenix, El Mirage was once a small-town dependent on agriculture – now the city has a diverse urban economy which has quadrupled in the last decade. The City is just minutes away from Luke Air Force Base, the largest fighter pilot training facility in the world, and is part of a collaboration working to build the Northern Parkway Transportation Corridor, providing easy access to two of the area’s busiest regional highways. The influx of new residents and businesses in El Mirage has prompted a need for new community infrastructure and projects to meet the population growth.

Irrigation in El Mirage can be traced back to the Native Americans. The earliest known settlers of the region were the Hohokam Native Americans, who were known as the “Canal Builders” of the Southwest, utilizing an elaborate irrigation network made with stone instruments and manual labor. Those same canals were later retrenched to provide a more stable water supply for the region, along with additional irrigation projects in the 20th century. Now as a growing urban center, El Mirage has more complex irrigation responsibilities, spurring the city’s interest in a central control system for the Parks Department.

hohokam canals

Though El Mirage already had stand-alone controllers installed in their parks, they lacked master valves and flow meters. Parks Supervisor Wayne Smith urged for a system which would provide the ability to operate controllers through the web, allow flow-monitoring which would provide water usage data, plus leak and break detection. The Parks Department has many different properties, including sports, recreational and open space parks, so the central control system needed enough flexibility to cater to the various needs of the parks. The city also needed reporting capabilities for the ability to create a budget, in addition to weather-sharing data that substantiates water and labor savings.

Wayne Smith initiated a demo program with Calsense at the Bill Gentry Park in May 2016, featuring the CS3000 controller with a Calsense Tipping Rain Bucket. Bill Gentry’s main irrigated areas include a baseball diamond, with perimeter plants. Though Smith valued water savings, the field required a certain amount of watering and care to maintain proper playability for the community. After a while, Smith noticed unusually high non-controller water usage documented within the Calsense analytical reports. This type of water usage can usually be attributed to quick coupler, or water lost due to a steady leak, but was not the case here. Unable to explain what was causing the high usage, Smith grew suspicious that water was being stolen, and decided to lock the master valve box. Sure enough, the next analytical report showed a halt to the increased water usage, proving Smith’s suspicions to be right.

Without the Calsense reporting capabilities, Smith and his team at the Parks Department would not have discovered what specifically was causing the increased water usage at Bill Gentry, and would have suffered long-lasting impacts to their water and fiscal budgets. Moving forward, the El Mirage Parks Department now budgets their water usage according to daily weather-sharing, plus additional water to achieve field playability. The Calsense Command Center Online (CCO) allows Smith and the team to create budgets based on comparing site-specific weather conditions against a 10-year historical average. When combined with data sharing from their Tipping Rain Bucket, El Mirage can save even more water when unexpected wet periods occur, as the Calsense system will automatically prevent irrigation.

Not only does the Calsense Resource Management System allow for El Mirage to discover inconsistencies within their irrigation system, but features such as weather-sharing allow the team to continuously to improve their water budgets through real-time data sharing. This ensures that water will never be wasted due to an unexpected rainy day.

wayne smith and don keaton
Wayne Smith, Parks Supervisor (left) & Don Keeton, Calsense Representative (right)

The first installation at Bill Gentry Park had an ROI of only 10.5 months, so Smith decided to present the reports and savings to the El Mirage City Council. After reviewing the intuitive usability and ability to expand the Calsense Resource Management System, El Mirage decided it was in the city’s best interest to retrofit the entire Parks Department with the Calsense CS3000 controllers immediately. El Mirage is a great example of the benefits our Demo Program can provide to customers. Not only will your irrigation become more automated and efficient, but the reporting capabilities offered by the Calsense Resource Management System may help you discover new ways to improve your irrigation or resolve problems you may not have been aware of.