Economic benefits of flow management

July 23, 2019 -  By
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Insurance policy (Photo: iStock.com/designer491)

With the rising cost of labor, it’s become harder for landscape management companies to justify the cost, compared to the benefit, of manual water-meter readings. Along with the cost of labor to read the meter, we must pay for data entry and management oversight of the program. Not only are landscapers being affected, but also many water districts have eliminated meter readers and introduced Automated Meter Reading infrastructure to help reduce their overhead costs and provide real-time data to their clients. However, not all districts offer this service, and none offer real-time ability to react to this data and shut down a problem automatically.

Chad Sutton

Chad Sutton

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios to help us quantify the financial impact:

1. A 50-gallons-per-minute break occurs on the irrigation mainline; however, this break is located out of view on the back of a slope near a drain inlet. This break goes unnoticed for a week until the meter is read and the problem is found. The problem causes 504,000 gallons, or nearly 674 hundred cubic feet (CCF), of water to be wasted. In Northern California’s Bay Area, the average cost of water is approaching $5 per CCF. This incident has an economic cost of $3,369 for the client, hits their budget hard and causes a lot of stress for all stakeholders.

2. A small leak of only 2 gallons per minute occurs on a large 3-inch water meter. The leak indicator moves so slowly that the leak is not detected for four weeks. The total gallons lost is 80,640, or nearly 108 CCF, and at $5 per CCF costs the client about $540.

There are many scenarios that play out every day in the landscape world where leaks and breaks go unnoticed. Sometimes it is not for lack of effort, rather a lack of investment in the right technology and training. With the availability of cloud-based systems, real-time data and highly accurate sensors, we can offer our clients so much more than just a meter read. We can give them savings and value beyond the lost dollars. Flow management can also mitigate property damage and provide better overall landscape quality. We can now know exactly which stations have high-flow situations and can shut them off automatically. This flow of data allows for quicker reaction time, less plant stress and happier clients.

I like to describe flow management as an insurance policy. It might not pay off big right away, but when it does, you sure are glad you have it. In our market, a flow management install could be as low as $2,000 for a good option and up to $10,000 for the best option. Factors driving price include size of pipes, distance from point of connection to controller, type of material (e.g., pvc or brass), resolution of measurement desired, etc.

I believe if we can clearly illustrate the economic benefit of this service and quantify its value, then clients are more than willing to invest in this “insurance.” It helps minimize risk and protects all the hard work we put into water conservation and efficiency. Without it, all the savings a weather-based, automatically adjusting controller affords can be wiped out in just a matter of days.

At Gachina, we’re deploying ultrasonic flow sensors, such as Netafim’s Octave, and highly sensitive master valves, such as Superior’s 3300 model, which measure and react to leaks down to 0.25 gallon per minute. This shift in technology has some great economic benefits to our clients and ourselves, creating the highly sought-after win-win scenario. However, this level of resolution now detects tiny leaks that are sometimes impossible to find out in the field.

How can we better find these tiny leaks and better fix them? I’ll cover that in a future article.

This article is tagged with , and posted in 0719, Irrigation+Water Management
LM Staff

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