Shifting focus to water management

Sprinkler head (Photo: MariuszBlach / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)
Sprinkler head (Photo: MariuszBlach / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

With factors like rising water costs and the importance of conservation, the irrigation industry is ever changing. More and more irrigation contractors are shifting their focus from simply irrigating clients’ lawns to managing the water they use as efficiently as possible. Landscape Management sat down with DJ Seeger, president of Seeger Water, a full-service landscape irrigation company in Austin, Texas, to discuss his company’s focus on water management and the benefits of this approach.

Sprinkler head (Photo: MariuszBlach / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)
Sprinkler head (Photo:
MariuszBlach / iStock / Getty Images / Getty Images Plus)

Q: Why is the industry shifting its focus from irrigation to water management? What is the difference between the two?

A: As freshwater resources become scarcer and more heavily regulated, industries that rely on water are having to adapt. The landscape irrigation industry in particular is a heavy water user, and irrigators will need to pay careful attention to their consumption. To me, irrigation is the practice of designing, installing and maintaining landscape irrigation systems for the purpose of maintaining plant health and promoting aesthetics. Water management, comparatively, is the effective use and application of Earth’s most precious resource. An irrigator who specializes and focuses on water management will have an understanding of groundwater and surface water resources, along with production and delivery of those resources to end users. Water managers employ a variety of tools and techniques to monitor consumption and plan for future consumption.

Q: What are the key things that irrigation companies should do if they want to manage water effectively?

A: Above all, irrigators need to be educated and involved. As president of Seeger Water and a practicing water manager myself, I regularly meet with my local utilities, the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to stay educated on what’s happening and what is about to happen. I also maintain relationships with manufacturers and distributors to make sure our company is utilizing the best tools. In the practice of water management, information is power. It takes hard work to build and maintain those strategic relationships, along with hundreds of hours of continuing education, but mastering water management is a lifelong pursuit.

Q: Are there tools and equipment that help in this effort?

A: There are so many tools and techniques. Above all is knowledge. Understanding water resources and distribution is the foundation. Next is understanding irrigation and hydraulic design — knowing nozzle sizes, zone sizes and flow rates is critical. As for hardware, flow sensors should be the new standard in irrigation. Nothing beats empirical data and live monitoring.

If water managers know exactly how much water they need to maintain plant health and aesthetics, they can effectively and accurately plan for consumption. Additionally, the ability to remotely monitor water consumption is key to detecting and responding to leaks when they happen. We have made a significant investment into Rain Bird’s IQ4 central control platform. This advanced software coupled with a flow sensor and master valve are our best tools in the management of irrigation systems.

Q: What are the benefits and challenges of managing water properly?

A: The benefits are too many to count, but long-term cost savings, reduced water waste and happier clients are among my favorites. The challenges, unfortunately, are why these practices are not the standard. Implementing water management programs and advanced software and hardware is expensive (in the short term), and many clients aren’t willing to foot the bill.

Additionally, there are physical challenges. Some properties aren’t optimized for flow sensors, either because of impervious surfaces or the inability to run shielded communication cables from the water meter to the controller. At Seeger Water, we’ve had to absorb many capital and ongoing maintenance costs in order to prove our abilities as water managers and prove the technology.

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