Monday, May 23, 2011

UCU - Saving Gallons by the Thousands!

Over the past several weeks, Miami-Dade Extension's Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) has engaged in some concrete water-saving work.  The following is a brief account of two recent experiences in the field: aiding a homeowner in distress and facilitating another's journey to efficient irrigation.

Golden Beach

 A few weeks ago a homeowner contacted Extension because he was in need of assistance with his exorbitant water bill and required someone to diagnose the problem.

UCU to the rescue!  On the long trip out to the property we discussed what the problem might be.  Was it a main break gushing water somewhere between the water meter and the irrigation system? Or was it simply a large break in the irrigation system easily addressed by turning the system off?

Once at the property we found the meter perfectly still, immediately eliminating the main break possibility.
 Then the irrigation assessment began: 8 zones, city water and featuring high volume spray-head heavy zones on a property with scant grass and thick with low-maintenance plant life.

3 of the 8 zones had large breaks and the average zone gallons per minute (GPM) was in the 30s (high for a residential irrigation). Add to that a 4 day/week watering schedule with excessive run times and the weekly water use total was 40,000+ gallons!

 We calculated this on the spot for the homeowner and we were granted free reign to adjust the irrigation timer.  We dropped watering days to the mandatory 2 days/week, turned off zones with leaks and reduced run times on the others and the savings added up to 36,000 gallons per week!


 North Miami Beach
During system assessments our favorite recommendations include: going digital at the timer and valve level, adding low-volume nozzles to spray heads, and removing spray heads in favor of drip line or other low volume irrigation in shrub zones. Abide by these precepts and water savings are guaranteed!
 In early march we assessed a property in North Miami Beach for a homeowner frustrated with astronomical water bills.
The system: mechanical, 6 zones, spray-head heavy and dousing shrubs with sprays.
 We discussed with the homeowner the systems failings, suggested how he might remedy each and went on our way to the next appointment.

 A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to revisit this property and see most all of our recommendations in action! Digital replaced mechanical, a rain sensor was added, 6 zones were reduced to 4, spray heads were replaced with low-volume nozzles and the shrub zone was watered only with a soaker hose!


 While we were pleased to see a homeowner follow through with efficient practices, the homeowner was even happier. He informed us that in one billing period his water use had dropped by 20,000 gallons and he had retrofitted the system with the billing period already underway. The true measure of his water savings awaits!
All images by Michael Gutierrez - UF Tropical Research and Education Center/UCU

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