Horizon and ValleyCrest partnership produces water savings

Upgrading to latest smart irrigation technology saved two communities thousands on water bills.

July 14, 2011

CHANDLER, Ariz. – Horizon Distributors and ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance have teamed up to help two large Phoenix-area communities dramatically reduce their landscape water consumption by upgrading to smart irrigation technology.

The process began at Ventana Lakes, a 50-acre retirement community in Peoria, Ariz. Water management specialists at ValleyCrest, the landscape maintenance contractor for Ventana Lakes, were confident they could irrigate more efficiently after reviewing the site.

“Ventana Lakes used old, traditional controllers from the early '90s,” said Richard Restuccia, the national director of water management solutions for ValleyCrest. “When we looked at some of their water bills, we knew there had to be a better way.”

Restuccia approached Dan Puthuff, construction channel manager at Horizon Distributors, to review the best available options. Puthuff and the irrigation specialists at Horizon have long been trusted advisors to ValleyCrest’s water management team in Phoenix, and they recommended Toro Intelli-Sense controllers.

Along with local weather data, the Toro Intelli-Sense controllers utilize variables like soil type, solar exposure, slope degree, sprinkler type, precipitation rate and plant variety to water to the specific needs of the irrigated site.

“We made a proposal to Ventana Lakes and showed them the features and benefits of a move to smart irrigation controllers,” said Josh Dorris, irrigation manager for ValleyCrest’s Arizona operations. “We had done the calculations, and we were sure we could save them money.”

Once the Ventana Lakes board signed off, the Horizon-ValleyCrest team chose a test section of the property to install the new controllers. At that stage, all of the project’s work was donated: Horizon contributed the controllers and Toro supplied the WeatherTrak satellite signal for free, while ValleyCrest handled the installation. The team retrofitted Ventana Lakes’ manual controllers by swapping out panels with the Intelli-Sense components.

That simple technology upgrade instantly made the existing irrigation network “smart,” and immediately started paying dividends.“This project is a powerful testament to ROI,” said Puthuff. “In only six months Ventana Lakes saved $5,200, and that was just on that one section.”

Following the success of that test program, Ventana Lakes voted to add Intelli-Sense controllers throughout the rest of the property. That changeover process is ongoing, but with each new smart controller installed, the water savings keep adding up.

The irrigation management teams at ValleyCrest and Horizon were also able to use the Ventana Lakes case study as a powerful testimonial for their efforts. In fact, Restuccia recently presented the results at the WaterSmart Conference where he spoke about collaboration between manufacturers, water agencies and contractors.

It is what property managers like to hear too. That was the case at Dobbins Point, a community where ValleyCrest had recently begun taking care of the landscape maintenance needs. Dobbins Point contains 319 lots in a Southwestern suburb of Phoenix, with landscaping that includes 13 acres of turfgrass. In 2008, the community had spent $104,000 for water.

“For the start-up, we converted nine controllers to the Toro Intelli-Sense,” Dorris said. “We knew we could conserve their resources while still protecting the beauty of their community’s landscape. In the first year alone, they saved $62,000 on their water bill.”

“The results speak for themselves,” Puthuff said. “Now these communities can water accurately, every day. It really feels good to help our customers save water and money.”