Fresh water tech

Features - Cover Story

Manufacturers update Lawn & Landscape on their current and future developments for irrigation products.

July 15, 2013
Jason Stahl

Technology advancements for irrigation products can help contractors comply with future water regulations.

With water regulations constantly changing, irrigation product manufacturers have to stay on their toes. So we reached out to a few to find out how they are staying ahead of the game.

From big, mechanical dials in the 1970s to “smart” clocks today that are more user-friendly, Craig Borland of Toro has seen it all.

“Smart sensors now adjust clocks either by days of operation or run time,” Borland says. “Now, you can have varying types of weather stations that come with the product. Toro’s Irritrol has a sensor that reads temperature, solar radiation and rainfall and compares it to what the historical temperature for the area is. If it’s hotter than normal, it increases the run time, and if cooler, it cuts back. That’s where the water savings comes in.”

Borland expects to see more and more sensors modifying irrigation schedules in the future. Also, he expects there to be a lot more wireless communication and different types of sensors to help make clocks more user friendly and smart.

Troy Leezy, marketing manager at Hunter Industries, agrees that controllers’ potential improvements lie in how they connect and interact with people.

“This is because controllers traditionally featured buttons and dials and had many end users,” he says. “Programming architectures being different across all manufacturers makes it more difficult for end users such as maintenance people and homeowners to use them, so that’s where I see a big opportunity – better interfaces.”

Leezy says the industry is transitioning from traditional spray nozzles with high application rates to high efficiency nozzles.

“Just by changing nozzles out, you can improve the efficiency of the system by up to 30 percent easily,” Leezy says.

The latest development with soil moisture sensors is multiple hydrozone systems, which allow any conventional controller to manage valves by hydrozones, or groups of valves with similar water demands, according to Tom Penning, president of Irrometer. Also, data from the sensors can be sent back to the control device wirelessly, eliminating the need to retrofit a lot of wire in the existing landscape.

“In the future, I see advances in radio technology used to relay that information,” Penning says. “Radios are becoming less costly and are extending their range, so you can do the same thing at a better price point.”

Drip irrigation.
Even drip irrigation isn’t the same old, same old. Mauricio Troche, director of sales and marketing for Netafim, says pressure compensation, where the same amount of water gets put out across all emitters, is pretty common now.

But Netafim has a check valve that holds water in the pipe when the system turns off, thus avoiding all of the water draining out and creating a muddy mess. Also, with more and more drip being buried in the ground or below grade, an anti-siphon valve protects each and every emitter from debris clogging them up.

The potential Troche sees for advances in drip technology lie in applications, specifically for greywater, blackwater or non-potable water.

“As water gets scarce, you will see more municipalities irrigating lawns with non-drinking water,” he says. “A specialty wastewater product of ours called Bioline will be used below the surface to recycle that water for use in irrigation.” L&L

The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

*photos courtesy of Toro and Netafim