Sprinkler systems upgraded in business districts to reduce water usage

Published: Wednesday, May 7 2014 3:43 p.m. MDT

The Salt Lake City Facilities Division is in the middle of upgrading the sprinkler system in the Salt Lake Central and Sugar House business districts to reduce water usage. Sensors measure temperature, humidity and rainfall. That information is sent to a controller, which sends a signal to each sprinkler system to water or stop watering. In the areas with the new system, the division has seen a 20 percent reduction in water usage.

Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Facilities Division is upgrading the sprinkler system in the Salt Lake Central and Sugar House business districts to reduce water usage.

Jim Cleland, the division's program director, said in some places the sprinkler system still has 1980s technology.

“Which means that a technician would have to run around and turn off every single controller, each time there is going to be a storm,” Cleland said. “And, this time of year, you don’t get a lot of notice that they are going to come.”

At one point, the business districts had about 150 old-fashioned, 1980s controllers regulating irrigation and thousands of circuits that could go wrong, Cleland said.

With water being such a precious resource in the state, city officials are working to reduce water usage. Over the past three years, city crews have been installing smarter sprinkler systems with rain sensors and remote-controlled access.

One new controller can take the place of more than one of the old controllers. Cleland said the districts need 50 stations. The division has installed 30 of those stations so far.

“It has a sensor at each location that measures temp, humidity and rainfall,” Cleland said.

The data are sent to a controller that sends a signal to each sprinkler system. For example, it may tell the system to shut off during a rainstorm.

“If it senses any kind of a disturbance, like a problem, it will automatically shut the system off, and so it won’t be wasting water,” Cleland said. “Then it sends an alarm to a computer program," and the program alerts a technician.

The program previously was on a desktop computer in an office, he said. Now, the technician has a laptop he can take to the site and operate to see what’s wrong with the system.

The annual water budget for the Salt Lake Central and Sugar House business districts is about $30,000.

“In the area where we’ve installed these, we’ve seen about a 20 percent decrease in the amount of water necessary to irrigate the plants, and the plants are doing well.”

By this time next year, the city's facilities division hopes to have all of the sprinklers updated.

The division has also converted a lot of spray-head systems to a drip system, especially in the Central Business District, which stopped the overspray onto cars and evaporation of the water. The drip system is also better for the plants because the water goes to the roots, Cleland said.

Email: mrichards@deseretnews.com, vvo-duc@deseretnews.com

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