This is Part 1 of a three-part series that focuses on various aspects of smart irrigation for golf courses.
Smart Irrigation Month may be over, but it’s possible to utilize technology to save water year-round.
Most golf courses and turf facilities have all hands on deck when it comes to managing water and addressing irrigation-related issues during the hot summer season.
Smart irrigation is especially important this year as much of the Western United States is experiencing severe drought, making it critical to ensure every drop of water is used as efficiently as possible.
Here’s how golf course superintendents, green industry professionals, and their crews can make the most of smart irrigation trends and technology.
Take Advantage of More Precise Technology and Objective Data
Rapid advances in irrigation technology over the past 30 to 40 years have made it possible to determine when, where, and how much water to apply to plants. There have been great strides in sprinkler and nozzle design, soil moisture sensors, hand-held moisture meters, drip irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation, weather-based smart irrigation controllers, and many more.
These tools have the potential to apply water more efficiently than ever before but still require a knowledgeable person to interpret data, which is where golf course superintendents and other turf professionals come in. Pros have the capability to adjust and maintain the equipment, understand soil conditions, and review site-specific information, getting the most effective use out of the technology.
These advancements in technology now provide objective data and information to make irrigation decisions while removing much of the gut-feeling and intuition previously involved with watering adjustments.
Learn About Advancements in Remote-Sensing Technology
One specific area of rapid advancement is the development of various remote sensors that can be placed directly in the soil to provide real-time data on soil moisture (volumetric water content), temperature, and soil salinity. This data is then evaluated by superintendents to guide daily programming decisions for the irrigation system. In some cases, the remote sensors are integrated with the irrigation control system.
Some of the questions involved with soil sensors include:
- Where should the sensors be placed?
- How many sensors are needed to provide the superintendent with adequate data to make smart irrigation decisions?
- Can the sensors be integrated with existing irrigation control systems and weather stations?
- How long will the sensors last in the field, and can they stand up to weather extremes, traffic and mowing pressure, and physical abuse typical of a golf course or sports field application?
Some of the golf courses that have been using remote soil sensing technology for several years have reported water reduction amounts of 10% to 40% since the sensors were installed. That is a significant amount of water, especially at a golf course that may be paying $500,000 to $1 million per year for water.
Here’s how the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Golf Course in San Diego, California, used GroundWorx GX-1A soil sensors to improve their irrigation efficiency, leading to a savings of approximately $135,000.
Contact me with any questions about how smart irrigation technology can benefit your golf course or any other turf-related topics. Also be sure to review Parts 2 and 3 of this series to set your golf course up for success:
• Sustainable and Smart Irrigation Practices for Golf Courses Save Water
• Golf Course Irrigation Systems Benefit from Uniformity and Efficiency