Headline: Science + sprinklers = efficient irrigation in Vail | VailDaily.com

Headline: Science + sprinklers = efficient irrigation in Vail

Geraldine Haldner

Just in time for one of the dryest summers on record, the town of Vail’s Public Works Department is debuting a computerized irrigation control system that promises to cut down on water waste.

Joe Kochera, the system’s supervisor, expects it will save as much as 20 percent of the five million gallons the town uses during an average summer month to keep approximately 80 acres of public parks, roundabouts and planters green and in bloom.

“It’s a great system – not a lemon,” says Kochera, who after 30 years in Public Works now spends more time in front of a computer screen than outdoors with a shovel in hand.

By his own admission, that’s fine with him.

“It does all the small stuff for me. I can manage the big picture now,” he says while demonstrating the computer software’s sophistication in a cluttered office.

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Maxicom, as the software is known, was designed by Rain Bird, a California-based company. The program uses data collected by a weather station and factors humidity, temperature and wind into how much water should be applied to lawns and flower beds while subtracting any natural precipitation from the ideal watering schedules.

“If it rains a half-inch and we need an inch and a half on grass, it only waters to an inch,” says Vail Capital Projects Manager Todd Oppenheimer of the $150,000 investment, which in his words “saves us water and labor.”

Indeed, Kochera who previously would spend a day going around to some 52 individual irrigation timers to adjust them in case of rain showers, now simply adjusts a town-wide irrigation system that controls some 600 sprinkler heads with the simple touch of a key and the sweep of a mouse.

In addition, an ongoing effort to expand the computerized irrigation system with water flow meters will eventually allow Kochera to mend broken sprinkler heads within hours, not days.

“If we have a broken nozzle – one of those free car washes on the street – the flow meters will measure how much water is really running out of a sprinkler, if it is more than the system allows, it’ll shut off,” Oppenheimer explains. “Joe gets a warning message and instead of 1,000 gallons of water going out into the street undetected for days, he knows about it immediately.”

The system’s sophistication even allows Kochera to plan the town’s irrigation around the town’s social engagements.

“If there are weddings at Ford Park, I just put it into the system and it’ll do it in between functions,” Kochera says.

Vail watering schedule – effective today

Though mandatory watering restrictions have been an annual occurance for water users from East Vail to Cordillera, drought conditions make wise water use more important than ever, says Dennis Gelvin of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority.

Gelvin says the district and the authority’s treatment facilities have enough water to supply its customers, but that continued dry weather will put additional needs on the system.

To relieve potential shortages of treated water, the following watering schedules applies to residents from East Vail to Cordillera:

– Homes and businesses with street addresses ending in even numbers can water on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

– Homes and businesses with street addresses ending in odd numbers may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

– No watering is permitted on Mondays in order to allow storage tanks to refill.

Residents and businesses that do not follow the mandatory schedule will receive a notice and a follow-up letter for the first offense. A second offense will result in a request that the owner to take corrective action within one week. A third incident will result in the owner’s irrigation system being shut off.

In addition to the watering schedule, the district and the authority have also banned the installation of new sod or seed for all homes and businesses between June 15 and August 15.

Wise Water Tips:

– Water during the cool evening and night hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

– Use a nozzle with your garden hose

– Inspect sprinklers once a week to make sure they are operating correctly

– Install drip irrigation systems for shrubs and trees

– Set lawn mowers no lower than 2-1/2 inches; mulch, don’t bag, lawn clippings

For more information on watering schedules or water conservation tips, please contact the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority at 970-476-7480.

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.

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