Innovative Irrigation Control Saves VSB Water, Money and Time

Green, Schools & Students

In 2011, newly arrived, Grounds Supervisor Jonn Epplette started looking at district irrigation and sprinkler systems. Facing budget pressure to save money combined with the increasing usage of VSB sports fields, Epplette knew he needed to make some changes.

The VSB operates watering systems on 28 sports fields—used for both school and rental activities. The sprinkler systems were run with aging clock timers; however, changing a setting meant driving to a site to make an adjustment to the controls. Staff would then return later to set it back. The back-and-forth trips, between numerous sites, meant that adjustments weren’t made at regular and appropriate times.

“Sometimes we would be watering fields during a wet, soggy June, or when we experienced hot dry weather we couldn’t make the adjustments required to keep the fields healthy,” says Epplette.

Epplette installed a centralized control system for the fields using the VSB Ethernet network and radio communication. It allows changes to be made from the grounds yard by remote computer connection. On site operators are more efficient through the use of portable hand held radios to test and calibrate the system.

Installed for summer 2013, staff now makes adjustments frequently to the watering schedules to account for current conditions and weather forecasts - all from the grounds office. “It frees up our grounds team for other activities during a busy summer work season” adds Epplette.

While the grounds team is making better use of limited staff time, there have been savings in utility costs as well.

“We conservatively estimate savings of $25,000 annually in water bills,” says Ron Macdonald, VSB Manager of Energy and Sustainability. “Jonn’s investment will pay for itself easily in 3-4 years”.

This helps to manage a tight budget category as the City’s water prices have been increasing.  Water conservation aligns with a VSB sustainability objective to conserve resources and the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Goal to reduce water use 33% by 2020. Says Macdonald, ”This is a win on many fronts.”

Saving staff time, conserving water, and managing rising utility costs—all from modernizing sprinkler system controls.