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Irrigation problems dry up with new efficient system

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The cost of water is rising and, when combined with the scarcity of funding and increased competition for water supplies, it is imperative the 21st Space Wing find ways to reduce water consumption. One large area to start with is efficient irrigation, which leads to effective water management. Peterson AFB officials realize the impact it has on, not only the base, but the local community as well.

At the end of summer last year, the base purchased and installed a new centralized irrigation system to cover 95 percent of the existing irrigation on base. The state-of-the-art system is designed to safeguard against potential problems resulting from excess flow, incorrect programming, varying weather and many other conditions. As a result, the value of landscape is protected, and water waste is minimized. The centralized system monitors irrigation systems across base, all from one computer. The estimated water savings are expected to be 25 percent to 35 percent per year.

I know it's frustrating to drive down the road and see a sprinkler spraying like a geyser straight into the air. With the new irrigation this problem will go away. The key is to establish a flow rate for each zone. Once the flow rates are set, the system automatically detects when there is a variance in the flow rate, such as a busted pipe or a broken sprinkler head, and shuts the system off. The flow rates are currently being established on the new system and should be set by the middle of June.

The centralized system is also tied directly to a weather station. Weather information is used to automatically adjust run times based on demand and rainfall activity. For example, for typical turf (grass) the predetermined moisture levels are .20" of rain. Once we receive this threshold the system automatically shuts down. There are also additional factors added such as if we receive .30" of rain the system will shut down for two days ,and .40" of rain the system shuts down for three days. This is a tremendous advantage as the system does not have to be manually set for adjustment based on the schedule. It is still possible to see the sprinklers on while simultaneously raining, but now you know why - the predetermined moisture has not been reached. Taking into consideration the variable Colorado weather, this operation will save time, water and money.

The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron is also looking at other water saving opportunities for the future. In addition to the irrigated turf areas, planting beds can also provide additional water savings. Planting beds are currently irrigated with spray systems, which are effective at keeping trees and planting materials healthy but also have inherent waste due to overspray and excessive evaporation. The new approach will be to incorporate drip irrigation into the system to provide additional savings. Another project in the works is to update the landscaping at the west gate and visitors center. This project will reduce our irrigated sod in the area by 70 percent while enhancing the base entry with low-water planting beds and trees.

Peterson AFB is a showcase installation with a beautiful Rocky Mountain landscape design. New landscape designs are minimizing the amount of turf and utilizing native grasses which require little to no watering once established. The proactive approach of installing the new centralized irrigation system will help maintain the existing landscape while saving water at the same time.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui