Smart Irrigation Turns Brilliant in Wyoming

How A Laramie School District leveraged Smart Technology To Save BIG

As green industry irrigation professionals, we’re all striving to be more water-efficient by utilizing smart irrigation technology. Industry manufacturers have all followed suit developing more efficient systems, and installers are using water-efficient technologies as a selling point to intrigue environmentally-friendly, budget-savvy customers. But what about overhauling large existing systems? Is the juice worth the squeeze when it comes to replacing systems that will cost tens of thousands of dollars? Probably not worth it, right? WRONG! Imagine you were told that upgrading your irrigation technology could save you more than 30 million gallons of water and approximately $220,000 over the next 10 years? Would you listen more closely? That’s exactly what’s happened in Laramie, Wyoming when the Albany County School District installed a WeatherTrak irrigation system to replace their existing system.

Daniel Minton from Laramie School District WeatherTrak Installation
ACSD Landscape Manager Daniel Minton in front of a WeatherTrak irrigation controller installed at one of the Laramie facilities

A quick search on the Wyoming or Colorado drought monitor website will show that our climate is in a perpetual drought state. Any effort we can take to use less water is crucial to the health of the planet, but let’s talk the other kind of green….The Albany County School District installed specialized WeatherTrak controllers at three different sites: Laramie Middle School, Rock River School, and Laramie Athletic Field. Total cost for the installation and system improvements was $29,700. Estimated water savings are 4 million gallons/year. Over 10 years that’s an estimated 40 million gallons of water saved and approximately $198,000 in water expense savings! The system will easily pay for themselves very quickly.

Specific installation & savings projections at three locations:

Site Name Installation Cost Previous Annual Water Usage Current Annual Water Usage Water Savings 10 Year Savings
Laramie Middle School $15,700 6.2 Million Gallons ($35,074) 4.9 Million Gallons – ($27,720) 21% Decrease ($7,354 Savings/year) $73,540
Rock River School $7,100 3.4 Million Gallons ($19,234) 1.2 Million Gallons – ($6,788) 64% Decrease ($12,446 Savings/year) $124,460
Laramie Athletic Field $6,900 2.7 Million Gallons – ($15,274) 2.3 Million Gallons – ($13,011) 16% Decrease ($2,263 Savings/year) $22,630
Totals $29,700 12.3 Million Gallons – ($69,582) 8.4 Million Gallons – ($47,520) 68% Decrease ($22,062 Savings/year) $220,620

You’re probably wondering “but what is the cost to my field conditions”? Here is where the magic of the technology comes into play. When smart irrigation technology stops being smart and starts being BRILLIANT is when you can save water and money at no expense to your turf conditions. How? Basic smart irrigation principles rely on weather data to control sprinklers. It’s going to rain? Water less. Cooler temperatures? Water less. Higher temps? Water more. Highly complex systems like WeatherTrak takes the basics of smart irrigation to the next level by measuring more complex data that more accurately determines the conditions of the atmosphere. At the heart of the WeatherTRAK controller is the cellular network that relies on data from three nearby weather stations in the Laramie area to measure the atmosphere’s evapotranspiration data which determines the amount of water that evaporates into the atmosphere from the soil and vegetation.

From the WeatherTrak website:

“The process of collecting the data and calculating ET (evapotranspiration) is even more complex than the word itself, one we spent years perfecting. We determine ET levels by analyzing local weather conditions (including solar radiation, temperature, wind and relative humidity) and calculating the amount of irrigation needed to replace the water lost by plants and soil due to these conditions. We utilize the Penman-Monteith equation, the worldwide standard for estimating plant water use established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.”

Relying on more complex ET data, specific to their microclimate in Laramie, the district is now watering based on what the ground actually needs, not speculation about what the ground might need. Yes, the controllers will still account for the basic factors like rainfall, temperature, moisture etc. to make adjustments, but the core of the system is more intricate.

The district also customized the controller to water different zones based on various factors such as slope or soil type. For example, a steep slope at the football field was set to water at several short intervals allowing water to soak in without running off. Also, the system has a flow meter where the water enters the property. Abnormalities in the system that might occur when equipment is broken will send a notification and automatically shut off the system to prevent wasted water sources. For any last minute adjustments, the system can be controlled from a smart phone or tablet.

Furthermore, to offset the cost of the installations, the project was supported by the Laramie Rivers Conservation District, which provides grants through a cost-share program to support beautification, education and conservation projects. According to director Tony Hoch, “the school district’s work to conserve water fits with the conservation district’s aims as well.” “Anything we can do to get people re-calibrating to use less water, we think, is an important part of our mission” explained Hoch.

The district’s landscape manager, Daniel Minton plans to continue installing new controllers at the rest of the schools in the district over the next couple years.

CPS distributors is the trusted source for smart irrigation technology distribution to the Wyoming and Colorado markets. When the Albany County School District decided to overhaul their irrigation system they trusted CPS because of the expertise, experience, and product availability that allowed them an industry partner that they could trust to provide the equipment they needed, when they needed it, within their budget.

If you are considering an overhaul or new installation of your irrigation system, contact CPS distributors today to learn how we can partner with you to help cut your operation costs, save water, and utilize smart irrigation technology to increase your bottom line while protecting the environment.