Spring has sprung, and we all know what that means- the sprinkler systems turn on. If you’ve been around campus at springtime before, you probably remember seeing at least one broken sprinkler here or there. I’d like to give you all a little background on why SOU Landscaping waters campus the way that it does, and how you can help us save water!
Last Wednesday, May 17th the system turned on. There are more than 460 zones on campus that must be watered, and at the beginning of sprinkler season, many sprinklers and main lines break or are broken because they haven’t been used all winter. We get our water from the Talent Irrigation system that derives water from the Hyatt Reservoir and the Keen Reservoir. Our water does not come from the city like the water out of the tap, therefore there are no large city pressure regulators. Since our campus is on a downhill slope, the pressure buildup that accumulates in the pipes needs to be alleviated 24/7. It is for this reason, as well as the sheer amount of time required to run 460 zones that sprinklers go off at all hours of the day, rain or shine. If too many sprinklers are shut off, pressure builds up in the pipes and can cause large main line breaks, which will actually waste more water than 24/7 normal watering.
SOU Landscaping is committed to sustainability, and therefore has invested in sprinklers equipped with water-saving technology. Hunter MP rotators have a particular aim that puts droplets on target rather than a mist system. This saves up to 30% of the water released from directly evaporating. Unfortunately a trade-off is that these sprinklers are not very adjustable, and that is why they are sometimes seen watering the concrete, but they do save water overall.
If you see a broken sprinkler with a red flag next to it, that means Landscaping is aware of the issue and is working on it. There are roughly 10,000 sprinklers on campus, and they may not get to it as quickly as they would like to. They prioritize fixes based on which breaks will cause the most water loss, typically starting with main line breaks.
Each part of campus has a different ecosystem that requires different amounts of water, i.e. different soil types, heat attraction, etc. and so the system is very complex. They would rather err on the side of overwatering as opposed to accidentally killing our precious plants and trees. Please understand that fine tuning the irrigation timing and application is a work in progress and that it is their goal to conserve as much water as possible.
What can you do to help?
If you do see a broken sprinkler that has no flag nearby, please a take a photo with some context. Do not just take a picture of the sprinkler head, but rather, show buildings in the background and give a detailed description of where the sprinkler is. This will help Landscaping to find and fix the problem more efficiently. Email photos and notifications to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 541.552.6117 and leave a voicemail if you would like to make a report.
Additionally, if you would like to take action yourself, red flags are available in ECOS in SU105 and in the Landscaping building behind CPS and next to the Recycling Center. If you take one, please put it near the broken sprinkler and inform the Landscaping crew thusly.
SOU Landscaping would like to emphasize the idea of water conscientiousness. While yes, we had a near record water year, that does not mean we should act as though we are no longer in a drought. We should always have our conservation hats on and use water resourcefully.
If you are a student at SOU and are especially passionate about hydrology, conservation, sustainability, and working hard – the SOU Landscape Team is looking for someone who can dedicate up to 30 hours per week all summer helping manage the SOU Irrigation system. Please inquire more about this opportunity and send resumes to Mike Oxendine at OxendineM@sou.edu