Campus Irrigation Project

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Water and energy conservation is part of a sustainable environmental strategy in California. One of the best ways to reduce water use is to design and maintain efficient irrigation systems. A review of the irrigation systems on campus indicated that substantial water could be saved by addressing system maintenance and design.  Staff members in Facilities Management and Services (FMS) joined faculty in the College of Agriculture to develop the Campus Irrigation Project.  This project seeks to address the problem by assessing turf irrigation systems performance, developing a prioritized list of remedies, and improving system performance.  The involvement of students in this process is an excellent learning experience. In addition, a demonstration area will be chosen to highlight the conservation effort and demonstrate a solution to a common problem in California. 

Students Students in AGET 360 conducting an irrigation audit with Kirby Pierson and Professor Mike Spiess

Step #1 – Auditing
Auditing is the process of evaluation of the irrigation system.  The auditing process measures system performance using a standard metric called the distribution uniformity (DU).  Standards for sprinkler DU’s are set at 80% or greater.  Systems not meeting this standard are targeted for improvement.  In addition, the auditing process records system maintenance issues and system operation issues (time clock settings).  Auditing is conducted by students from the College of Agriculture and FMS personnel.

Step #2 – Prioritization
The Chico State campus has 585 irrigation zones with a wide variety of irrigation systems and vegetation. Given the age and complexity of the irrigation systems, remedies vary from simple replacement of sprinkler heads to complete re-design and installation.  Given the finite resources of the campus, it is not practical to fix the entire campus irrigation system in one project.  Criteria are established that consider cost and potential water savings.

Step #3 – Field Work: System Improvement
Personnel in FMS improve irrigation systems based on data acquired in the audit process. Since May 2005, 20 irrigation zones have been improved. Next on the list for improvements are zones near Kendall Hall (8 zones), Ayers Hall (3 zones), Trinity Hall, (4 zones) and Physical Sciences (5 zones).

Step #4 – Post Audit
Once an irrigation system is retrofitted or re-designed, a post-audit is conducted.  The DU calculated in the post-audit is compared to the DU calculated in the pre-audit. The “before” and “after” DU’s are used to calculate water savings.

Step #5– Demonstration Area
A demonstration area will be established for students in the College of Agriculture’s Irrigation Class.