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Strategies for Cutting the Water Bill and Improving Efficiency in School Districts

Water is expensive and only getting more so. School property usually includes significant space allocated to playgrounds and sports fields; therefore, these properties tend to use far more water than a commercial space of the same size. As much as 70% of the water on a school’s water bill is often used for landscape.

Schools are seemingly forever in a budget crunch, making the high cost of water especially problematic. Reducing the amount of water used and the resources required to manage irrigation can lower costs and improve efficiency. Most importantly, any monies saved can be redirected to the classroom.

Smart Irrigation Controllers Offer Fast Payback

“An easy way that leading companies have used to reduce landscape water consumption is replacing conventional sprinkler system timers with “smart” irrigation controllers.” 

GreenBiz, A Low-Risk Green Initiative with a Fast Payback

The ROI for a smart irrigation solution is usually around two years, making it a project with one of the fastest payback periods a school or school district can undertake. Depending on how much water is currently being used, it can take even less time to achieve payback. Grant money is often available from the district and local water agencies regularly offer extensive rebates to offset some or all of the cost of adopting smart irrigation. On top of the direct savings from lower water costs, there is also a host of indirect savings, from labor savings to less money spent replacing plants, longer life for hardscape and paved surfaces, eligibility for water rebates and even less fertilizer to purchase.

“We achieved break-even on our investment in the first 8 months.” 

Dave Radke, Director of Facilities Maintenance, Campbell Union School District

The Cost of Overwatering

Most landscape is overwatered. By reducing overwatering, you’ll do more than lower water bills. You’ll:

  • Improve plant health and longevity
  • Lower the risk of slope or foundation damage due to soil consolidation, and reduce the chance of mold developing
  • Reduce unhealthy fertilizer runoff
  • Reduce labor expenses since less time will be spent managing irrigation and fewer site visits will be required.
  • Reduce waste, conserving precious water resources

Staff Productivity

“With only three full-time irrigation technicians and so much turf and landscape, we often felt like on-call firemen fielding emergency calls… sometimes even having to send kids home due to muddy play areas. With so many sites spread over a large area, we weren’t able to be as efficient as we needed to be, often logging many overtime hours, never keeping up, and wasting water in the process.” 

Mark Hurd, Grounds/Irrigation Foreman, Davis School District

Older and less sophisticated irrigation controllers are basically timers. They run sprinklers on a clock, rain or shine. Changing the schedule means sending someone to the location of each controller and manually modifying it. Many modern controllers, through a variety of methods, determine the amount of water based on plant needs and local weather conditions and automatically schedule watering as appropriate. Some offer central management capabilities, allowing for control from a web browser, reducing the number of site visits required and dramatically speeding up time spent on maintenance. Since grounds and facilities professionals tend not to sit at a desk, mobile device applications provide a way to manage alerts and notifications, change scheduling and even shut off water in an emergency to avoid catastrophic damage and water loss, all from a smartphone.

“After we installed WeatherTRAK irrigation controllers from HydroPoint, it was like hiring a team of technicians to help. We are now able to remotely access the irrigation controllers, address alerts, and make changes as needed, all without physically visiting every site.”

David Chandler, Energy Specialist, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

What to Look For in Smart Irrigation

As you look into smarter water management, be sure to specify an irrigation system that includes:

  • Anytime, anywhere access. You’ll want to monitor or change settings from any device with an Internet browser, not an immobile, dedicated device. Devices should include smartphone and tablets to improve productivity for workers in the field.
  • Advanced reporting. You need to know how much water is being used, track usage against budgets and other analytics.
  • Alerts and notifications. You should be alerted to issues in real time, not based on user-initiated requests or at a set time each day.
  • Built-in communications. Communications should be built in at the start, obviating the need for in-the-field modems, radios and IP addresses, and it should be transparent. Be sure communications doesn’t introduce additional complexity (think IT support, installation and maintenance) or hidden costs.
  • Financing. To eliminate some or all out-of-pocket expenses, look for a vendor that offers project financing. Water savings can help pay for any portion of cost that financing doesn’t cover. School districts may also qualify for lower tax-exempt interest rates and non-appropriations.

HydroPoint is the leader in smart water management. We make water – both indoors and out – simpler to manage through visibility and automation. Nearly 200 municipalities and school districts across the US have adopted HydroPoint. How can we help you cut your water bill, reduce waste and improve efficiency?