Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New video is online - irrigation control and well-water systems!

I recently produced a video for Miami-Dade Extension's Urban Conservation Unit.

The video discusses well-water irrigation systems controlled by a soil water sensor. When properly installed and calibrated, a soil water sensor system will prevent all unnecessary irrigation events. In South Florida, that can mean months of no irrigation during the rainy season.

Our experience in the field suggests that some well-water system pumps lose their prime and become inoperable when left at rest for too long.

To address this matter, the UCU has developed a "prime-saving" method. Check it out!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Urban Conservation Unit in the limelight!

Last week, Miami-Dade Extension’s Urban Conservation Unit (UCU), of which I am an honorary member, celebrated some noteworthy events.

First, team leader Mary McCready returned from an Extension Professionals conference in Orlando with a box of 2011 UF/IFAS Extension calendars. Soon to be available at Extension offices across the state, the 2011 calendar prominently features the UCU and the use of irrigation control technology – a practice which the UCU has helped introduce to the general public in Miami-Dade.

Second, earlier this year the UCU was selected as an Extension “success story” for Florida’s South District. In late April, a UF camera crew met us at a homeowner property during an irrigation assessment to film a video profile. After screening at the aforementioned Extension conference, the video profile was released widely last week. Check it out!

Friday, September 10, 2010

New WUEP research site added!

Last week, a new homeowner property was added to the pair-wise study.

Participating in Miami-Dade Extension’s Water-Use Efficiency program, this home featured a two-zone irrigation system on municipal water and mechanical at both the timer and zone level.

Retrofitting a mechanical irrigation system

Despite several heavy downpour interruptions, we set about retrofitting the irrigation system to meet the research project’s needs.

Back-flow prevention device already in place, we focused on replacing the indexing valve with electric valves. Although common in south Florida, the indexing valve is a restrictive and inefficient method for distributing water in landscape irrigation. Electric valves not only guarantee that a zone will fire during an irrigation program, but also allow for varying zone run times.

We then installed a water meter on each zone. The meters allow me to get accurate water-use data on the comparable zones – one controlled by the timer, the other controlled by the sensor.

We then replaced the mechanical timer with the soil moisture sensor system, and then buried the TDT sensor under turf in a sunny area within the parameters of the sensor-controlled zone.

We also addressed several leaks in the system, replacing several broken spray heads with new, more-efficient rotary heads. These sprinklers fire rotating streams that applying less water and resist wind better than spray heads.

Reflection: comparison study 2010

Barring any surprises, this was the final pair-wise research site installation for this year. From early April to September, we added 14 new homeowner research sites to the project.

Some insight into the nature of landscape irrigation in south Florida: of the 14 research sites that went online this year, 5 were simple add-on sensor/meter installations on pre-existing digital timer/electric valve systems, and 9 were complete mechanical to digital retrofits.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tensiometers installed at C-111 sites!

Over the long weekend, ABE graduate students Isaya and Tanh trekked from Gainesville to south Florida to take soil core samples and install tensiometers at the C-111 Project research sites.

Installing tensiometers
Following some preparation in the lab, a tensiometer is ready for installation. The installation process first requires preparing the install site for the instrument. In our case, this is done by hammering a large nail of similar diameter to a desired depth based on the length of the tensiometer.

Site preparation is followed by sieving site soil to prepare a slurry that works as a bonding agent to enhance instrument contact with the soil.

Tensiometers measure soil water potential. Installing these devices in close proximity to the soil water content probes will complement the probe data with easily accessible soil water status information. A total of 12 tensiometers were installed this weekend (2 per site). Tensiometer data will be recorded during research site downloading visits.

Soil core sampling

Soil core sampling was detailed in a previous post by Isaya: http://abewaterfountain.blogspot.com/2010/07/c-111-project.html

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Publication

Many thanks to Dr. Li's team for collaborating with me on this publication recently released: Liu, G.D., B. Gu, S.L. Miao, Y.C. Li, K.W. Migliaccio, and Y. Qian. 2010. Phosphorus release from ash and remaining tissues of two wetland species after a prescribed fire. Journal of Environmental Quality 39:1585-1593.

Look for more articles soon as several are in the revision phase with journals - including Richard Carey and Luis Barquin's research.

Nic also recently had a manuscript accepted that is now 'in press'.

Congratulations to the team!! Keep up the great work!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

C-111 equipment barriers in place!

With rain clouds looming in the distance, the Water Resource Engineering team erected protective barriers around five of the C-111 project research sites today.

Visible from hundreds of feet away, these brightly colored barriers will help protect the monitoring wells and soil water sensor probes (and, soon, tensiometers) from the heavy machinery and passing trucks endemic to the agricultural areas where the equipment is installed – especially during planting and harvest season.