Wednesday, May 11, 2011

U.C.U: Saving gallons by the thousands!

Over the past several weeks, Miami-Dade Extension's Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) has engaged in some concrete water-saving work. The following is a brief account of two recent experiences in the field: aiding a homeowner in distress and facilitating another's journey to efficient irrigation.

Golden Beach

A few weeks ago a homeowner contacted Extension daily over several days to complain about his exorbitant water bill and non-responsive municipal entities who had failed to help him diagnose and rectify his problem.

UCU to the rescue! Our most immediate obstacle - the 1.5 hour trek to the verdant lawns of Golden Beach, which we could not make without first scheduling other site visits nearby.

In the meantime, we debated amongst ourselves what the property's problem might be. Was it a main break gushing somewhere between the water meter and the irrigation system? Or was it simply a large break in the system easily addressed by turning the system off? We settled on the former and received permission to shut off the water meter should it be necessary.

Seven days later, we arrive. We find the meter perfectly still, immediately eliminating the main break possibility.

The assessment begins: digital system, 8 zones, city water and featuring high volume spray-head heavy zones on a property with scant turf and thick with low-maintenance plant life.

3 of the 8 zones have large breaks and the average zone GPM is in the 30s. Add a haphazard watering schedule (4 days/week) with excessive run times and the weekly expended total is 40,000+ gallons!

We calculated this on the spot for the homeowner's mom and she granted us free reign toadjust the system. We dropped watering days to the mandatory 2 days/week, turned off zones with breaks and reduced run times on the others and the savings added up to 36,000 gallons!

North Miami Beach

During system assessments our favorite recommendations include: going digital at the timer and valve level, adding low volume nozzles to spray heads, and pulling spray heads in favor of drip line or other low volume irrigation in shrub zones. Abide by these precepts and water savings are guaranteed!

In early March we assessed a property in North Miami Beach for a homeowner at wits end with his high water bills.

His system: mechanical, 6 zones, spray-head heavy and dousing shrubs with sprays.

We discussed his system's failings with him, suggested how he might remedy each, and went on our way to the next appointment.

A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to revisit this property and see most all of our recommendations in action! Digital replaced mechanical, 6 zones were reduced to 4, spray heads had low volume nozzles added and the shrub zone is now watered only with a soaker hose!

While we were pleased to see a homeowner follow through with efficient practices, he was ecstatic, going on and on about how his water use had dropped by 20,000 gallons and he had retrofitted the system with the billing period already underway. The true measure of his water savings awaits!

Educating and conserving

Sometimes in the day-to-day grind from one property to the next (from one wrecked, or poorly designed system to the next) one can get the impression that all of our best efforts fall on deaf ears. Contractors and homeowners listen, perhaps learn, but fail to act. These recent experiences, however, help demonstrate that when the stakes are high and the public is receptive, an outfit like the U.C.U. can make a real impact.


  1. I think you guys should make up a super hero fashion shirt - something with a big W! That is fabulous water savings!! Imagine what they will do with all the extra money in their pockets!

  2. One footnote: the weekly expended total on the Golden Beach property was actually 10,000+ gallons. To further edify the homeowner's mom we multiplied that figure by four to give her an idea of the monthly output (40,000+ gal!).

  3. Excellent overview, it pointed me out something I didn’t realize before. I should encourage for your wonderful work. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. Thank you for sharing this information with us.

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