Thursday, June 30, 2011

Retrofits a-go-go: 2 new videos online!

I recently produced two videos for Miami-Dade Extension’s Urban Conservation Unit (UCU). Each video documents a different kind of urban landscape irrigation system retrofit for increased water-use efficiency.

The knack…and how to get it

One of the UCU’s main objectives in our fieldwork is to convince homeowners, contractors and property managers that efficiency in irrigation is a good and practical idea.

To this end we invest plenty face and brain time in engaging stakeholders while on-site during system assessments and later when churning out exacting reports about system deficiencies and possible solutions.

Beyond fighting the good fight, and meeting all types of people in all corners of Miami-Dade, a more tangible reward from our work arrives when people “get it.” And there's no harder evidence of “getting it” than when we revisit a property to assess a totally revamped irrigation system that embodies efficient practices in action.

Video 1: Lifestyles of the "smart" & efficient

This video is a homeowner guided tour of his retrofitted irrigation system. Once he received our initial assessment report, he not only upgraded his mechanical city water system to digital, but also installed drip irrigation, rotator heads and a brand of “smart” (weather-based) timer we had yet to see used in the field. He did all of this himself. See the video here!

Video 2: Bombas y valvulas

This video features a well-water system retrofitting from mechanical to digital. If you can overlook the wall/surface staining and occasional stench, well-water systems are somewhat luxurious - the water is free and in seemingly endless supply! Add to this the fact that running a high-voltage pump with a low-voltage digital timer requires expensive electrical work and its clear why this kind of retrofit is rare. Fortunately, I was able to video a friendly, knowledgeable contractor during just such an occasion. And because irrigation is the universal language, I shot it in Spanish! Oprime aqui para ver el video!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nicki's field study at TREC

Hey everyone! with the help of Mike, I started the first steps of my field study- marking the perimeter field plot. the entire area is 4620 sq. ft.

Schematic of what is to come:
Thesis: Minimizing nutrient leaching from residential land by using water-saving irrigation technologies


4 replicates of 4 irrigation treatments:
  1. Control (set-schedule)
  2. ET controller
  3. Soil water sensor
  4. Rain sensor

-All plots will receive equal amounts of the same type of fertilizer
-Amounts of water and nutrients leached will be collected in lysimeters and analyzed

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Water Quality Course 2011: exclusive video access!

In February 2011, TREC in Homestead, FL, hosted a Water Quality Course (WQC), bringing together leading experts and researchers in the water quality field.

The week’s events included presentations, field days, and hands-on exercises.

A novel aspect of this most recent WQC was the constant presence of a UF media team capturing video of all the goings-on. The objective: document sundry course content - lectures, technology demonstrations and hands-on exercises - for synthesis into a comprehensive on-line Water Quality Course!

The latest news is that much of the video editing has already been completed! Further, if all goes according to schedule, come February 2012, for a nominal fee, students, academics, regulatory professionals et al. can enroll in the online course and benefit from the wealth of knowledge TREC hosted this past winter.

In the meantime, enjoy this exclusive ABEWF blog peek into what was Water Quality Course 2011.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio – UF (34 Minutes)
Surface Water Quality Sampling

Douglas Yoder – MDC Water & Sewer (41 Minutes)
The 20 Year Water Supply Challenge

Previous post:

WQC 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Site Evaluation and Design Plan for a Created Forested Wetland

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is at a deficit for wetland mitigation credit in the Maple River Watershed due to construction of the St. Johns Bypass on US 127. MDOT requested design plans for the creation of a forested wetland that are cost effective, innovative, and fit within the landscape.

Project sponsor

Through ArcGIS mapping and field surveys, the construction site was characterized to determine hydrology, topography, and soil classification. In order to determine the hydrologic regime of the system a water balance excel model was developed to predict inundation period and daily water height. Site design was optimized to minimize excavation, maintain wildlife usage, and ensure vegetative establishment.

Lab scale soil percolation rate testing by constant head method

Results of the water balance indicate sufficient water for a forested wetland ecosystem. Stop-log control structures and an earthen berm constructed from on-site soil are utilized to facilitate the necessity for precise water depths. The design includes small areas of emergent and scrub-shrub wetland to promote ecological diversity.

Overview of site location, 50 acres

AutoCAD design drawings depict plan, cross-sectional, and structural component views. Specifications are provided for construction of the site with details on required grading, vegetation planting, wildlife structures, and long-term monitoring.

Design Team from left to right; Alyse, Mike (MDOT), Kevin, and Hanna

The project is currently being finished by MDOT. They took our design and drawings and expanded on the specifications in order to create a bid proposal. The total implementation cost will be around $500,000 and is slated to begin construction in the Spring!

- Kevin

Update from Kevin!

Hi everyone!

I have read through some of the recent posts and it looks like things are going great!

In May I graduated from MSU and am now on to new things. I am planning on doing some international volunteer work prior to returning to graduate school in a year or two. My original plan was to become a Peace Corps volunteer but federal budget cuts have delayed my potential departure date and their isn't any certainty that it will work out for me, however who knows. So I have started to look for other opportunities to volunteer abroad either as a teacher or working on water and sanitation projects. Hopefully I will find something that will allow me to leave in the late fall going to East Africa or South Asia. I guess things don't always happen as planned and sometimes end up being for the best, I hope that is the case!

I am leaving tomorrow to be a summer camp counselor at a camp in Up State New York for the rest of summer which should be fun!

In others news my senior capstone project on wetland mitigation design got top 3 in the ASABE Environmental Design Competition and will be presented at the ASABE in Louisville in August. If you go to the conference check it out, my next post will be a little about the project!
Good memory of the sunset at TREC!

I hope the lychee are as good as last year!

- Kevin

Extension newsletter

Hi group,
Every quarter the Miami-Dade Extension Service publishes a newsletter. This month it features an article by Isaya and myself - it showcases some of the agricultural irrigation work we have done. I hope everyone is proud of their contribution to this product - it is our work as a team that has resulted in this program!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2 new ET research sites are go!

Last week, two additional ET research sites went online. Two homeowner properties participating in Miami-Dade Water & Sewer’s Water-Use Efficiency Program elected to go “smart” with their timer in exchange for allowing us access to their irrigation system’s water-use data for a year.

Coral Gables

Following some repairs at a (now former) research site, the installation work began at a property featuring a 3-zone mechanical irrigation system on city water. As is our wont, we began with the ceremonial removal of the indexing valve – the enemy of all things efficient.

Installed in its place: 3 electric valves, a new vacuum breaker device to safeguard the potable water lines, and a water meter for data collection purposes.

We then removed the mechanical timer, installed the weather-based timer, and mounted the weather station.

Coral Gables…again!

From there we moved on to another property a few blocks away with a 4-zone mechanical irrigation system on city water. Once again we kicked-off proceedings by slicing off the indexing valve.

A brief aside about indexing valves – predicated on water pressure, the indexing valve is a simple and cheap method for distributing irrigation in a landscape. It restricts irrigation zones to sequential ordering, and because its cam needs only a rush of water to shift, its best friend is the mechanical timer, essentially an automated on/off switch. Working in tandem, they condem all zones to an identical run time (valve’s handiwork) and only in 12/15min increments (timer’s trademark) – never factoring in zone plant life or application rate.

This property had its master valve/vacuum breaker located away from the timer, allowing us to focus pipe-work around the new electric valves and the water meter.

We then installed the “smart” controller and mounted its weather station.

Cats and dogs

These new sites bring the ET-based property total on the project to 5. Although already demonstrating some indication of water-savings (given the precision "smart" timer programming requires), the true disparity in water-use between the ET-based timer and a schedule-based timer will become clear once the current drought gives way to the rainy season.

Previous 2011 installations: