Smart controllers are making a positive impact on water management. What makes a controller smart? There are several reasons and right at the top of the list is the ability to sense flow. Flow sensors are affordable devices that can be installed to detect and automatically shut down the irrigation system when breaks, malfunctions or vandalism occur. Flow sensing should be part of any large irrigation system. Flow sensors are set to memorize the normal flow of your system.
Most manufacturers recommend two full irrigation cycles as a minimum to learn what is normal flow. The operator is able to program the controller to shut the master valve off if the flow is a certain percentage (to be determined by operator) over the memorized amount. Some controllers allow the same feature for too little flow. Operators are notified when there is a shut down in the system. Typically the system will shut down for a period of time (say 10 minutes) and then open the master valve again.
For example, you have a break in zone one that was detected within the first two minutes of operation. Watering time for zone one this day is 15 minutes. The master valve would come on again after 10 minutes; high flow would be detected again, and the valve would be shut off again for 10 minutes. When the master valve comes back on, zone one will have passed its water time. The valve will be shut and additional zones will be watered. You will conserve water and save your property lots of money.
Why don’t we see flow sensors on every property?
Flow sensors are not applicable to all irrigation systems. For example if you have one meter that supplies water to the interior and exterior of a building a flow sensor will not work because there is typically not a normal flow of water inside a building. You should check with an irrigation professional to see if flow sensing will work for your property. The other significant reason we don’t see flow sensors on every property is because most flow sensors have to be wired directly to the controller. In retrofit situations this often results in having to cut through concrete or asphalt to create a trench for the wire and the trench for the wires becomes too expensive for the water savings benefit.
Solution – Wireless flow sensors
Wireless flow sensors have been around for many years now, but often the price of the wireless flow sensors has been too high for most managers or property managers move forward with a project. HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc., just released the WeatherTRAK Flowlink that uses existing field wires and minimal trenching to pair a field transceiver and controller transceiver with flow sensors and a WeatherTRAK ET Pro commercial smart irrigation controller. This solution leverages the full flow management capabilities built into the controller and WeatherTRAK Central to monitor five independent flow functions along with master valves, station level flow rates, thresholds and run times. WeatherTRAK Central users can immediately address high flow rates, shut off broken sprinkler heads and make remote changes to station-level controller flow settings and configurations via any internet-enabled computer, Smartphone or tablet. The FlowLink retail price is $2500 and you will still have some installation charges in addition, but compared to the price of trenching and repaving, it could be thousands less than a directly wired flow sensor.
This is not the only wireless flow sensor available and I encourage you to share any addition information you have about wireless flow sensors in the comments area of this post. Having the ability to shut down a system automatically when there is a break will save us thousands and thousands of gallons of water. The price of water continues to climb while the price of technology declines. The perfect positive storm for those of us interested in saving water. Let’s be sure we take advantage of this optimal situation.