Last week we had the opportunity to visit Sanford Stadium and see the new sprinkler system being installed. Since about 1981, the University of Georgia has relied on two giant cannons to irrigate the field.
Judging by the beautiful green grass on gameday, those cannons did a great job! Or did they? It turns out that spraying 200 gallons into the air every minute is not the most efficient way to water turfgrass. Plus, the cannons blasted water into the stands too.
I spoke with Derek Schuber, Project Manager with the University Architects for Facilities Planning about the new irrigation system. It will have 22 sprinkler heads that spray 15 gallons per minute each and 52 heads that spray 10 gallons a minute. They estimate that the new system will save more than 2.5 million gallons of water a year. To me, the price tag of $200,000 seems kind of high for an irrigation system retrofit, so I asked him why they are installing the system. “It is the right thing to do!” he said without hesitation. The new system will be highly efficient and direct water where it is needed, significantly reducing the amount of water wasted to evaporation, wind, or runoff. The new system also saves water through a computerized flow meter. The meter will shut down the system if it detects a leak. UGA is ahead of other SEC teams that are still operating with cannon sprinklers, including Auburn and South Carolina.
It was a pleasure speaking with Charlie Whittemore, Assistant Athletic Director at UGA. He told me that the 2.5 million gallon water savings on the new irrigation system is just an estimate. They “won’t know the real saving until the next drought” when the field will need to be watered more often. With this new system, they will be able to focus water where it is needed. The most heavily stressed part of the field is the middle where all the football action is. The sprinklers are set up in zones so that water is focused midfield and other stressed areas. With the old system some areas were overwatered to ensure that other areas get enough water. Now all spots on the field will get the ideal amount of water.
UGA’s $200,000 irrigation system is the Ultimate Sprinkler Spruce Up. (see below for more photos!) Anyone with a sprinkler system can do their own Sprinkler Spruce Up. Here is how.
- Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, go with a pro—look for an irrigation professional certified through a WaterSense labeled irrigation program.
- Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large wet areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
- Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to your lawn or prized plants.
- Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling.