A constant challenge for Turfgrass professionals has, and will always be irrigation. It is the most crucial of all agronomic techniques especially during times of drought and high temperatures. There have been many advances over the years to increase the efficiency of the irrigation application; sprinkler heads are more precise in their applications, central control systems have become even more advanced, and many great tools now exist to help with "site specific" irrigation needs.
The pump station is something that over the past 10 years has become a focus for irrigation companies. They have worked to incorporate technologies that make for better energy efficiency, flow management and operational safeties. These features help to assure that the station will stay operational at the most crucial of times.
To make an irrigation application, you need two components. One is the central control system computer, and the second is the pump station. The control system is where you control what stations are going to run and for how long, while the pump station actually delivers the water to the sprinklers and ultimately to the landscape. Traditionally these two components have operated independently of each other. There have been a couple of programs that work to connect these two systems so that they act together to provide a more comprehensive operation. Flowtronex Pump Log 2000 is one of those programs. Recently, through advances in radio technology, I have been able to link these two systems by bringing Pump Log to CU!
These two pictures show the pump log interface that I'm able to see on the Toro Sitepro computer. One of the biggest stress points turf managers have is worrying whether the pump stations are still online and running smooth, especially at times when we are not around to physically check on them. There are many times in the middle of the night during hot stretches of weather where I wake up wondering whether everything is watering O.K. and if the systems are all online and working properly. The old method was to drive in during weekends or late at night to verify everything is working properly. With this new system I'm able to check on the stations from anywhere by dialing into the system and looking at the Pump Log program. This has been a great help especially during this hot summer.
One other benefit to the system is the datalog capabilities of Pump Log. When you have a central control system you are able to input data specific to each sprinkler zone to help the computer manage the Gallons Per Minute properly. This insures that the system pressure is always at the desired point. In the past when you felt like you may have flow problems, you needed to sit in the pump house during the entire night, watching the screen to see your pressures and flows, and then pin point a time when the program may not be functioning properly. Obviously this was a time consuming process, not to mention a tiring one.
In the above pictures you can basically see two different graphs. The top graph is the amount of water that the Network 8000 (central control system computer) thinks is running, while the bottom graph is the amount of water that the pump station is actually pumping. This is a gold mine of information for turfguys like myself. I'm able to glean massive amounts of information from this data; specifically how my irrigation system pressures look through the entire irrigation cycle and also what gallons per minute are flowing.
As you can see the graphs are very similar on the surface, but when I look deeper into what is really going on there is a descrepancy between what the computer thinks is flowing and what is actually happening.
Based on this type of information I felt we needed to complete a full campus audit of every single sprinkler zone on the entire campus. This summer we have had two student employees working on this audit. They go to every single station on campus with a print out of every single station from the Network 8000 computer. The Network 8000 has a "control system" where all kinds of information is stored. I spoke about the Network 8000 computer control system in this post from a little while ago. In the control system, large amounts of data are input such as type of head, type of nozzle in that head, number of heads, etc. This data is very important, as with all computers they only know what you tell them. Therefore if the data is incorrect it can cause problems through the whole system. The staff will go to every single station, turn it on, and then compare what is in the computer with what is actually in the field. We have found some pretty significant differences which once repaired will help the entire system function better.
We have recently finished the west main part of campus and I have input the data into the system. I have not gone live with this new information yet as I have been testing it to make sure everything is still functioning properly and that no additional problems were caused when the data was changed.
Currently I have Pump Log up and running on the two pump stations on main campus and am working through some challenges before the new Williams Village station goes online. So far the system already worked in our favor a couple of weekends during this summer, as we were able to see that we had a problem and could respond to rectify the situation. This prevented the station from being down all weekend long.
I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to have this technology. The middle-of-the-night cold sweats are no more!! :-)