Outdoor Services Crew

Monday, April 6, 2015

Water...water...where is it?

The University of Colorado Boulder campus has over 50,000 sprinkler heads.  For someone with less than 20 in my yard, this number is staggering.  How do you manage to keep track of every single one of them was my question to Tom Coppens, a member of the Irrigation team.  He helped me see the big picture.  It is not just about the sprinklers, which we see spraying water across the campus; it is what we don’t see that creates the campus irrigation system.  The pieces and parts include:  4 pump houses, 4 water ditches, 3 campus weather stations, 84 irrigation clocks, and miles of irrigation lines.  Oh my!

Varsity Lake awaiting irrigation start up 

Mother Nature sends out indicators to announce her plants are ready to come back from their winter rest but it takes a keen eye to notice.  If temperatures remain above freezing, the turf starts coming out of its dormant stage. It needs water.  Allowing the turf to stress is very bad.
This revelation sent me straight home to take a good look at my own lawn for stress.  Yep, I found it.  My grass was super stressed and begging me for water.  While I was outside examining signs of new growth, I noticed my neighbor adjusting his sprinkler heads.  I may not know Mother Nature as well as the turf guys on campus but one look at my grass told me I better move fast or I might find my lawn creeping next door to receive better care.

Fortunately, the campus has professionals.  Teams and a centralized irrigation system work together to keep the turf, trees and plants healthy and flourishing no matter what time of year it is. 
Communication between antennas and clocks is critical.  No water will be turned on until it can be told where to go.  It’s the first step in firing up the campus irrigation system after its winter shut down.  You may never see the antennas because they are on some of the highest spots on campus but I am sure you have seen the clocks.  Look for green boxes that stand about waist high. 

Tom Coppens checking a clock near Macky Auditorium
The i
nsides of these clocks look like computers.  Encased in a hard plastic, they are designed to handle most types of weather conditions.  But if for any reason there is a communication breakdown, never fear, the clocks will continue implementing the last watering command for up to two weeks. 

Up next:  Windowless Buildings--they are important!
Stay tuned.