It’s Spring – Time For An Irrigation Audit

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
March 20, 2013

Raising and leveling sprinklers may improve the irrigation system operating efficiency by as much as 20 percent in some instances.

There is no better time than spring in the desert southwest. The birds are chirping, the weather is perfect, spring training baseball is in full swing and the irrigation systems at golf courses are gearing up for another hot summer. Now is the time to take a close look at all components of the irrigation system and employ practices to improve efficiency. On average, the highest turf water consumption occurs in the months of May and June, with July not far behind. For overseeded courses, May is a particularly critical month since adequate water is necessary to encourage bermudagrass recovery. With that in mind, there are only six weeks left until the evaporation and transpiration (ET) rates skyrocket and the demands on the irrigation system will peak. Here are a few tactics to consider for improved irrigation efficiency: 

  • Raise and level sprinklers. The Center for Irrigation Technology in Fresno, CA determined that simply raising and leveling sprinklers can improve distribution uniformity by as much as 20 percent.
  • Check operating pressure at strategic locations throughout the golf course. Ideally, pressure is measured with a digital recording device over a 24 to 48 hour period to capture the operating pressure during the evening irrigation cycle.
  • Check sprinkler spacing. If head spacing is inconsistent, document the information and save for discussions once the topic of irrigation renovation is appropriate.
  • Spread out the flow among the schedules in the central control. Identify which holes may experience low pressure and limit the number of sprinklers that run simultaneously during the evening irrigation. This may result in a longer water-window but the improvement in efficiency will justify the extra time needed.
  • Finally, consider conducting an irrigation audit to measure the in-field precipitation rate and the distribution uniformity. 

Take advantage of this wonderful spring weather and prepare your system for the upcoming months of May and June where the ET rates are highest for the year. Please don’t hesitate to contact Mr. Pat Gross (pgross@usga.org) or Brian Whitlark (bwhitlark@usga.org), to assist your efforts to maximize irrigation system efficiency.

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