GJ system stops watering on rainy days

Linda Friesen, irrigator with the Grand Junction parks department, controls one of the zones of sprinklers at Lincoln Park via computer. Grand Junction invested in the irrigation technology in 2005, paying $250,000 for the Rain Bird municipal system over a three-year period.

A couple inches of rain that pounded the ground in recent weeks lent a patina of green to most outdoor plants in the Grand Valley.

While summertime downpours are fortuitous for outdoor landscaping everywhere, the extra moisture was especially helpful to the city of Grand Junction, in water savings during the sweltering grip of summer’s heat.

It would be days before the city would turn its sprinklers on again, saving thousands of gallons of water.

As the sprinklers do start up again, most people might be surprised to know the city’s irrigation system in its parks, medians and flower beds is highly advanced.

The Maxicom system — which covers 320 acres of city parks, or about 95 percent of the city’s developed parks — is regulated and sensitive to current soil and turf conditions. Essentially, every one of the city’s 150 watered zones receives enough water for its specific needs, a formula that is dictated by an area’s type of soil, vegetation or trees and turf compared to the rate that water evaporates.

If there’s a break in the irrigation system or natural rainfall, the system shuts itself off.

“It applies what the plant needs,” said Mike Vedegna, parks superintendent for the city of Grand Junction. “We do save water. We do save money. If we had over 150 time clocks, we would have to have an employee go and turn every one off when it rained. One way we can tell we’re saving a great deal of water is that if the water rates go up, we don’t have to increase our budget.”

Grand Junction invested in the irrigation technology in 2005, paying $250,000 for the Rain Bird municipal system over a three-year period.

The idea of Grand Junction investing in the irrigation system was progressive for its time, and the idea still is ahead of its time, catching on today with some municipalities, said Traci Wieland, Grand Junction’s recreation superintendent.

Grand Junction sometimes gets phone calls from other municipalities questioning how the city transferred to the Maxicom system. While running the program is an expensive upfront investment and requires some programming expertise, its water and labor savings pay off, Wieland said.

These days, if an area is getting watered during the daytime hours, there’s likely a city worker nearby working out a kink in the system, Wieland said.

If there’s one thing people hate — and rightly so — it’s seeing irrigation on in the heat of the day, sidewalks getting watered or an area receiving way too much water.

City workers aren’t interested in seeing those scenarios either. Watering typically occurs between midnight and 6 a.m.

No two parks are the same in how they are watered or the amount each needs to stay viable. Watering for a playing field is a different scenario than watering for trees. And, for example, Lincoln Park is run off city water and the city pays for its usage, “just like people do at home,” Wieland said. Canyon View Park runs off irrigation water.

Pulling the strings behind the city’s complex watering formulas is Maxicom irrigator Linda Friesen.

Friesen carries a beefy Dell laptop into the field to regulate water flows. She can program the system to not only tweak the amount of water applied to each zone, but to each sprinkler head in each zone, also programming the radius of water each sprinkler sprays.

“In the past if water was running when it wasn’t supposed to be, the employees would run to their trucks and go out and turn it off,” she said. “Now we can do it all through the program.”


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