July 20 2011 03:53 PM

Tom Campbell is the owner and operator of Water Scout, a North Bay, California company that specializes in irrigation planning and water auditing. Late last year, one of Campbell’s clients called to explain that he was expanding his property to seven acres and needed professional advice. The property is located in Marin County, California.


For years, the property had been using a 2-Wire system, which wasn’t very effective or efficient. Although Campbell conducted monthly irrigation audits for this property, he was frustrated that the existing system didn’t have any of the technology that could provide him with sufficient evapotranspiration information.

When the client decided to extend his property, Campbell took the opportunity to push for a change and upgrade the irrigation system. He recommended the latest 2-Wire system from Baseline Systems. Campbell wanted to have the ability to link multiple zones with similar micro-climates and watering needs, and Baseline provided the solution.

When the equipment arrived, Campbell and three of his crew retrofitted the entire property in 27 days. Soil Moisture biSensors were installed in each micro-climate. Solution The original 2-Wire controller had 200 valves, and with the additional acreage, Campbell added another 100 valves. The moisture sensors that were installed relay the information directly to the controller. Normally, it took him a full day to gather diagnostic information using a portable GPSequipped soil moisture sensor, and then he had to calculate the changes and input them into the program. With the new system, this tedious task has been eliminated.

Soil moisture sensors can be compared to a house thermostat. Like a thermostat that measures indoor temperature and maintains it, Baseline’s soil sensors measure the moisture content in soil. They send that information to the controller (in this case a BaseStation 6000), and adjust the irrigation schedule accordingly, watering only when and/or how much is actually needed.

Campbell planned to do the job over a three-year period; however, the client insisted that it be done all at one time. It was a daunting task, to say the least, notwithstanding the weather, which at 80 degrees was unseasonably warm for that time of year.

The property needed to be watered. Since it was the first Baseline unit he had worked with, Campbell had to learn the system and flow dynamics of the site— and install 300 zones by spring.

Campbell and his son, who was a freshman in high school, went to work. In one afternoon, they had installed decoders in 32 zones and programmed the micro-climate information. They also entered descriptions for each zone, making adjustments for special factors like higher winds in some areas, or shade or compacted soil in others.

“It was such a basic setup that my 15-year-old son could do it,” Campbell added.


Excessive pruning and overwatering has been eliminated, resulting in cost savings. Campbell has also saved his client additional costs on his blend of organic fertigation. “But,” says Campbell, “the real benefit has been in the ability to gather the diagnostics.”

For example, Campbell previously would have to visit the property and perform an audit on a 90-degree day, and then adjust the watering time from that audit data. Then, sometimes while he was gone, fog would roll in for a week. Being unable to account for California’s extreme weather shifts would result in an overwatered lawn.

“Before, I had a yellow-green lawn. Now it’s emerald green,” he boasts happily.

Instead of irrigating every four days, he now waters every seven days. He estimates he’s conserved 35 percent of the normal water usage.

“There’s a bunch of guys in my field who’ve been screaming for this,” he says, “and Baseline listened . . . It’s the future of irrigation . . . it has to be.”

Baseline also introduced an iPad application, which Campbell especially enjoys. With it, he can make specialized programming changes from anywhere. “Baseline has built so many features into its controller, it takes a while to learn it all,” says Campbell. “It’s a Porsche to start with, but you can tune this puppy to run like a Ferrari.”