Drought in the desert

By Rodric Hurdle-Bradford

In Arizona, smart irrigation is a requirement for long-term success.

With more than 50 days of temperatures that surpassed 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix in 2020, smart irrigation tactics are a daily practice in Arizona.

“We are just trying to look at any way we can save water in this drought situation,” says Dave Londen, CEO and co-owner of Back to Nature Landcare Inc., based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. “It is not seasonal here, it is a way of life.”

Even though there is little water in the Arizona desert, landscapers have found several ways to implement smart irrigation for their clients.

“You can look at smart irrigation in so many different ways here in Arizona because our resources are so limited,” says Jack Nesteruck, director of construction for Phoenix-based Agave Environmental Contracting Inc. “It starts with getting a positive amount of irrigation according to the soil conditions and the area you are working in.”

According to Nesteruck, smart irrigation does not always mean implementing the same tools and devices that work elsewhere in the United States. Weather and rain sensors need to be tuned in to an extremely local level to be effective, and even then there can be issues.

“You can have two blocks of heavy rains and the surrounding five miles will have nothing,” says Nesteruck. “The rain is too inconsistent within any three-to-five mile radius in Arizona to expect one standard solution to solve your irrigation problems.”

Nesteruck says isolated monsoons and rain in general complicate how smart irrigation systems typically work. To go along with that, the soil conditions can change drastically in neighboring suburbs, so they have to work with clients for custom solutions.

Sensible solutions

“I am a bit old school when it comes to how to implement smart irrigation,” Nesteruck admits. “I believe the adjustment of flow on sprinkler heads should be at the start of any smart irrigation solution. People think cranking the valve all the way open works, but you have to find the proper PSI that fits the head and control the valve while still looking at the angles.”

When evapotranspiration controllers are being used in Arizona, a common practice is for landscapers to foster relationships with cities and municipalities to bring them to communities to foster smart irrigation. The work does not end there because the ever-changing monsoon season combined with drought makes ET controller implementation just the start of the process.

“We have helped communities get access to grants so they can have ET controllers installed,” says Londen. “The rain may be isolated out here, but we all have to work together when it comes to smart irrigation.”