Urban lawn watering is the single largest water demand on municipal water supplies.
An Alberta company developing irrigation technology recognized that water scarcity and a need for greater irrigation efficiency could provide a market opportunity.
Olds College was approached by the company, 1318552 Alberta Limited, and asked to test its novel turfgrass irrigation system for residential and commercial applications. The computer-generated program alters the flow of water to the head depending on the shape and size of areas to be watered. This system requires fewer irrigation heads and less underground piping, which would reduce installation costs.
Through its partnership with the college, the company gained access to the expertise of college irrigation specialists and state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor test facilities. Initial testing found that the system provided a uniform distribution of water superior to the industry standard. The ease of installation and the computer program that optimizes flow are the key market advantages of the system.
“Olds College provided a unique opportunity to compare our system with an industry standard,” stated company representative Cam Cote. “We were able to install our head in the indoor facility and with the variable speed pump were able to precisely control water flow. This allowed us to make necessary adjustments to the head and the computer program. Outdoors, we were able to compare our system with their new decoder system. Nowhere else could we have accessed facilities like these!”
A critical component for the Prairie Turfgrass Research Centre at Olds was attracting highly qualified personnel to the research program. Katie Dodson, a Canadian researcher with considerable industry experience in drought tolerance of grasses for recreational turf, was hired as lead research scientist. Her research will provide information that could lead to significant water savings.
Turfgrass research at the centre is focused in four areas: strategies to reduce winter injury, biotic stress management, grass selection for alternative uses, and water conservation. Partners include the Canadian Turfgrass Research Foundation, local golf courses, turf and sod growers, and the City of Lethbridge.