Monitoring irrigation from 1,500 miles away.

“Letting the days go by, water flowing underground…” Talking Heads. “Once in a Lifetime”. Remain in Light. Warner Brothers, 1990. CD.

Today’s post is the first of what I think will be two, or possibly three, posts talking about the irrigation system recently installed as part of the landscaping project described in May and June.

To achieve our goal of “…winding the clock back…” by carefully manicuring the surrounding desert, we had to remove a reasonable amount of native “volunteer” growth which had sprung up over the past 14 years, as well as some non-native plants. By “non-native” I merely mean plants that weren’t native to the immediate area, (i.e. Sonoran Desert, ~2,700 feet above sea level, south-facing slope, etc.).

But we also knew this project wasn’t just a simple matter of subtraction – we knew we’d be adding plant material too – and with plans for selective addition came the very real need for targeted irrigation. The HOA covenants and restrictions governing our neighborhood contain explicit guidelines on acceptable plant types, density/coverage, recommended diversity, etc., as well as expectations regarding the use of irrigation. Specifically, the re-establishment of any disturbed area surrounding a home should be done in such a manner to allow the artificial irrigation to be completely turned off once the plants had an opportunity to establish themselves. In short, we had to be prepared to shut the irrigation system off roughly 2 to 3 years after new plant material has been introduced and let the plants survive on whatever precipitation fell naturally on the site.

After multiple design meetings, site visits, teleconferences and late-night/early-morning email exchanges, everyone involved in coming up with a solution felt a fully-programmable, drip-based irrigation system was clearly right choice. It met all of the requirements outlined in the HOA covenants and restrictions. …and it met our requirement to keep wasted water to an absolute minimum – there wouldn’t be any sprinkler heads spewing water out across the desert! It also meant we would be able to wean the plants off artificial irrigation based on near-real-time weather conditions because the controller supports connections to a “weather station”, (measuring precipitation, wind, humidity, etc.), or, if we opted to configure it, to an Internet-based weather feed covering our immediate area!

The controller is manufactured by a company called Rain Master, based in southern California. On Friday of this week, I’ll be meeting with a representative from John Deere Green Tech who will be showing me the ins and outs of the controller, how it’s been configured for our particular purposes and how to monitor its operation remotely – I can’t wait! I’ve taken the time to review the various manuals and have to say I’m pretty impressed with what this device is capable of… True, it’s often used in large-scale commercial applications, (e.g. landscaping for commercial buildings, public spaces, municipal parks, etc.), and not as often for residential projects like this one, but I had two requirements this controller met quite handily:

  1. the ability to respond to highly-localized weather conditions and adjust the amount of irrigation being applied based on those conditions
  2. the ability to be remotely managed, (hence the title of the post).

Stay tuned for a second post with photographs early next week! …by the way, it was 99 degrees when my flight landed on Wednesday evening – gonna be a warm Labor Day weekend for sure!

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