Smart Irrigation Helps Save Water in Vadnais Heights, White Bear Township

Sprinkler systems can seem as mysterious as a magic wand. Where does the water come from, how did it get there? If something goes awry, can we blame it on goblins?

Unlike a magic wand, sprinkler systems don’t make water appear out of nowhere. For those without a ticket to Hogwarts, groundwater is a finite resource for the community and needs careful attention to maintain a clean and convenient source for years to come.

This summer the City of Vadnais Heights and White Bear Township are teaming up with the Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization to install a smart irrigation pilot program at Vadnais Heights City Hall and the Vadnais Heights Community Park. White Bear Township locations include Polar Lakes Park, the Township admin office, and Columbia Park. 

Smart irrigation systems use a controller to monitor weather patterns or soil moisture, and adapt the watering schedule accordingly. The systems also convey detailed reports on usage across the various sprinkler zones, and are quickly accessible and adjustable with a phone or tablet. The pilot program is expected to save 30 acre-feet of groundwater annually. That’s the equivalent of 9,775,543 gallons, or 271 football fields filled with 1 inch of water. The pilot program will be evaluated at the end of the year and may be expanded to additional parks. Funding for the effort comes from City and Township funding and the VLAWMO Landscape grant program.

VH City Hall Smart Irrigaiton Demo - cover pic 2.jpg

Pictured: Nick Ousky, Vadnais Heights Senior Engineering Technician and Lauren Sampedro, VLAWMO Watershed Technician and Program Coordinator. 

Still waiting on your ticket to water-wizard school? The good news is that even without a smart irrigation system, everyone can pitch-in to help be smart and alert with our water resources. Try these basic tips to help build momentum and good habits around water use:

  • Pay attention to the weather and never under estimate the power of a simple rain gauge. Conventional turf only needs about 1”/week. When dormant, just 1/2" every 2 weeks is sufficient to keep the roots alive. Dormancy is a natural part of the turf life cycle, try it out for even bigger water savings. 
  • Encourage deeper turf roots by maintaining a higher mowing height (3-4”). The root investment will be a big asset later, creating a less finicky lawn that retains more moisture, shelters the soil, and reduces the need for watering. This is especially the case for dry months and drought.
  • Go above and beyond odd/even watering bans by not assuming that you should automatically water on your allocated day. These bans support a balance in peak demand, but don’t necessarily save water overall.
  • Water in the early morning and late evening to reduce wind and evaporation. The appearance of moisture on the surface doesn’t guarantee water is getting down to the roots efficiently.
  • Create a calendar item to check your water meter before a billing cycle ends. Paying attention allows for adjustments and improvements. If you share calendars, try teaming up with a family member or neighbor for reminders. 
  • Consider planting drought tolerant native plants as a long-term strategy for reducing dependence on watering.
  • Adopt-a-drain at adopt-a-drain.org. Keeping debris and the excess nutrients it carries out of stormdrains and waterways helps reduce excessive algae growth, which is especially sensitive in dry times with low water levels. 
  • Conversations around water can be tricky. If you notice irresponsible water use or sprinklers spraying excessively onto pavement, try gathering resources such on how to adjust and fix broken sprinkler heads or tips on watering best practices and approach the conversation as an interest to help save time and money. If contractors are involved, a change in the terms of a contract may be needed to make the desired improvements. 

Saving water is a way to work together, build community, and safeguard one of our most precious resources, which is sort of like… magic!

Read up on local and regional groundwater plus find more water conservation tips at vlawmo.org/groundwater

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