0 Water - our most precious commodity

A recent survey within our industry revealed the following statistics when asked the question "Where do you get your irrigation water from?"Duncan.jpg

3.8% water courses/lakes/ponds
5.06% rain harvesting from tank/s
6.33% bore holes
12.66% no irrigation supply
72.15% mains supply

A staggering figure of just over 72% of the water we use to keep our grass and plants alive comes from the mains supply, which has been through various treatments to make it safe to drink. Is it, therefore, such a surprise when the public have a real go at us in drought situations when they are inconvenienced with hosepipe bans and, in extreme cases, forced to use stand pipes?

The public then see (whilst filling up their buckets at the end of the street) our lush green playing surfaces looking like oases in the desert with players merrily enjoying themselves on velvet green swards, apparently oblivious to the inconvenience to others.

If we want to win over hearts and minds, as well as save a considerable amount of money, we have to rethink and pre-empt the next dry period - don't think it won't come - the British weather (yes 'weather' - we don't have a 'climate') is very fickle - we cannot predict what we will get no matter how hard we try. Even looking forward seven days is a problem in the British Isles.

We can make educated guesses at future weather trends, the current one being that we will see more extremes of weather, i.e. droughts and floods. If that prediction comes true it makes even more sense to collect it when it falls and use it when it doesn't.

Does it make any sense to pay for expensive mains water when you can get it free from the skies? Why, oh why, (except for the few within the statistics who have excavated irrigation lakes or sunk bore holes) have we not done something serious about this? It just makes sense to at least look at the possibilities, no matter what our circumstances.

During all my years managing golf courses I had never even looked at the possibility of harvesting rain water. Maybe I could excuse myself in the early years because water was cheap, but certainly not in the latter years when water costs became a sizeable part of the golf course maintenance budget.
I now find myself in a position to change things - or at least make people aware of what can be achieved.

There are three very good reasons why we must seriously look into what we can do:
1. It will save a considerable amount of money (immediately, and in the medium to long term)
2. It makes good sense environmentally
3. It will improve immeasurably the public's perception of our industry

Saving money
Dependent on which area of the country you live and work in water costs vary considerably but, even in high rainfall areas, water is still regarded as very expensive and all indications point to it becoming even more so in the future.

Rain harvesting installation, including maintenance, can be financed over the long term, and monthly payments may even be less than water costs - even if they are not, at present, they soon will be as water costs rise even more.

In my conversations with potential customers regarding the possibilities of becoming self sufficient I have come across well meaning committee members who have, in the past, "done a bit of research into this area" but not really looked in the right places, coming up with astronomical finance figures which were then thrown out as pie in the sky.

This need not be the case - it costs nothing to look at the possibilities and, invariably, a solution within an affordable budget is found.

Environmental good sense
Why use water treated for human consumption for irrigation? It does not make economic or environmental sense. Mains water and the way it is treated, dependent on which area of the country you are in, is not ideal for irrigation purposes, as many grounds managers will testify.

If you collect rainwater when it falls, it reduces run off and so lessens the chance of flooding.

You become more self-sufficient and rely much less on mains water, thereby relieving the demand on water supplies to household properties.

Applying irrigation water (sensibly) keeps plants alive and, therefore, improves the flora and fauna of a given site. This is now well known within our industry, but not so well known outside it.

The public's perception (which also includes our customers - the committees and players) is that we are not 'ecofriendly' with water.
What an opportunity! Instead of being castigated in the press for working against nature, we can stand up and be counted as knowledgeable and passionate custodians.

We are already excellent custodians of nature, but not in the public's mind. Perception is everything and this is a fantastic opportunity to start the ball rolling. We can then carry on the crusade by offering articles in the press of not only water projects but also the sustainability of sports grounds and golf courses, and how the use of chemicals and fertilisers is minimal or, in some cases, non-existent. The list of possiblilies is endless.

A particularly good point to make, and I make no excuses for making it again, is that applying irrigation water (sensibly) keeps plants alive and, therefore, improves the flora and fauna of a given site, and this could be backed up with hard facts within specific case studies.

We have just got to review how we source water for irrigation before our industry experiences a major problem - that of paying vast amounts of money to water authorities just to be able to successfully maintain acceptable standards. We have been warned!

Duncan McGilvray, Managing Director
Enviropro H2O Ltd. www.enviroproh2o.com

Harrogate Case Study

For many years the Harrogate Central Nursery had relied on the mains water supply from Yorkshire Water, with the resultant high cost to the Borough Council. Rising costs and pressure to reduce mains water consumption led the Parks Department to consider alternatives. The main reasons being:

• water cost savingHarrogate1.jpg
• efficient water usage
• environmental considerations
• more efficient abstraction from present source (bore hole)
• source other forms of water e.g harvesting rainwater
• poor water distribution and pressures for efficient irrigation
• mains water not ideal for irrigation purposes
The project was carried out during summer 2008 and involved:
• the up-grade of a borehole supply
• water protection using filters including UV
• the introduction of intelligent, electrically efficient, pumps (Hydrovars©)
• the installation of new pipework and controls to increase efficiency and pressuresHarrogate2.jpg
• harvesting rain water from available roof spaces

The project was completed in September 2008 and resulted in a cost saving of £4000. In addition, water usage was measured accurately and recorded and, by using harvested rainwater, usage rates from the mains supply was reduced. Decreased run off also reduced the risk of flooding.

An ISO 9002 inspection in November 2008 reported that they were "extremely pleased with what has been achieved since the project inception, installation and efficiency resulting in increased water quality for irrigation".

So, smiley faces all round!

Harrogate Borough Council are looking at further opportunities. Currently, only part of the available roof space at the Central Nursery is being used for harvesting rainwater. By further utilising all the roof space, with storage capacities to suit, they believe they can ensure that no mains water, and little back up supply from the bore hole, will be required. This will then be used for washing vehicles, flushing toilets etc.

They are also looking into possibilities at other establishments such as schools and hospitals.

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