System Check Vol. 3

We have touched on the basics of irrigation management from the central control.  Now lets take a trip to the pump station.  When is the last time you have had the pump station serviced?  How do you know that the set pressure of the pump station is the right pressure to keep all your heads running at the proper pressure in the field?  Have you cleaned the filtration system lately?  Have you had the Cla-Valve cleaned and re-set this season?

There is a lot of variables when looking at the heart of your golf course.  No matter the type of pump station you have you must check a few major items that could be devastating if a failure happens during the heat of the summer.  There is some small things that could be checked that could be a simple oversight that might just be exacerbating to your long summer.

The big issues can be prevented if a little winter time maintenance is performed.  The cla-valve on a pump station is used as a safe guard to protect the system from pressure spikes.  (If you have an old mercoid switch system with the huge pressure tank to offset the pressure spikes then you will just need to make sure the pressure tank is holding pressure properly and the tank is leak free and start working on a presentation to your board for a pump station that is not only safer but much more efficient.) The valve when set properly opens to allow water to flush back into the wet well.  This will reduce the pressure back down to a managable level before things start blowing up out on the course.

Now for some words of reassurance and warning about the cla-valve.  Yes, the valve looks pretty complicated.  Copper tubes running all around the valve body, not your normal lateral gate valve.  Fotunately, the cla-valve is not really that complicated once you take a closer look and understand where the water flows through the valve.  On the same note, if you don't feel comfortable doing service on it, call a professional.  Especially when you get ready to set the pressure.

A good way to check the cla-valve is to shut the main valve to the course and manually ramp up one pump until you reach your set pressure.  You should not hear any water running through the valve at this time.  Now slowly ramp it up over the set pressure.  Around 10 psi over your set pressure should trigger the valve to open and start dumping water into the wet well.

The next important check is the filtration system.  If you are lucky enough to have state of the art filters with automatic scanners or as little as a screen over the intake in the middle of the lake, it is important that these things are cleaned.  Even a small amount of build up can affect your operating pressure when your pump station is running at peak operation during the night.  Depending on your water quality it is good practice to frequently check and clean your filters.  Not just the large filters, but the little filters that may be present throughout your pump station.

Once you have the critical items out of the way, you can move to the little stuff that can be pretty frustrating if not maintained.  Looking at your set pressure is something that you may always see and know, but did you ever wonder if that set pressure was enough to run the heads all the way out on the farthest hole from the station?  Now, since nightly watering may be hit or miss for a while and temperatures aren't out of control may be your best bet to start checking your farthest holes with a 24hr pressure monitor to ensure good pressure.  If you have plenty then it might be worth trying a lower set pressure to save more electricity and wear and tear on your pressure maintenance pump.

The last thing that is a no brainer but you would be suprised at how the obvious can be missed every once in a while.  Make sure every valve on the station that is sending water to the course is open.  It is alarming at people having a pressure problem that is tough to figure out and then noticing a valve on the station closed or partially closed.  Just a quick once over when you get ready to resume after the winter and doing the preventative maintenance is just a good idea.

Remember the pump station is the heart of your golf course.  You wouldn't neglect your own heart.  You need consistent maintenance to make sure you don't have a failure, and you know it will probably be that much closer if your pump station goes down at the start of the hottest week in the summer.